Wales U20 head coach Ioan Cunningham has named his 32-player squad for the 2021 Six Nations Championship which kicks off next Saturday at Cardiff Arms Park against Italy (KO 8pm) - and named five players from Dragons in the squad.
Connor Chapman, Joe Peard, Morgan Richards, Carrick McDonnough and Will Reed will all hope to get game te in the tournament in the Welsh capital.
Six players included in the squad have been capped previously at U20 level. Forwards Theo Bavacqua (Cardiff Blues) and James Fender (Ospreys) along with backs Joe Hawkins, Sam Costelow, Dan John and Jacob Beetham all played in last year’s campaign while Rhys Thomas was in the wider squad but didn’t get any game time.
Cunningham, in his first campaign as head coach, admitted a number of tough calls had to be made before he confirmed his squad.
“It’s been a challenge but a real exciting one,” he said. “It’s been a long process observing players in a training environment which has also been a challenge with covid protocols and no games but we are confident as a coaching group that the right decisions have been made and we’re excited to see them go.
“We initially had a squad of around 46/48 and then we cut that down to 36. Then there were some more tough conversations when we brought it down again and that brought home how much it meant to these players to represent their country – dropping it down to 32 has been tough, in some positions the depth is very strong.”
Despite the majority of the squad having not played for some time due to the pandemic, Cunningham is optimistic he has assembled a squad capable of putting some good results together.
“Overall it is a fairly young squad, there are only six players carrying over from last year’s group so it’s an induction of fresh new talent to the group which is exciting.
"We’ve got some strength up front, our forwards are a big group of big men but we also have a talented backline with gifted players - hopefully we can give them enough possession to express themselves.”
Cunningham is cautiously optimistic that his young side can get the campaign under way on a positive note when they take on Italy on Saturday.
“Success I suppose means winning games, it’s getting these guys to understand what it takes to win. I think it is part of their development, it’s their process of moving forward. We like to express ourselves and play a brand of rugby that’s attractive but also have guys enjoy winning in a Welsh shirt,” he said.
Wales U20 squad for Six Nations
Forwards: Garyn Phillips (Ospreys), Theo Bavaqua (Cardiff Blues), Cameron Jones (Ospreys), Efan Daniel (Cardiff Blues), Ollie Burrows (Exeter Chiefs), Connor Chapman (Dragons), Nathan Evans (Cardiff Blues), Lewys Jones (USON Nevers), Zak Giannini (Llanelli Wanderers), Joe Peard (Dragons), James Fender (Ospreys), Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs), Rhys Thomas (Ospreys/Aberavon), Alex Mann (Capt – Cardiff Blues), Christ Tshiunza (Exeter Chiefs), Harri Deaves (Ospreys), Tristan Davies (Ospreys), Carwyn Tuipulotu (Scarlets), Evan Lloyd (Cardiff Blues).
Backs: Jacob Beetham (Cardiff Blues), Morgan Richards (Dragons/Pontypridd), Carrick McDonnough (Dragons), Eddie James (Scarlets), Tom Florence (Ospreys), Joe Hawkins (Ospreys), Ioan Evans (Pontypridd), Daniel John (Exeter Chiefs), Sam Costelow (Scarlets), Will Reed (Dragons), Ben Burnell (Cardiff Blues), Harri Williams (Scarlets), Ethan Lloyd (Cardiff Blues)
Wales U20 Six Nations Fixtures (all at Cardiff Arms Park)
- Saturday 19 June: Italy v Wales, KO 8pm
- Friday 25 June: Wales v Ireland, KO 8pm
- Thursday 1 July: France v Wales, KO 5pm
- Wednesday 7 July: Wales v England, KO 8pm
- Tuesday 13 July: Scotland v Wales, KO 8pm
We’ve got some strength up front, our forwards are a big group of big men but we also have a talented backline with gifted players - hopefully we can give them enough possession to express themselves...