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Success rests on a dead monkey

Sixth-former Adam Bishop will earn himself a place in sporting history tomorrow - but first he has to sleep with a dead monkey.

His strange bedfellow is the most bizarre of a series of rituals carried out before Llandovery college's annual "Brecon" rugby match.

The Carmarthenshire college has taken on rivals from Christ college, Brecon, nearly every year since 1879, playing alternately at the two independent schools.

And with a running total of 80 wins by Llandovery and just 28 to Brecon, with 10 draws, clearly the school is reluctant to give up its macabre lucky charm.

"There's an old story that the first warden (head) of the college had a pet monkey that was stolen by the boys from Christ college," explains Adam, 17 who captains this year's side.

"They killed it and put it in a coffin, and the first team from Llandovery stole it back and smashed the coffin. From then on the captain has protected the monkey on the night before the match.

"Sleeping with it will be OK, although it does look a bit scary," says the 6ft 3in back row player.

"The monkey is dressed in a very old college kit with a pair of old rugby boots.

"But it's worth it because it is an honour to captain the team, which means a place in the school's history."

Brecon sports the smashed coffin as its logo while Llandovery wears red socks, issued in a special ceremony on the night before the match.

"We sleep in them and don't take them off until after the game. Our shirts are presented to us at a special ceremony in the college's great hall on the morning of the match," says Adam, a rising star with the oval ball who plays with the elite Saracens Academy in England.

The annual spectacle draws around 2,000 people, including many old boys from the school, to the town each year.

"The boys are constantly in training and we're favourites to win again this year," says head of rugby Phil Davies.

"The local bookies are giving us 10 to one and there isn't a bed to be found anywhere in the town."

Adam, whose ambition is to play for Wales or England, says his task now is trying to keep everyone calm.

"There's a lot of excitement and my job as captain is to make sure nobody gets too stressed.

"It's just another game - and just another win," he says, with confidence.

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