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Rugby first for new caps Winnett and Mann

Cam Winnett and Alex Mann with their first caps

Rugby first for new caps Winnett and Mann

Welsh football’s loss has been rugby’s gain after Wales’ latest two senior caps made their Six Nations debuts against Scotland after turning their back on the round ball game.

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Cardiff Rugby teammates Cam Winnett and Alex Mann played both sports growing up and were pretty good in the 11-a-side code.

Full back Winnett was a centre midfield player in the academy at second tier Cambrian & Clydach Vale until he was 14, while back row powerhouse Mann was a central defender who spent two years on the books at Cardiff City.

Mann grew up with Wales U21 cap Isaak Davies, who is currently on loan from the Bluebirds at Belgian side KV Kortrijk, and was a rugged central defender.

” I had a nasty break in my elbow and my shoulder, when I first started playing rugby. My friend was playing football, so I thought I’d give that a go,” said Mann.

“I started with Cwmbach, got scouted, and then went straight into the academy. I had five years in football and played at Cardiff City.

“I think the professional set-up they had helped me a lot from a young age. Then I started playing rugby again in school and I knew straight away that was for the game for me. It just came naturally, with the way I am, and the way I was playing.

“Isaak was the first one I FaceTimed after the game. Funnily enough, he scored the same time I came on, so it was a proud day for us both,” he added.

Alex Mann scores Wales fourth try on his debut

“He’s like a brother to me, and he gave me some pointers before the game. When we were younger, the sacrifices we made when our mates were going out helped to get us to this level.“We were always the ones staying at home talking about these moments. I don’t know how many times we’ve talked about playing for Wales.

“Hopefully, he can go on and do the same and he was as proud as punch for me really. It was the best day of my life.”

Both Winnett and Mann played together through the Cardiff Rugby age grade system and were in the academy together. Mann also captained Wales U20 when Winnett, a year his junior, won the first of his 17 caps at that level.

Even so, it was Winnett who won the race to win a senior cap as he started in the 27-26 defeat to Scotland. Mann came on in the second half and became the first of the pair to score a Test try.

“I played a lot of football when I was younger, starting at Porth. I’d go from one football session, then to a rugby one, and on a Sunday, I’d play a football game followed by a rugby match,” said Winnett, who fully committed to rugby aged 14.

Cam Winnett singing the Welsh national anthem on his debut

“I’m really appreciative of my parents for driving me everywhere when I was younger. Winning my first cap was amazing, a dream come true and everything I’d worked for since I was a little kid.

“It was amazing to be able to sing the national anthem in front of my family, too. I was thinking about all the sacrifices they had made for me and of all the coaches who had helped me get to that point.

“My family were right in front of me, so while it was nice moment, it was also quite tough.”

His senior Wales debut was only Winnett’s 16th fully professional outing, while Mann made the step up after a mere 11 appearances for Cardiff Rugby. They were among five uncapped players included in the Six Nations squad by Warren Gatland.

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