Wales Under 20 head coach Phil Davies has named Dragons academy prop Dan Watchurst to lead his side into this year’s IRB Junior World Championship in Argentina next month (June 5 – 21).
Davies has also named Blues academy duo, scrum half Rhys Downes and flanker Josh Navidi, as squad vice-captains for the three-week tournament in which Wales will face Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand in the Pool stages.
He said: “We have chosen a three-man leadership team from the Six Nations leadership group which will be headed by Dan Watchurst.
“The group stood up very well in the Six Nations with all three of these players managing the side with great enthusiasm and maturity which has created a good platform as we move towards the Junior World Championship.
“The Junior World Championship is now a 12-team tournament so every game will be tough. We have a very physical Pool with three southern hemisphere teams who we don’t come up against very often but it will be a great challenge for the players, providing invaluable experience for their future rugby careers.
“We play England in a warm-up game next Thursday at Cross Keys (6.30pm) as part of our aim to play the best teams in the world as often as possible.”
There are no uncapped players in the squad and centres Ashley Beck (Ospreys) and Adam Hughes (Dragons) are the only two players selected for this season’s IRB competition who did not feature in the recent Under 20 Six Nations for Wales, Hughes through injury while Beck gained regional experience with the Ospreys.
Fifteen of the 26-man squad have gained professional experience in competitive regional fixtures – Blues Rhys Williams, Josh Navidi, Rhys Downes and James Loxton, Ospreys Ashley Beck, Kristian Phillips, Matthew Jarvis, James King and Ben John, Dragons Dan Watchurst, Toby Faletau, James Thomas and Adam Hughes and Scarlets Gareth Davies and Simon Gardiner.
Davies added: “The selection of Ashley and Adam will benefit the players themselves in their rugby development and provide additional professional experience to the squad with both players having represented their Region on a number of occasions this season.
“We are fortunate this season in that we have added strength in depth to the squad with a number of players having experienced the Junior World Championship last season in Japan while others have another year of Under 20 rugby ahead of them.
“A number of players are currently involved in the Principality Premiership Play-Off Championship and SWALEC Cup final while that makes it slightly more difficult for us to train as a squad, it is great to see the boys performing in important, high pressure games for their clubs at this time of year.”
Wales Under 20 squad for IRB Junior World Championship (Argentina, June 5 – 21):
Dan Watchurst (Dragons academy / Bedwas), Simon Gardiner (Scarlets academy / Carmarthen Quins), Joe Rees (Tonmawr), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets academy / Llandovery), Rhys Williams (Blues academy / Pontypridd), Ieuan Davies (Glamorgan Wanderers), James King (Ospreys academy / Aberavon), Macauley Cook (Blues academy / Pontypridd), Lloyd Peers (Ospreys academy / Bridgend), James Thomas (Dragons academy / Ebbw Vale), Josh Navidi (Blues academy / Glamorgan Wanderers), Rhys Jenkins (Dragons academy / Ebbw Vale), Toby Faletau (Dragons academy / Cross Keys), Morgan Allen (Pontypool)
Rhys Downes (Blues academy / Pontypridd), Gareth Davies (Scarlets academy / Llanelli), Matthew Jarvis (Ospreys / Aberavon), Steven Shingler (Llanelli / Llangennech), Ashley Beck (Ospreys / Aberavon), Scott Williams (Scarlets academy / Llanelli), Owen Williams (Blues academy / Cardiff), Ben John (Ospreys academy / Aberavon), Adam Hughes (Dragons academy / Newport), James Loxton (Blues academy / Cardiff), Kristian Phillips (Ospreys academy / Neath), Dan Fish (Blues academy / Glamorgan Wanderers),
Greg George (Llandovery), Tristan Davies (Scarlets academy / Llanelli), Joel Galley (Scarlets/ Llanelli), Edward Siggery (Llandovery), Ben Thomas (Ospreys / Aberavon), Dean Gunter (Pontypridd), Matthew Pewtner (Dragons academy / Cross Keys), Dale Ford (Scarlets academy / Llanelli)