Wales Under 20 head coach Richard Webster has named three uncapped players in his 26-man squad for the IRB Junior World Championship 2011 in the Veneto region of Italy from 10-26 June.
Webster, who has taken over from Darren Edwards following his appointment as Newport Gwent Dragons head coach, welcomes Dale Ford, Iolo Evans and Lewis Robling into the squad.
Macauley Cook continues as captain, having held the role during the RBS Under 20 Six Nations when Wales finished third behind Grand Slam winners England and France, while six players return for a second Junior World Championship after playing in 2010.
Edwards will continue to help Webster and his assistant Rob Appleyard prepare the squad for the challenge of facing three-time defending champions New Zealand, Argentina and hosts Italy in Pool A.
“As a management team, it was a hard job to narrow down the squad to 26. The team played so well during the Six Nations – they did everything that was asked of them – and it was always going to be hard to leave some players out,” explained Webster.
“We had to look at versatility, especially in the backline, and that, along with some impressive recent performances helped Iolo Evans, Dale Ford and Lewis Robling to secure three of the final places.
“With five matches in 16 days, it is important to have the right mix within the group. The players showed their character throughout the Six Nations on and off the field, and I’m sure that will help them in the testing environment of an international competition.
“We know we will be tested physically against all three of our pool opponents – Argentina, New Zealand and Italy. However, we have fronted up in that respect against both England and France this season and we have no qualms in that respect.
“However, our intention is to go out there and play rugby. The grounds will be hard and we will need to move the ball around and score some tries if we are to progress to the upper end of the positions at the end of the competition.”
Wales are no strangers to some of their pool opponents, having lost 43-10 to New Zealand in the pool stages and then hosts Argentina in an historic kicking competition in the fifth place semi finals in 2010.
They have, though, never faced Italy, who return to the Junior World Championship arena after winning the sister event, the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in Russia last year, but will arrive determined to improve their seventh place finish of 2010.
“Argentina is a key game first up,” continued Webster, the former Wales and British & Irish Lions flanker. “They will no doubt have a physical pack and a big scrum mentality but hopefully we can move them about and get some points on the board ahead of the New Zealand game.
“Against France and England we showed we had the ability to compete, just falling short of winning those games, but we will certainly have to step up our game again against New Zealand – it’s important we get something out of that game.
“Then we have Italy who we beat in the Six Nations away from home, but they will be keen to do well as tournament hosts.”
Wales Under 20 squad:
Forwards: Rhodri Jones (Scarlets/Llanelli), Lewis Smout (Blues/Pontypridd), Will Taylor (Ospreys/Swansea), WillGriff John (Blues/Pontypridd), Kirby Myhill (Scarlets/Llanelli), Sam Parry (Llandovery), Cory Hill (Blues/Pontypridd), Macauley Cook (Blues/Cardiff), Luke Hamilton (Blues/Glamorgan Wanderers), Lloyd Peers (Ospreys/Bridgend), Edward Siggery (Pontypridd), Thomas Young (Blues/Cardiff), Ben Thomas (Ospreys/Bridgend), Owen Sheppeard (Blues/Pontypridd).
Backs: Liam Williams (Llanelli), Harry Robinson (Blues/Cardiff), Eli Walker (Ospreys/Swansea), Dale Ford (Scarlets/Llanelli), Owen Williams (Blues/Cardiff), Adam Warren (Llandovery), Iolo Evans (Scarlets/Llanelli) Steve Shingler (Scarlets/Llanelli), Matthew Morgan (Ospreys/Swansea), Lewis Robling (Dragons/Newport), Lewis Jones (Blues/Pontypridd), Jonathan Evans (Dragons/Newport).