Wales Under 20 head to France

Seven Eyasses will head to France with the Wales U20 squad.

Seven Eyasses are part of the Wales Under 20 squad that will today leave for Nantes where they will begin their Junior World Championship campaign against Samoa on Wednesday.

Props Nicky Smith, Nicky Thomas and Dan Suter, second rows Rhodri Hughes and Jack Jones, fly half Sam Davies and wing Ashley Evans will all make the trip.

After the opening game they then face Scotland next Sunday and Argentina on Thursday 13 June in their final pool match before two knock-out games on June 18 and 23 to determine the world rankings at this level.

Wales go into this tournament as third seed after beating New Zealand in last year’s competition to reach the semi-finals, and despite then losing to the Kiwis in the last four, they beat Argentina in the third place play-off.

A semi-final place is top on the priority list for Wales Under 20 head coach Danny Wilson, but he is not taking anyone for granted.

“Our opening fixture is key,” he said. “Last year we got the ball rolling with a good performance against Fiji and we want to do the same this year to give us confidence to take into the rest of the tournament."

"There is no chance of us being over confident, that is not part of our coaching ethos, but we are confident in our preparation and the work we’ve done. We will turn up against Samoa fully aware of what we’re facing, but confident that we can, with our best performance, put them away and build from there. We know that to get wins in our group we will have to earn them, they won’t land in our lap.”

Two players, Rhys Patchell and Harry Robinson, have been promoted from the original Wales Under 20 squad to the Wales squad to tour Japan, while Cory Allen has been forced out to undergo a shoulder operation, but Wilson says those changes shouldn’t have too much of a negative effect.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for Rhys and Harry, and also for the three players coming into our squad who will gain the experience of a world championship.”

The Wales Under 20 squad have spent the past few weeks getting ready for the France-based tournament with a training schedule that has included sessions against the senior Wales squad.

“We have prepared well,” added Scarlets forwards coach Wilson. “The sessions against the seniors have added intensity to our training and have been very beneficial for our players.”

While Wales have avoided the big three southern hemisphere sides in their Pool, the size of the task is undeniable.

“Samoa will be a big physical side that will cause plenty of problems if we give them the chance in terms of collisions, Scotland are a strong side and Argentina will be even stronger. They beat Australia, Scotland and France to go through to the semis last year and recently recorded two victories over last year’s champions South Africa. But we have two big games to see to before that match, we are not looking past Samoa at the moment.”

Last year’s squad made a name for themselves with their impressive performances and Wilson is looking to provide a similar platform for players over the next three weeks.

“A number of players from our last JWC squad have gone on to play regular regional rugby this season and have become far more familiar to the rugby public. Likewise, it will be beneficial to Welsh rugby if we can be successful again in this tournament. The boys will be exposed to big pressure games which they can learn a huge amount from and bring back to regional rugby in Wales, especially if we make it to a semi.”

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), Harri Evans (North Wales / RGC), Sam Davies (Ospreys / Swansea), Steffan Hughes (Scarlets / Llanelli), Jack Dixon (Dragons / Bedwas), Thomas Pascoe (Blues / Pontypridd), Aaron Warren (Llandovery), Ashley Evans (Ospreys / Bridgend), Jordan Williams (Scarlets / Llanelli), Hallam Amos (Dragons / Bedwas), Dion Jones (Scarlets Academy /Llanelli), Owen Jenkins (Blues / Pontypridd)

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