Openside flanker Will Jones returns to the Wales U20 side as captain against Italy this Friday evening with his uncapped regional colleague Jordan Walters one of seven other Eyasses in the 23.
Jones, who recently signed his first senior contract with Ospreys, is one of a number of players who return to the squad having been on regional duty. Centre Corey Baldwin has been in action with Scarlets, whilst lock Max Williams was called up to the Dragons for their visit to South Africa last weekend after a starring role in Wales’ stirring victory against Ireland in Round Three of the U20 Six Nations.
Wales name an all-new front row, with loosehead Rhys Carre, hooker Dewi Lake and tighthead Kemsley Mathias all promoted from the bench. Jones is the only change to the back row, with James Botham – who scored a brace against Ireland last time out – moving across to blindside.
A notable inclusion on the bench is Ospreys scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams who, like captain Jones, hasn’t featured for Jason Strange’s side since last summer’s World Rugby U20 Championship in Georgia. He too has been a regular feature for his region this season and recently signed a first pro deal. Also included on the bench are uncapped forwards Jordan Walters (Ospreys), Alun Lawrence (Cardiff Blues) and Lennon Greggains (Dragons) – all of whom were part of the successful Wales U18 tour to South Africa in 2017.
“It’s been a boost to the side to have the experience of someone like Will Jones back, having captained the U20s very well last year,” said head coach Strange. “He and Reuben have acquitted themselves very well at senior level with Ospreys this season, and they’re proof of how valuable the U20 pathway is.
“The fact that a lot of these boys have been playing regional rugby lately is beneficial on a number of levels: to themselves, but also for the team as a whole and the experience they bring back into the U20s environment.
“The players have been working extremely hard as a group over the past few weeks, and we’ve exposed 32 different players to international rugby at U20 level, which is incredibly positive. Our ability to rotate the squad is reflected in our selection for Italy.”
On the challenged posed by Italy, Strange said: “We played them twice last year, and both games were very tough. In fact, we only beat them by a point in the U20 Championships in the summer – in a tournament where they beat Ireland – so we need to carry the good form we showed in Dublin a fortnight ago into Friday night’s game in Colwyn Bay.”
Wales U20 team to face Italy:
15 Cai Evans (Ospreys) 14 Joe Goodchild (Dragons) 13 Corey Baldwin (Scarlets) 12 Callum Carson (Ospreys) 11 Tommy Rogers (Scarlets) 10 Ben Jones (Cardiff Blues) 9 Harri Morgan (Ospreys) 1 Rhys Carre (Cardiff Blues) 2 Dewi Lake (Ospreys) 3 Kemsley Mathias (Scarlets) 4 Owen Lloyd (Cardiff Blues) 5 Max Williams (Dragons) 6 James Botham (Cardiff Blues) 7 Will Jones (c) (Ospreys) 8 Taine Basham (Dragons) Replacements: 16 Iestyn Harris (Cardiff Blues) 17 Jordan Walters* (Ospreys) 18 Rhys Henry (Ospreys) 19 Alun Lawrence* (Cardiff Blues) 20 Lennon Greggains* (Dragons) 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams (Ospreys) 22 Max Llewellyn (Cardiff Blues) 23 Rio Dyer (Dragons)