The Wales squad that will compete in the World Rugby U20 Championship in France in May and June has been named, with six Ospreys included in the traveling party.
Several of the players involved in last year’s tournament in Georgia have since enjoyed valuable regional experience, including Dragons wing Joe Goodchild and Scarlets centre Ioan Nicholas, both of whom are named in this year’s squad. Leicester Tigers blindside Tommy Reffell continues as captain, having worn the armband earlier in the year.
Cardiff Blues scrum-half Dane Blacker returns from the back injury which ruled him out of this year’s U20 Six Nations, whilst the Ospreys duo of centre Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler and wing Dewi Cross make the step up after featuring for Wales U18 this year.
Wales – who played in a training match against Junior Springboks at the Arms Park this week – have been drawn in one of the most competitive pools in the competition, and will face Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
The team will be overseen by interim head coach Geraint Lewis for the duration of the tournament, with former head coach Jason Strange joining Cardiff Blues this summer. However, Strange will assist in the coaching of the squad up until its departure for France at the end of the month.
Lewis, who has coached Wales’ U18 and U20 teams since 2014, said: “I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity to head up the coaching team this summer in France – continuing and complementing the good work Jason has done. As players and staff, we know each other well and what we expect from one another.
“We’ve used the Six Nations to develop and observe a large group of players in preparation for the World Rugby U20 Championship. In doing so we’ve made selection a very difficult process for ourselves, but that’s a positive thing. Our pool is very tough, but everyone’s excited because we don’t often play Southern Hemisphere teams. Experiencing a different style of play is a key aspect of our players’ development.”
Joining the Wales coaching team in France is Dai Flanagan, the former Ospreys fly-half. Geraint John, the WRU Head of Rugby Performance, said of the addition: “Dai has done a great job working with Geraint with Wales U18, as well as showing his qualities coaching at Scarlets, so this is another opportunity to develop a young Welsh coach.
“Jason has been fantastic during his time as Wales U20 head coach, and his involvement in the lead-up to France is important. It’s the right thing for us to allow him to join the Blues in June to give him enough preparation time there, and for Geraint to move up to become head coach for the tournament.”
Wales will take on Australia at the Stade de la Mediterranee in Béziers on Wednesday 30th May (20:00 BST), and New Zealand at the same venue on Sunday 3rd June (15:30). They then round off Pool A with a trip to the Stade Aime-Giral in Perpignan for a meeting with Japan on Thursday 7th June (17:30).
Wales U20 squad:
Forwards: Taine Basham (Dragons) Rhys Carre (Cardiff Blues) Chris Coleman (Dragons) Dan Davis (Scarlets) Rhys Davies (Bath Rugby) Rhys Davies (Scarlets) Ben Fry (Dragons) Lennon Greggains (Dragons) Iestyn Harris (Cardiff Blues) Rhys Henry (Ospreys) Dewi Lake (Ospreys) Alun Lawrence (Cardiff Blues) Jack Pope (Bridgend) Tommy Reffell (c) (Leicester Tigers) Josh Reynolds (Dragons) Max Williams (Dragons)
Backs: Corey Baldwin (Scarlets) Dane Blacker (Cardiff Blues) Ryan Conbeer (Scarlets) Dewi Cross (Ospreys) Rio Dyer (Dragons) Cai Evans (Ospreys) Joe Goodchild (Dragons) Ben Jones (Cardiff Blues) Harri Morgan (Ospreys) Ioan Nicholas (Scarlets) Ben Thomas (Cardiff Blues) Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler (Ospreys)