FORMER Scarlets forwards coach Ioan Cunningham will head up a vastly experienced quartet of coaches as Wales U20’s conclude their preparations for the forthcoming Six Nations championship to be staged at Cardiff Arms Park.
With Gareth Williams moving up to Wayne Pivac’s national squad, Cunningham has eased seamlessly into his new role as head coach with his predecessor offering plenty of assistance during the transitional period.
Assisting Cunningham will be former Ospreys and Wales prop Paul James who will be focussing on the scrum set-piece while ex-Cardiff Blues and Wales hooker T Rhys Thomas will be in charge of the line-outs while Ospreys skills coach Richard Fussell takes part in his second Six Nations campaign, having been involved in last year’s championship.
“I’m obviously delighted to get the opportunity to lead the talented team of coaches, players and staff,” said Cunningham. “It’s always an honour to represent your country at any level and I’m extremely honoured and privileged to have this opportunity.
“I’ve been working closely with Babs (Gareth Williams) over the last seven or eight months, looking at the depth of talent we have at this age group and helping to structure sessions and preparations which has been in uncertain times and difficult circumstances. Babs has done a great job with the U20s over the last few years and leaves the position in a very good place.”
Cunningham, who is Director of Elite Rugby at Llandovery College, says the Wales U20 coaching group have hit the ground running as they prepare to kick off their Six Nations campaign against Italy on Saturday 19 June.
“I’ve really enjoyed working alongside TRT, Paul James and Richard Fussell, who are all great talented coaches who bring different knowledge and experience from different environments to the group, not only as players, but with the experiences they are currently building up in their day to day work in the regions,” added Cunningham.
“The group is flourishing, working alongside them and they are getting challenged as well and growing as coaches and I think that is important as part of the development programme and coach development programme in Wales. This is a fantastic springboard and stepping stone for coaches that can go on to bigger and better things.
“We’re in a privileged position in the current climate that we can get this opportunity to perform at this level. We have got an exceptional talented group of players which are chomping to put the red jersey on to represent their country in a home Six Nations which is quite unusual.
“The group have been working extremely hard, especially over the last six to eight weeks and the protocols and the structures we have had to stick to in the environment to get us to this point, everyone has to take credit on the hard work that has been put in.”