The Welsh school that produced Wales captains Hannah Jones and Jac Morgan

Hannah Jones and Jac Morgan visit their old secondary Ysgol Dyffryn Aman in Ammanford, Carmarthenshire
Hannah Jones and Jac Morgan returned to their old secondary Ysgol Dyffryn Aman - Adrian Sherratt for The Telegraph

The “wall of fame” has grown so big at Dyffryn Aman school that soon they will need to build a new corridor for it.

Nestled in Carmarthenshire’s Amman Valley, an old heartland of the mining community in West Wales, this sprawling comprehensive has a track record of unearthing sporting talent.

Located off the main gym, cricketers, gymnasts, netball players, basketball players and rugby players who have achieved national sporting honours, mostly for Wales, stare back at visitors who pass through its doors.

Among the happy faces that are neatly framed, captioned and dated with their sporting achievements are Shane Williams, Harry Randall and two captains of Wales rugby teams: Hannah Jones and Jac Morgan.

Wales Rugby captains Hannah Jones and Jac Morgan visit their old secondary school Ysgol Dyffryn Aman in Ammanford, Carmarthenshire
Morgan appears on the school corridors alongside the likes Harry Randall and Shane Williams - Adrian Sherratt for The Telegraph
Wales Rugby captains Hannah Jones and Jac Morgan visit their old secondary school Ysgol Dyffryn Aman in Ammanford, Carmarthenshire
Hannah Jones joins other Wales sporting stars on the walls of her old school - Adrian Sherratt for The Telegraph

Today is a big day at Dyffryn Aman. Telegraph Sport has been invited to see the school welcome back Jones and Morgan – two of their esteemed alumni – for a special meet-and-greet with pupils. On days like this, the magic of the “wall” comes to life.

Jones is preparing for Wales’s forthcoming Women’s Six Nations campaign, while Morgan, who starred for his country at last year’s World Cup, is busy rehabbing after missing this year’s men’s championship with a knee injury.

The pair begin their visit with a question-and-answer session with pupils in the school’s gym. The innocent interrogation is wide-ranging, from who their favourite teacher was to whether they think Louis Rees-Zammit will make it in the NFL. Chaos then ensues as they are mobbed for autographs and selfies.

One boy thrusts his Wales’ shirt – already adorned with the signatures of Alun Wyn Jones, Leigh Halfpenny and Morgan – in Jones’s face. They do not distinguish between gender here, where rugby is much more than an after-school activity.

“We’re here doing sport early mornings, lunchtime, after school,” says Lynne Llewelyn, the school’s head of PE who has overseen Dyffryn Aman’s sporting activities for the past 26 years.

Wales Rugby captains Hannah Jones and Jac Morgan visit their old secondary school Ysgol Dyffryn Aman in Ammanford, Carmarthenshire
Jones and Morgan faced a grilling from present pupils of Ysgol Dyffryn Aman - Adrian Sherratt for The Telegraph

Llewelyn often bumps into Morgan in the local coffee shop – her nephew played with him at Dyffryn Aman – and she took Jones for PE. “They’re very level-headed. They love coming back here. The valley and the community is really important to them. They’re very modest with their achievements. We love having them back.”

Although their rugby schedules cross over very little, the pair have always been good friends. Jones and Morgan hail from Brynamman, a sleepy village that hugs the Brecon Beacons located north-west of Ammanford. Both are softly spoken and count Welsh as their first language.

When the pupils eventually scuttle to afternoon classes at the sound of the school bell, the pair reflect on their rugby lives at Dyffryn Aman where, according to Llewelyn, Jones was “once the best rugby player in the school”.

Aged 24, Morgan is three years younger than Jones but he, too, remembers. “Your year was the first to win Rosslyn Park Sevens,” he says. “That was a huge thing for the school, everyone knew about Hannah then. The girls’ team won a few years on the bounce, didn’t they?”

Jones smiles, before deflecting the attention away from herself. “Did you play at Rosslyn Park?”

Morgan chuckles: “Yeah, but we always went out in the group stages!”

Wales Rugby captains Hannah Jones and Jac Morgan visit their old secondary school Ysgol Dyffryn Aman in Ammanford, Carmarthenshire
Morgan and Jones hail from the same village in the Brecon Beacons and both count Welsh as their first language - Adrian Sherratt for The Telegraph

It is highly unusual for the careers of two Wales rugby captains to be so intricately intertwined. Before Jones signed her first professional contract with the Welsh Rugby Union, she was juggling elite rugby with her full-time job as a PE teacher as well as helping out with the occasional shift in the gelato shop run by her fiance, Dino Dallavalle (a former Italy Under-20s prop, he too, is on Dyffryn Aman’s wall of fame). Frank’s Gelateria is popular among the Ammanford locals, and Jones served Morgan just weeks before turning professional.

“You had the Oreo waffle,” she says. “Dino and I were saying the other day: we haven’t seen you in the parlour for a while.”

“I’ve put a bit of weight on since I’ve been injured, that’s why,” laughs Morgan.

