Byron Hayward has been given the challenge of building on Wales’ most successful IRB Junior World Championship after taking over as Under 20 head coach following the end of Danny Wilson’s two-year contract.
Wilson led Wales to their first JWC final – which they lost 23-15 to England after leading 15-3 at half-time – at JWC 2013 in France and to within touching distance of a Six Nations Grand Slam earlier in the year.
He will now fully commit to his role as Scarlets’ forward coach with his assistant and former Wales international Hayward taking over the helm with Richard Hodges and Ioan Cunningham occupying roles as defence and forwards coach. Mark Taylor, another former Wales international, will continue as team manager.
“I’m excited by this new challenge,” admitted Hayward. “Clearly it will be a step up from assisting Danny, but I’m confident in my ability to do just that. Danny and I started with the Wales Under 20 set-up at the same time so the transition should be fairly smooth.
“I’ve learned a huge amount from working with Danny, especially in the way he set an example to the players and created an optimum culture and environment for the squad. I’ve also gained a great deal from the other head coaches I’ve worked under and if I didn’t feel I could step up to the plate, I certainly wouldn’t have put myself forward.
“It’s certainly a big pair of boots to fill, on the back of reaching the Junior World Championship final, but pressure comes with success and that’s what you thrive on as a coach.
“I don’t see any reason we can’t reach the last four again next year if we keep working hard with the new group of players and if we do that, anything can happen as we saw in France – and South Africa last season.”
Wilson, who also steered Wales to a first victory over New Zealand last season and win over South Africa in the 2013 semi-finals, said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed the past two years. It has been great for my personal development as a coach – the experience has certainly put me on the next step of the coaching ladder – and I’ve worked with some very good future Welsh internationals.