Wales Under 18 head coach Simon King has named Young Osprey and Aberavon centre Ben John as captain of the Wales Under 18 side against Australian Schools at Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay on Saturday (6pm).
John is one of three Ospreys named in the starting line-up, with a further two on the bench. King's side includes two uncapped players, outside half Lewis Robling (Dragons) and Cory Hill (Blues), while two north Walians, wing George North and prop Rhodri Jones will start on 'home' turf against the young Aussies. Three other players uncapped at this level - Callum Thomas, Joseff Griffin and Harry Robinson (all Blues academy) are on the bench.
"This is a really exciting challenge for us. As with Warren Gatland's senior side, we need to be pitting ourselves against our southern hemisphere counterparts as often as possible in order to raise our game and take away any potential fear factor. If we play them at a young age, when our players come to play against the same players and teams at later stages in their rugby careers, they will be on more of an equal footing.
"Most of our squad for Saturday played for us at Under 18 level last season. For some, including captain Ben John, it will be their last game in this age group, while others have another season with us. Ben is a very physical player, was one of our outstanding performers us last season and I'm sure he will take the responsibility of leading the side very seriously.
"We are looking forward to playing at Parc Eirias. A number of north Wales players have come through the Under 18 set-up in the last couple of years including Joel Galley and James King who are now at the Scarlets and Ospreys respectively. George (North) and Rhodri (Jones) both performed well for us last season and I'm sure they will relish the chance to play in front of a north Wales crowd.
"Australian Schools are traditionally a very strong outfit but we are very keen to kick off the season with a convincing performance on Saturday. The WRU will host the Under 18 Six Nations festival at Easter and we want to set out our stall this weekend."
Wales Under 18
Dale Ford (Scarlets); George North (Scarlets), Ben John (capt, Ospreys), Jack Gadd (Exiles), Eli Walker (Ospreys); Lewis Robling (Dragons), Aled Davies (Scarlets); Lewis Smout (Blues), Ieuan Davies (Blues), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Cory Hill (Blues), Macauley Cook (Blues), Edward Siggery (Scarlets), Thomas Young (Blues), Ben Thomas (Ospreys)
Gareth Harvey (Ospreys), Trystan Davies (Scarlets), Rowan Jenkins (Scarlets), Luke Hamilton (Scarlets), Callum Thomas (Blues), Daniel Davies (Ospreys), Joseff Griffin (Blues), Harry Robinson (Blues)