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BORN TO BE WELSH; ANOTHER FANTASTIC PICTURE EXCLUSIVE At the age of 8 Iestyn was destined to play rugby for his country.

Byline: BRENDON WILLIAMS and JASON LAMPORT

THIS is the picture that proves Iestyn Harris was born to play for Wales.

Even as a fresh-faced eight-year-old, it was the young star's burning ambition to wear the famous red rugby jersey.

His dad taught him to play rugby on a family holiday and this is the first time he ever wore a Welsh shirt.

Young Iestyn and dad Paul tossed around the ball outside their family caravan.

Iestyn would close his eyes and dream he was playing alongside the seventies greats for Wales.

And now, 17 years later, his dream could become reality as he has become rugby union's most expensive player in a pounds 2million deal.

Iestyn, 25, said yesterday: "It was always a dream to play for Wales.

"I remember that picture really well. I was really proud of my Welsh shirt and me and my dad used to play outside our holiday caravan in Ludlow Caravan Park."

Iestyn signed an historic deal yesterday when he left rugby league side Leeds Rhinos to play rugby union for Cardiff. He's already captained Wales in rugby league and is now just one step away from fulfilling his lifetime's dream - to play union for his beloved country.

Proud Iestyn said: "Everything in my family is Welsh and I just wanted to be part of anything to do with Wales.

"It's going to take time, but of course playing for Wales is the long-term goal.

"Ever since I was young I've wanted to play rugby union in Wales and hopefully for Wales."

Although born in Oldham and playing rugby league in the north of England all his life, Iestyn has always been proud of his Welsh roots.

His dad was born in Pontywaun, Gwent, and grandfather Norman played rugby for Newbridge, Pontypool and Ebbw Vale.

And if anyone has any doubts about his Welshness - just ask the English Rugby Union.

Iestyn was approached by English rugby chiefs and asked if he would play for their national side but was proud to say, "No, I'm Welsh."

He said: "It was a long time ago. It was a minute's conversation.

"I basically said I'm Welsh and that was the end of it." Iestyn spent yesterday afternoon looking for a new Welsh home for him and his family.

Girlfriend Becky gave birth to their first child, Catrin, just two months ago.

Iestyn said: "The whole family are down here in Wales.

"We've seen a couple of homes we like, but haven't got anything yet - it's not easy.

"We want to get one as soon as possible."

Iestyn's proud mum, Sandra, said: "The family are helping him move. We're very proud of him.

"Everybody in our family is very proud of their Welsh roots."

CAPTION(S):

PERFECT UNION: Even as a lad Iestyn hoped he would one day wear with pride the famous red shirt of Wales. For a while at least the big-money signing will have to be content with his new Cardiff apparel, bottom left
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 11, 2001
Words:499
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