Ten members of the Wales Under 20 squad that reached a first IRB Junior World Championship final in France last year will be heading to New Zealand hoping to go one better and get their hands on the coveted trophy.
Captain Steffan Hughes, his fellow centres Jack Dixon and Harri Evans, props Nicky Thomas and Nicky Smith, hookers Elliot Dee and Ethan Lewis, back row James Benjamin and full backs Ashley Evans and Hallam Amos will all head to Auckland for the 2-20 June tournament.
All 28 players selected by coach Byron Hayward have international Under 20 experience with two – Amos and Dafydd Howells – having already made their debuts for the Welsh senior side, against Tonga and Japan respectively in 2013.
“We’re happy with the strength in depth we built during the Six Nations through ensuring everyone got a decent amount of game time in order to develop at this level and stake a claim for a place in this squad,” admitted Hayward, whose side will play Scotland in a warm-up game on 14 May.
“We’ve said from the start that the Junior World Championship is the main focus of our season and to that end, all of the management team were keen to arrange a warm-up game in order to arrive in New Zealand raring to go from day one.
“We play Fiji, Ireland and France in our pool so the game against Scotland will help us to try out some of our game plans in a match situation.
“Having reviewed our Six Nations performances, we can be happy with our performance against Ireland, where our set-piece was key in grinding out an important win in Athlone.
“We lost to France, the other Six Nations team in our JWC pool, by one score and we were down to 14 men for 20 minutes in that game. We learned a lot of lessons in that match and if we get the tactical game right and the players adapt to the opposition in front of them, we certainly have a chance against all the teams in our group.
“Our aim is to get through to the semi-finals and as we all know from our win over South Africa in last year's semi, anything is possible at that point. It will be a different challenge playing in New Zealand, hence travelling a couple of days early and thinking about the consequences of having to fly players out in case of injury but we have built that into our selection as much as possible.”
Wales Under 20 squad
Forwards: Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Luke Garrett (Dragons), Nicky Thomas (Ospreys), Callum Lewis (Blues), Benjamin Leung (Scarlets), Ethan Lewis (Blues), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Scott Otten (Swansea), Joe Davies (Dragons), Rory Thornton (Ospreys), Scott Andrews (Dragons), Will Boyde (Carmarthen), Olly Cracknell (RGC), Scott Matthews (Dragons), Ben Roach (Blues), James Benjamin (Dragons).
Backs: Tom Williams (Blues), Luc Jones, Angus O'Brien (both Dragons), Luke Price (Ospreys), Steffan Hughes (captain, Scarlets), Jack Dixon (Dragons), Harri Evans (RGC), Tyler Morgan (Dragons), Joshua Adams (Scarlets), Dafydd Howells, Ashley Evans (both Ospreys), Hallam Amos (Dragons).