Morgan can semi-relate to Jones, as she puts it, “burning the candle at both ends” at the start of her career, before the WRU followed England’s lead and professionalised their women’s programme. He was enrolled on a mechanical engineering apprenticeship in Swansea whilst in the Scarlets’ academy, before he decided to pursue professional rugby.

“I was going to work from half-seven in the morning to two in the afternoon, then going up to the Vale [the WRU’s national performance centre] from 3pm until 9pm, and then washing my kit ready for the next day,” says the former Wales Under-20 captain. “It was tough. I did that for the first year and, in the second, I decided to give it up and give the under-20s a shot, full-time.”

Hannah Jones (c) of Wales runs the ball during the Pool A Rugby World Cup 2021 match between Australia and Wales at Northland Events Centre on October 22, 2022, in Whangarei, New Zealand
Jones has become an ever-present in the Wales team since making her debut in 2015 - Getty Images/Hannah Peters

With the ever-increasing profile of women’s rugby, Morgan admits he is consuming more of the female game than ever before. He mentions the Celtic Challenge, a cross-border women’s competition launched last year to develop playing opportunities for those in Wales, Ireland and Scotland.

“I always watch the Women’s Six Nations,” says Morgan. “I have a few friends who play for Brython Thunder and Gwalia Lightning in the Celtic Challenge – Caitlin Lewis and Lowri Williams – so I keep tabs on what they do.

“They came to this school as well and were in the same class as me. It’s been good to see how the women have been going and seeing Hannah as the captain. She always drops me a good luck message.”

Having packed out Cardiff Arms Park last year when they welcomed England, Wales will face Italy at the Principality Stadium on the final weekend of this year’s championship. Jones has played at the home of Welsh rugby only twice in her 52-cap career and there are often questions over whether women should play in men’s stadia at a time when rugby’s finances are being squeezed.

Morgan’s opinion is clear. “They’re representing Wales,” he says. “It’s great to be able to play there and get as big a crowd as possible to support the national team. I’ve been to a couple of women’s games at the Arms Park so I’m going to pop down. Why not?”

Even as the women’s game edges towards fully-fledged professionalism, things are not always as rosy as they seem. Less than six months ago, Jones hit out at the non-existent TV coverage for Wales’ warm-up games for the new global competition, WXV.

Jac Morgan of Wales looks on during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Quarter Final match between Wales and Argentina at Stade Velodrome on October 14, 2023 in Marseille, France
Jac Morgan was Wales' standout performer at last year's World Cup - Getty Images/Paul Harding

“It was a team frustration,” she explains. “That evening, I could have watched a Welsh Prem side on [Welsh language channel] S4C. Why weren’t we being televised as an international squad? I mentioned it and it went from there – they sent the TV cameras up straight away –  but I’m not here to speak out all the time. I just want to play rugby. It shouldn’t take me to speak out about it when we keep on seeing the high viewing figures in women’s rugby and the growth of the game.”

Morgan jumps in. “There should be coverage of every Wales team,” he says. There is defiance in his voice. “They’re growing the game. The viewing figures are increasing all the time and if they want to grow the grass-roots game, we need as many games televised as possible. It’s important that they’re broadcast and available to watch.”

The disparities extend beyond TV coverage. The Rugby Football Union recently renegotiated the contracts for their women’s team in a landmark deal, which also included upgraded match fees and tournament bonuses, and introduced maternity contracts. It meant the WRU, once again, is playing catch-up. “The long-term investment has to keep coming,” says Jones. “We’re quite far away from England and France – they’ve been full-time longer than us – but we’re trying to close that gap.

“As a player, all you want is security, longer-term contracts. You want to see more contracts in the game so you have more players and more competition. In terms of maternity contracts, it is something that is being looked at. We need that brought in and England are paving the way on that front.”

Hannah Jones of Gloucester-Hartpury with the ball during the Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby match between Harlequins and Gloucester-Hartpury at Twickenham Stadium on December 30, 2023 in London, England
Jones plays her club rugby in the Premiership for Gloucester-Hartpury - Getty Images/Patrick Khachfe

England are also leading the way with their domestic structure. Jones, who plays for Gloucester-Hartpury in England’s women’s top flight, spends 15 hours driving to training each week because there is no top-flight women’s team in Wales. Would she like to see an WRU-backed team in Premiership Women’s Rugby?

“There’s a lot of chat about it,” says Jones. “We say it daily. We have a good standard in Wales. It’d be nice for Wales to put a team in the PWR. I think that’s the way forward. I’d like to come back to Wales and play my club rugby there, but I don’t think it’s going to happen in my time. At my age, I’m past that now.”

The hope is that there will be opportunities to play top-flight rugby in Wales for the current crop of girls’ players at Dyffryn Aman. Jones and Morgan embody what is being achieved at this school.

“You know the hours are going to be long, but the wall of fame is payback in a way,” reflects Llewelyn, after the pair have left. “You look at that and we know we’re doing something right.”

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