Wales Under 20 captain Rory Thornton believes the experience of being part of the Ospreys’ league run-in will serve him well at the World Rugby U20 Championship next month.
Thornton joined up with his Under 20 team mates this week after playing a full part in the Ospreys’ assault on the Guinness PRO 12 title in recent weeks and came on for the final quarter of the semi-final against Munster on Saturday.
Wales Under 20 leave for Italy on Thursday in time for their opening Pool A game against France on Tuesday (Calvisano, 16.30). They then face double champions England on Saturday 6 June, also at Calvisano (20.30) with their final Pool game against Japan on Wednesday 10 June in Viadana (18.30).
There has been one change to the squad since it was announced earlier in the month, with Cardiff and Blues wing Elis-Wyn Benham coming in for James Whittingham who has had to pull out due to concussion.
Thornton said, “It has been fantastic to be involved with the Ospreys this season, especially coming on in the semi-final on the weekend.
“To come up against such legends of the game as lock Paul O’Connell, and in that kind of pressure game with an amazing atmosphere is an experience no one can take away.”
The Bonymaen RFC product believes the experience taught him some important lessons ahead of the forthcoming global tournament:
“The physicality and speed of the game was certainly a step up but more than that, the game taught me about coping with big game pressure, having to come on in such a close game.”
Wales lost 27-5 to France in the Six Nations, but beat England 21-15 at Eirias. However, both teams present a huge challenge according to the young skipper.
“It is vital to start our Championship well against France and we have been working hard to improve in certain areas.
“On their own patch, they put a lot of pressure on us – there is only so long you can defend in your own 22. But there will be no home advantage for either team in Italy and this time we hope to be more clever with the ball, gain more territory and hopefully get enough points on the board to turn that result around.
“There is no doubt that beating England in the Six Nations will give us a confidence boost. However, they went on to win the Six Nations and are double champions in this tournament so they will still be hard to beat. Having said that, if we get our tactics right, put in a good defensive effort, there’s no reason we can’t repeat what we did in the Six Nations.”
“This is a great tournament, all the games are televised and we can’t wait to get out there and get stuck in.”
Wales Under 20 squad:
Luke Garrett (Dragons/ Cross Keys), Keagan Bale (Dragons/ Cross Keys), Dillon Lewis (Blues/ Pontypridd), Joe Jones (Blues/ Cardiff), Leon Brown (Dragons/ Cross Keys), Ryan Elias (Scarlets/ Carmarthen), Liam Belcher (Blues/ Pontypridd), Torin Myhill (Scarlets/ Llanelli), Rory Thornton (Ospreys/ Bridgend), Adam Beard (Ospreys/ Aberavon), Seb Davies (Blues/ Pontypridd), Lee Taylor (Carmarthen), Tom Phillips (Scarlets/ Llanelli), Ollie Griffiths (Dragons/ Newport), Harrison Keddie (Dragons/ Ebbw Vale), Jon Fox (Ospreys/ Swansea)
Tomos Williams (Blues/ Pontypridd), Kieran Hardy (Scarlets/ Carmarthen), Jarrod Evans (Blues/ Pontypridd), Daniel Jones (Scarlets/ Carmarthen), Garyn Smith (Blues/ Pontypridd), Lloyd Lewis (Dragons/ Newport) Tyler Morgan (Dragons/ Newport), Owen Watkin (Ospreys/ Bridgend), Joshua Adams (Scarlets/ Llanelli), Joe Thomas (Ospreys/ Swansea), Elis-Wyn Benham (Blues/Cardiff), Dafydd Howells (Ospreys/ Neath)
Wales’ World Rugby U20 Championship Pool games:
Tuesday 2 June Wales v France, Calvisano (16.30)
Saturday 6 June Wales v England, Calvisano (20.30)
Wednesday 10 June Wales v Japan, Viadana (18.30)