A large number of young players will make their debuts for the Ireland Under-20s tonight when they meet their Welsh counterparts in a mouth-watering U-20 Six Nations opener in Colwyn Bay.
2013 RBS UNDER-20 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Friday, February 1
WALES U-20s v IRELAND U-20s, Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay, 7.10pm (live RTÉ Two/RTÉ website)
Team News: The Ireland Under-20 team, sponsored by PwC, has been named by head coach Mike Ruddock for Friday’s opening game in the RBS Under-20 6 Nations Championship against Wales in Colwyn Bay.
Ruddock has selected a new-look side with just two players from last year’s squad included in the starting line-up – full-back Stuart Olding and scrum half Luke McGrath who will also captain the side.
Speaking ahead of the game, Ruddock said: “The panel have prepared well and have had some good results in our warm-up matches. The guys have worked very hard and are well conditioned.
“It’s a tough challenge against Wales. They have a very experienced panel. I think they have 10 players left over from last year. It will be a very tough game, but we’re ready for it and are very focused.”
Meanwhile, five players starting for Wales on Friday were part of their squad that finished third at the IRB Junior World Championship last June, with three more members of that squad on the bench to face Ireland.
In addition, scrum half Rhodri Williams played in last season’s Under-20 Six Nations. Dion Jones has been given the nod to start at full-back in front of his home town crowd.
Ospreys out-half Sam Davies and Scarlets prop Gareth Thomas have been added to the Welsh squad after recovering from injury with Davies, whose father is Gloucester director of rugby Nigel Davies, reclaiming the number 10 jersey he wore during the Junior World Championship.
WALES U-20: Dion Jones (Scarlets/Llanelli); Ashley Evans (Ospreys/Bridgend), Cory Allen (Blues/Cardiff), Steffan Hughes (Scarlets/Llanelli), Ashton Hewitt (Dragons/Newport); Sam Davies (Ospreys/Swansea), Rhodri Williams (Scarlets/Llandovery); Nicky Smith (Ospreys/Swansea), Elliot Dee (Bedwas), Nicky Thomas (Ospreys/Swansea), Carwyn Jones (Scarlets/Carmarthen), Rhodri Hughes (Ospreys/Swansea), Sion Bennett (Scarlets/Carmarthen), Daniel Thomas (Scarlets/Llanelli), Ellis Jenkins (Blues/Cardiff) (capt).
Replacements: Ethan Lewis (Blues/Cardiff), Gareth Thomas (Scarlets/Carmarthen), Dan Suter (Ospreys/Bridgend), Jack Jones (Ospreys/Rovigo), James Benjamin (Bedwas), Joshua Davies (Dragons/Bedwas), Ethan Davies (Bedwas), Thomas Pascoe (Blues/Pontypridd).
IRELAND U-20: Stuart Olding (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster); Alexander O’Meara (Hartpury/Exiles), Tom Daly (Lansdowne/Leinster), Rory Scannell (Dolphin/Munster), Rory Scholes (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster); Steve Crosbie (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) (capt); Brian Scott (UCC/Munster), George McGuigan (Newcastle Falcons/Exiles), Chris Taylor (Malone/Ulster), John Donnan (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Gavin Thornbury (UCD/Leinster), Peadar Timmins (UCD/Leinster), Ryan Murphy (Dolphin/Munster), Conor Joyce (Malone/Ulster).
Replacements: John Andrew (Ballymena/Ulster), Peter Dooley (Lansdowne/Leinster), Jake Caulfield (Malone/Ulster), Sean McCarthy (Shannon/Munster), Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster), John Creighton (Malone/Ulster), Darren Sweetnam (UCC/Munster), David Panter (Corinthians/Connacht).
Referee: Laurent Cardona (France)
Assistant Referees: Salem Attatlah, Laurent Amic (both France)
Television Match Official: Jean-Pierre Pellaprat (France)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Wales U-20s to win: 8/15; Draw: 20/1; Ireland U-20s to win: 6/4
Pre-Match Quotes – Luke McGrath (Ireland U-20s): “There’s only three players returning from last year. But the three of us think we’ve learnt a lot from last year and it’s important we bring it into this new squad, particularly the confidence and belief.
“I know we lost the Grand Slam match to England last year, but from then on, we just built confidence in each other and got to know each other better. Then obviously in the World Championship it really went our way. Hopefully we can add further momentum in the Six Nations.
“We’ve had three warm-up games, two of them went quite well and the other one we learnt a lot about ourselves from. There’s a massive buzz in camp and everyone is looking forward to playing Wales on Friday.
“I worked with Mike (Ruddock) in my first year last year. I learnt an awful lot from him. He looks at the person as well as the player. He likes the buzz in camp and having the craic in training, in our off-time. He just loves seeing us enjoy it and playing with a smile on our faces.”
Danny Wilson (Wales U-20s): “On the basis of our training sessions so far, I would say this is our strongest available side, although we will learn more about the players from the matches themselves. Those playing on Friday are playing for a chance to hold onto their place against France next week.
“As we said last season, this is the starting point of our journey towards the Junior World Championship, but we are very keen to start well on Friday.
“Some of our squad are playing for their regions this weekend, while others may be rested if they’ve played a lot of rugby recently or are carrying knocks.
“Ireland are a good side, they had a strong Six Nations and Junior World Championship last season, beating hosts South Africa and were unfortunate not to make the semi-finals.
“They are clearly well coached by Mike Ruddock and his team, so we are well aware of the challenge they present but we are well prepared and will be going all out to start this tournament well.”
Pre-Match Links –
Recent Meetings –
2010: RBS U-20 6 Nations: Ireland U-20s 24 Wales U-20s 17, Dubarry Park
2012: RBS U-20 6 Nations: Ireland U-20s 11 Wales U-20s 6, Dubarry Park