An exciting men's sevens squad will represent Team Wales at next month's Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, with Justin Tipuric the big name in the squad.
The Wales and Lions star is one of two Ospreys in the traveling party, along with youngster Tom Williams, now recovered from the arm injury sustained on regional duty in the Anglo Welsh win over Cardiff Blues in November.
Head coach Gareth Williams has been able to combine regular members of his Wales Sevens team with some big names from the world of 15s, with Tipuric’s fellow Wales international Hallam Amos also included.
Tipuric, who started in Saturday's NatWest 6 Nations victory against France, represented Wales Sevens in the 2009/10 season before winning the first of his 57 caps in 2011. It will be the first involvement in international sevens for 15-times capped Dragon Amos since 2012, when he featured in the European Grand Prix series in Moscow as a 17-year-old.
Dan Griffiths, Rugby General Manager at the Ospreys, said:
“It’s long been an ambition of Justin’s to experience tournament international sevens at the highest level. He didn’t get the opportunity to go to the Olympics but when this opportunity came along we were fully supportive of his desire to represent his country.
“He’ll go to Australia with our full support and everybody at the Region will be proud to see him, and Tom, in action at the Commonwealth Games. We look forward to then seeing him back at the Ospreys for some important end of season games.”
Powerhouse forward Adam Thomas captains the side, and is one of eight core players who feature regularly for their country on the World Rugby Sevens Series. Fly-half Ethan Davies – second-top points scorer in the Series last season – makes a timely return from injury, and is joined by fellow playmaker Luke Treharne, a newly qualified doctor.
A key asset for Team Wales is wing Luke Morgan, whose phenomenal strike rate has landed him the accolade of all-time top try and points scorer for his country. They will also benefit from the experience of forwards Owen Jenkins and Benjamin Roach, who boast almost 50 tournaments between them.
North Wales duo Tom Williams and Morgan Williams, who have featured for the Ospreys and Scarlets respectively this season, are back in the sevens fold for one of the game’s biggest competitions. Meanwhile, another former Wales U20 player, Angus O'Brien (Dragons), is selected after impressing Gareth Williams and assistant coach Richie Pugh in the early stages of the season.
Also joining Amos from the Dragons is James Benjamin, who recently used the sevens programme as a launchpad for a standout season with the Gwent region.
Head coach Williams said: “We have been building towards this stage for the past 18 months. We are very ambitious about representing Team Wales to the best of our ability and making Wales proud of our contribution to the Commonwealth Games.”
He praised the Welsh regions for their assistance in putting together this Commonwealth Games squad, saying: “We have had great support from the Dragons and Ospreys with the inclusion of their players to complement the sevens experience amongst the group. The Scarlets and Cardiff Blues have also been fantastic, but we felt it important to support their European aspirations with two big quarter-finals coming up, and have not called upon their squads as much.”
Whilst recognising that there will be plenty of focus on the regional additions to the squad, Williams hailed the abilities of his core players: “This is a group that can challenge on big occasions. We see this as a great opportunity to showcase sevens and our performance potential. Adam Thomas, Luke Treharne, Ethan Davies, Owen Jenkins, and Ben Roach have played a huge part in the development of young players such as Owen Lane and Jarred Rosser, and Luke Morgan is arguably the form player on the World Series to date with some fantastic individual performances this season.
“Tom and Morgan Williams have developed through the programme over the past two years and have shown an ability to perform against world-class opposition. This is an opportunity to turn that potential into proof and play a part in a huge push to achieve something special in this tournament.”
The side is bolstered by travelling reserves Tomi Lewis (Scarlets) and Harri Millard (Cardiff Blues). Lewis was in action in the U20 Six Nations last month, and made a memorable sevens debut last December when he scored seven tries for Wales in Dubai. Millard, who starred in the Wales U20 Grand Slam-winning team of 2016, made his sevens debut in January.
Helen Phillips, Chair of Commonwealth Games Wales, said: "The WRU's squad for the men's sevens competition is very strong, and will put Wales in an excellent position to take on the other nations at the Commonwealth Games. We're particularly excited about today's announcement given that the men's rugby players are the last of the Team Wales athletes to be named for next month's Games. We wish them all the very best on the rest of their journey to the Gold Coast and look forward to seeing them make our nation proud."
The Commonwealth Games Sevens will take place at the Robina Stadium from 13th-15th April. Wales have been drawn with Olympic champions Fiji, as well as Uganda and Sri Lanka.
Team Wales - Men's Sevens squad: Luke Treharne*, Ethan Davies*, Morgan Williams*, James Benjamin, Angus O'Brien, Adam Thomas (c)*, Luke Morgan*, Justin Tipuric, Owen Jenkins*, Hallam Amos, Benjamin Roach*, Tom Williams*.
Travelling reserves: Tomi Lewis, Harri Millard.
*Wales Sevens core players