Last season’s Grand Slam-winning head coach Jason Strange has named an exciting 32-man Wales U20 squad for the 2017 U20 Six Nations.
Seven players remain from last season’s victorious team, including Kieron Assiratti, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Morgan Sienawski, Rhun Williams (all Cardiff Blues), Reuben Morgan-Williams, Kieran Williams (both Ospreys) and Declan Smith (Scarlets).
”The players are excited to defend the trophy and work towards going beyond the achievement of previous years,” says Strange. “Our objective is to help the players work hard towards achieving this aim through adopting an exciting form of rugby. A bi-product of this will be the exposure of as many players as possible to the high standard of rugby that this international competition provides.”
Strange emphasises that player development is always the number one goal. “These players are being given the opportunity – most for the first time at U20 level – to experience the pressure of playing for their country in front of a huge audience. That’s something that can only be of great benefit to their future playing careers. Indeed, you only have to look at the amount of former U20 players in the Wales senior squad announced this week.”
The continuity between Wales U18 and Wales U20 – both age groups boast Chris Horsman and Geraint Lewis as coaches – is something Strange believes is one of the biggest strengths of the programme: “That deep alignment between U18 and U20 means we’ve been able to cultivate an entertaining style of play and a strong identity which will serve the players well. The culture within the squad will be the foundation of everything we do.”
Wales U20 will host significant fixtures against England and Ireland at Parc Eirias, and Strange admits he can’t wait for the team to return to North Wales. “We’ve got incredible memories of the crowds at Parc Eirias, along with the superb facilities there and the welcome we receive on and off the field, and going there is something the players will be very excited about,” he says. “Our two home games this year will be huge, so their support will be crucial.”
Wales U20 Squad:
Kieron Assiratti (Cardiff Blues), Callum Bradbury (Cardiff Blues), Rhys Carre (Cardiff Blues), Chris Coleman (Newport Gwent Dragons), Max Davies (Newcastle Falcons), Alex Dombrandt (Cardiff Met), Will Jones (Ospreys), Shane Lewis-Hughes (Cardiff Blues), Tom Mably (Cardiff Blues), Morgan Morris (Gloucester), James Ratti (Ospreys), Morgan Sienawski (Cardiff Blues), Corrie Tarrant (Cardiff Blues), Steff Thomas (Scarlets), Ellis Shipp (Newport Gwent Dragons), Aled Ward (Cardiff Blues)
Corey Baldwin (Scarlets), Dane Blacker (Cardiff Blues), Ryan Conbeer (Scarlets), Connor Edwards (Newport Gwent Dragons), Joe Goodchild (Newport Gwent Dragons), Ben Jones (Cardiff Blues), Phil Jones (Ospreys), Cameron Lewis (Cardiff Blues), Ioan Nicholas (Scarlets), Arwel Robson (Newport Gwent Dragons), Jared Rosser (Newport Gwent Dragons), Declan Smith (Scarlets), Will Talbot-Davies (Newport Gwent Dragons), Kieran Williams (Ospreys), Rhun Williams (Cardiff Blues), Reuben Morgan-Williams (Ospreys)
2017 U20 Six Nations fixtures (kick-off times local):
Italy U20 v Wales U20, Friday 3rd February (19:00), Stadio Giovanni Mari (live on S4C)
Wales U20 v England U20, Friday 10th February (19:15), Parc Eirias (live on BBC Two Wales)
Scotland U20 v Wales U20, Friday 24th February (20:30), Broadwood Stadium (live on BBC red button)
Wales U20 v Ireland U20, Saturday 11th March (18:30), Parc Eirias (live on S4C)
France U20 v Wales U20, Friday 17th March (21:00), Stade Sapiac (live on BBC Two Wales)
Ticket prices at Parc Eirias are £15 for seats with £10 (£5 concession) tickets available for those who wish to stand.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.wru.wales/tickets or www.venuecymru.co.uk (booking fees £1.75 per adult, free for children) or calling the WRU Ticketline on 02920822432. Terrace tickets can also be bought over the counter at Colwyn Leisure Centre, or by phone on 01492 577900.