WALES U18 head coach Matt O’Brien has named an extended squad of 37 players for the clash against England at Veritas Park in Taunton on Sunday, 20 March. (KO 2pm)
It will be Wales’ first capped international at U18 level since August 2019, when Mason Grady’s two tries was enough to stun France.
That huge upset in South Africa has already been mentioned to the squad as Ben Carter and Christ Tshiunza both went on to play for their country at the highest level in Wayne Pivac’s Wales side.
“When we first met up as a group, Lyn Howells our team manager spoke in the first week that Christ and Ben had been involved in the last capped game for Wales at U18 level and I see no reason why they can’t go on and follow suit,” said O’Brien.
“We’ve selected a very exciting team for England where we have a good blend. I think we have a strong forward pack and a very competitive backline which I hope suits the style of rugby we are aiming to play.”
The initial training squad had more than 50 players but that has been whittled down after the Welsh squad was split into two teams and played against Scottish opposition on Sunday at Ystrad Mynach.
“We had a wider group of 52 players initially and played two friendly games which was a really good exercise for us. We gave every one of the players who were fit, a game, so it was a good opportunity for us to see everyone,” said O’Brien.
“Selection was done after those games and it was made a bit more difficult because of two good team performances by the boys,” added O’Brien. “I suppose it’s always difficult when there are so many players involved but with selection now confirmed, we’re all looking forward to what lies ahead.”
On the coaching front, O’Brien will be assisted by Aled James (Cardiff Rugby), Sam Hobbs (Dragons) and Steff Hughes (Scarlets) for the season ahead where Wales will also play in the U18s Men’s Festival in Marcoussis next month against England, France and Ireland.
O’Brien has had previous experience with the Wales U18s squad as an assistant coach, but this will be his first step into a head coaching role.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’ve obviously done the Under 18s attack and backs alongside Chris Horsman and Geraint Lewis for two or three years, which I enjoyed so I’m now looking forward to taking up the head coach role. Hopefully I can continue the great work that both Chris and Geraint did while in the role.
“We have got a good young coaching team which is pretty exciting. Aled James is doing the defence, Sam Hobbs is doing the forwards, and Steff Hughes from the Scarlets is also coming in to help us as an assistant coach.
“Obviously myself and Sam have worked together for a while at the Dragons so we know how each other works and I think we see the game in a very similar way so it will be good to continue that but I’m also eager to work with Aled, who has his own ideas and philosophies, and Steff as well who is still playing at the moment, so it will be good to pick his brains on our back line play in particular.”
Wales U18 extended squad vs England, Taunton RFC – Sunday 20 March, 2pm
Harry Beddall (Cardiff Rugby), Gethyn Cannon (Dragons), Harper Chamberlain (Cardiff Rugby), Conall Couch (Dragons), Lucas de la Rua (Cardiff Rugby), Ioan Emanuel (Cardiff Rugby), Tom Golder (Harlequins), Jonny Green (Harlequins), Kian Hire (Ospreys), Saul Hurley (Cardiff Rugby), Orson James (Cardiff Rugby), Kenzie Jenkins (Cardiff Rugby), Connor Lewis (Dragons), Lewis Marsh (Ospreys), Josh Morse (Scarlets), Will Plessis (Scarlets), Jo Rees (Scarlets), Celt Ffransis Roberts (RGC), Nick Thomas (Dragons), Morgan Williams (Dragons),
Isaac Young (Scarlets)
Harri Ackerman (Dragons), Huw Anderson (Dragons), Sam Berry (Dragons), Cameron Davies (Dragons), Ioan Duggan (Dragons), Tom Edwards (Scarlets), Louie Hennessey (Cardiff Rugby/Hartpury), Derwyn Cain Jones (RGC), Gabe Lacey (Bristol Bears), Rhodri Lewis (Ospreys), Isaac Morgan (Ospreys), Macs Page (Scarlets), Walker Price (Dragons), Lucca Setaro (Scarlets), Jacob Symes (Cardiff Rugby), Harri Wilde (Cardiff Rugby)
Wales U18 fixtures
Sunday 20 March – Taunton
England v Wales
Under-18 Men’s Festival – Marcoussis
Saturday 9 April
Wales v England
Wednesday 13 April
France v Wales
Sunday 17 April
Ireland v Wales