Wales Under 20 head coach Byron Hayward has named his side for the opening round of the Under 20 Six Nations, against Italy on Friday night (7.10pm, Eirias, Colwyn Bay).Five players in the starting line-up were capped last season – captain Steffan Hughes and centre partner, RGC's Harri Evans along with hooker Elliot Dee, prop Nicky Thomas and No 8 James Benjamin. In addition, Wales capped wing Dafydd Howells makes his Wales Under 20 debut. Evans, and fellow RGC back Afon Bagshaw, will run out in front of their home crowd after last year acting as match stewards during the Under 20 Six Nations.
Dragons lock Scott Andrews has been brought into the squad following an injury to Joshua Helps and will start on the bench.
Hayward said, "Friday night's game is our first chance to expose players to this level of international rugby and it will be a yardstick in many ways. We have new players throughout the side, for example at half back, but those players have experience outside them with captain Steffan Hughes at 12. The same can be said up front with experience in the front row and back row.
"Italy will be an unknown quantity as they haven't played any games yet this season but we are expecting a forward battle and that will be our first challenge, especially if the conditions are wet.
"Our focus must be on our own game and imposing our game plan on the match.”
Wales Under 20 team v Italy (Friday 31 January, 7.10pm, Eirias, Colwyn Bay):
Afon Bagshaw (RGC); Dafydd Howells (Ospreys), Harri Evans (RGC), Steffan Hughes (capt, Scarlets), Joshua Adams (Scarlets); Ethan Davies (Dragons), Tom Williams (Blues); Callum Lewis (Blues), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Nicky Thomas (Ospreys ), Ben Roach (Blues), James Sheekey (Blues), Will Boyde (Carmarthen), Scott Matthews (Dragons), James Benjamin (Dragons)
Scott Otten (Ospreys), Leon Crump (Blues), Benjamin Leung (Scarlets), Scott Andrews (Dragons), Connor Lloyd (Scarlets), Luke Price (Ospreys), Garyn Smith (Blues)
Tickets are still available for Friday night's game from Colwyn Leisure Centre and Venue Cymru (online at www.venuecymru.co.uk until Thursday evening/ tel 01492 872000 / The Promenade, Llandudno) from £5 Under 16s and from £10 for adults.
Wales Under 20 Six Nations fixtures 2014
Wales Under 20 v Italy – Friday 31 January – Eirias – 7.10pm
Ireland Under 20 v Wales – Friday 7 February – Dubarry Park, Ahtlone – 7.35pm
Wales Under 20 v France – Saturday 22 February – Eirias – 6.05pm
England Under 20 v Wales – Friday 7 March – Kingston Park, Newcastle – 7.45pm
Wales Under 20 v Scotland – Friday 14 March – Eirias – 7pm