WALES U20 head coach Byron Hayward has named a 38-man squad for the forthcoming Six Nations campaign.
His squad comprises 21 forwards and 17 backs and includes 10 players who played in last year’s championship at Cardiff Arms Park.
Front rows Connor Chapman, Efan Daniel and Nathan Evans return alongside locks Dafydd Jenkins and Joe Peard while back row Alex Mann retains the captaincy after leading Wales to victory over Italy and Scotland in last year’s Six Nations.
In the backs, scrum half Harri Williams along with midfield trio Joe Hawkins, Eddie James and Tom Florence also return for a second campaign.
“If I can compare it with years gone by, we’ve managed to have hit outs against two Premiership sides [Swansea and Ebbw Vale] so in terms of preparation it has been going really well,” said Hayward.
“You’ll never be entirely happy and satisfied as a coach as you always want more time but I think we’re in a decent place going into Ireland next week.”
Hayward believes the experience of the returning group of players will play a major role in his plans as he plots the campaign ahead.
“They’ll be massive because that second year, and not just from a playing point of view, but from a maturity point of view as well, is massive. There’s quite a big allocation coming back and we’ll be looking to those boys to step up which they already have done, in fairness,” he said.
Hayward says the coaching staff are giving the players a license to express themselves and don’t want to over burden them with structures and systems.
“I’m really excited and enthusiastic about our backs – if we can provide enough possession for our backs we’ll do some serious damage,” he said. “Our strength will be playing a game that is not structured, counter-attack and turnover ball and keeping the tempo of the game very high.”
With Wales finishing fourth in their last campaign, Hayward is determined his young side are not taking part to just make up the numbers this time round.
“Our expectations are to go out and win every game we play, and I cannot see any reason why we can’t do that with the talent we have,” he said.
Wales U20 Six Nations squad:
Rhys Barratt (Cardiff Rugby)
Cameron Jones (Ospreys)
Joe Cowell (Cardiff Met)
Connor Chapman (Dragons)
Efan Daniel (Cardiff Rugby)
Morgan Veness (Ealing Trailfinders)
Lewis Morgan (Scarlets)
Nathan Evans (Cardiff Rugby)
Ellis Fackrell (Ospreys)
Adam Williams (Dragons)
Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs)
Alexander Ashton (Cardiff University)
Joe Peard (Dragons)
Lewis Jones (Ospreys)
Benji Williams (Ospreys)
Alex Mann (Cardiff Rugby – CAPT)
Ryan Woodman (Dragons)
Tom Cowan (Bath)
Ethan Fackrell (Cardiff
Morgan Morse (Ospreys)
Ben Moa (Dragons)
Harri Williams (Scarlets)
Morgan Lloyd (Dragons)
Harvey Nash (Ospreys)
Jac Lloyd (Bristol Bears)
Daniel Edwards (Ospreys)
Josh Phillips (Scarlets)
Joe Hawkins (Ospreys)
Eddie James (Scarlets)
Bryn Bradley (Harlequins)
Callum Dodd (Ospreys)
Tom Florence (Ospreys)
Oli Andrew (Dragons)
Joshua Hathaway (Scarlets)
Harri Houston (Ospreys)
Cameron Winnett (Cardiff Rugby)
Iestyn Hopkins (Ospreys)
Joe Westwood (Dragons)
Wales U20 fixtures
Fri 4 Feb – Ireland U20 v Wales U20, Musgrave Park – 8pm
Fri 11 Feb – Wales U20 v Scotland U20 – Parc Eirias – 8pm
Fri 25 Feb – England U20 v Wales U20 – Castle Park – 7pm
Thurs 10 March – Wales U20 v France U20 – Parc Eirias – 8pm
Sun 20 March – Wales U20 v Italy U20 – Parc Eirias – 2pm