Wales Under 20 head coach Danny Wilson has named seven Eyasses in an experienced 28 man squad for the IRB Junior World Championships in France (June 5 - 23).
Props Nicky Smith, Nicky Thomas and Daniel Suter, locks Jack Jones and Rhodri Hughes, outside half Sam Davies and wing Ashley Evans make up the region’s contingent, which equates to a quarter of the entire squad with no other region contributing more.
Cardiff Blues outside half Rhys Patchell, one of the most experienced Regional players in the squad with 21 appearances for the Blues, is the only player not to have been capped at Under 20 level to date. He and prop Tom Davies, who featured last season, are the only players not to have played a part in this season’s Under 20 Six Nations Championship, both missing out through injury.
Eight of the players featured in Wales’ Junior World Championship campaign last season, which included a first win over New Zealand at this level and culminated in a third place finish.
Wilson said, “A number of our players involved with their Regions came back into our squad during the Six Nations and played their part in the tournament, training and playing with the rest of the group so we feel we are a more solid group this season.
“The players that are coming into the squad, Rhys Patchell and Thomas Davies will add significant strength with Rhys having been a first choice player with the Blues this season.
“It’s an experienced group in terms of Under 20 rugby, and some players have had a significant amount of Regional rugby too, so on paper it’s a good squad, but it’s going to need to be because we have a tough group with Samoa, Scotland and Argentina.
“Argentina won all their Pool games last year, beating France, Australia and Scotland and losing to eventual winners South Africa in the semis and have just beaten South Africa 2-1 in a Test series. Samoa and Scotland will be very difficult matches too so we will have to hit form to compete with and beat all those sides in order to qualify for the semis.
“That will be our aim – to reach the semis again and anything can happen from that point.”
Wilson believes the Junior World Championship gives provides a fantastic for players to step up to the next level.
“As we saw last season – when players perform well individually and contribute towards good collective performances at the Junior World Championship, it puts them in a good position to stake a claim for regular Regional rugby.”
Wilson has kept faith with Six Nations captain Ellis Jenkins for the France-based tournament.
“Ellis’ leadership during the Six Nations was excellent. He is a very mature player and certainly leads by example both on and off the field.”
Wales’ Junior World Championship Squad 2013:
Forwards:Ellis Jenkins (capt, Blues / Cardiff), Nicky Smith (Ospreys / Swansea), Gareth Thomas (Scarlets/ Carmarthen), Tom Davies (Blues /Cardiff), Dan Suter (Ospreys / Bridgend), Nicky Thomas (Ospreys / Swansea), Ethan Lewis (Blues / Cardiff), Elliot Dee (Dragons / Bedwas), Carwyn Jones (Scarlets / Carmarthen), Jack Jones (Ospreys / Rovigo), Rhodri Hughes (Ospreys / Swansea), Ieuan Jones (Dragons / Newport), Daniel Thomas (Scarlets / Llanelli), Sion Bennett (Scarlets / Carmarthen), James Benjamin (Dragons/ Bedwas)
Backs:Rhodri Williams (Scarlets / Llandovery), Joshua Davies (Dragons / Bedwas), Rhys Patchell (Blues / Cardiff), Sam Davies (Ospreys / Swansea), Cory Allen (Blues / Cardiff), Steffan Hughes (Scarlets / Llanelli), Jack Dixon (Dragons / Bedwas), Thomas Pascoe (Blues / Pontypridd), Harry Robinson (Blues / Cardiff), Aaron Warren (Llandovery), Ashley Evans (Ospreys / Bridgend), Jordan Williams (Scarlets / Llanelli), Hallam Amos (Dragons / Bedwas)
Wales’ JWC fixtures:
Wednesday 5 June, Nantes (6pm): Wales v Samoa
Sunday 9 June, Nantes (5pm): Wales v Scotland
Thursday 13 June, La Roche sur Yon: Wales v Argentina (4.45pm)
Play-Off rounds: Tuesday 18 June, Sunday 23 June