Wales U20s Ready for Irish Challenge

Dragons centre Ashley Smith will bridge a four-year gap when he leads the new Wales Under 20 side in their opening Six Nations encounter.

Kath McCarthy | 01/02/2007

Dragons centre Ashley Smith will bridge a four-year gap when he leads the new Wales Under 20 side in their opening Under 21 Six Nations encounter against Ireland Under 20 at the Liberty Stadium tomorrow (Friday, 7.10pm).
Smith last captained a team when he was in charge of Newport Under 15 and will be leading a Welsh side seeking some revenge for their 20-15 defeat by Ireland last April in the fifth place play-off match in the IRB Under 19 World Cup in Dubai.
He is one of 10 players in tomorrow's starting line-up who figured in that game, while the Irish will parade six of their winning side with a further three on the bench.
And playing full back for the Irish team will be full international Luke Fitzgerald. Although in the Irish Six Nations squad, he has been released to play for the Under 20s. He has made 10 Magners League appearances for Leinster and three replacement appearances for the province in the Heineken Cup.
"I skippered a couple of games for my junior district side in Newport in my younger days but I have settled into the role in training and I am excited at the challenge and hope I can bring something new to the team in this role," said Smith.
"It's going to be tough against Ireland. They have some very experienced age grade players in their side and full back Luke Fitzgerald has put in some excellent performances for Leinster and made his senior Irish debut against the Pacific Islands in the autumn.
"The Irish age grade sides tend to mirror the style of the senior side so we will be expecting a running backline and, with Eric Elwood coach of the Under 20s, I'm sure they will also have a good kicking game.
"The Under 21 Six Nations is going to be a big step up for those of us who were involved in the Under 19 set-up last season. A lot of teams will be looking to beat us with Wales Under 19s having been successful in the Six Nations last season but we are comfortable with the favourites tag and hopefully that will give us confidence to do well.
"Playing regional rugby this season has certainly given some of our team members the experience of high intensity rugby and the physicality that comes with playing against current and former internationals and British and Irish Lions.
"However, as a team we have had limited time to prepare for this match and we will have to play well at the Liberty Stadium to overcome Ireland.
"We are looking forward to playing at that venue, and hopefully a good crowd will turn out to watch us in our first match."
And Wales will also come up against a familiar name in the Irish back row in Thomas Anderson - son of 27-times capped Willie Anderson.
Tickets for the match are available from £2 for children and £8 for adults. They are on sale at the Liberty Stadium ticket office. Call 08700 400 004 or log onto www.liberty-stadium.com or www.ospreysrugby.com

Wales Under 20: Martyn Thomas (Llanelli/Scarlets); Alec Jenkins (Llanelli/Scarlets), James Lewis (Bedwas/Dragons), Ashley Smith (Newport/Dragons, captain), Thomas James (Cardiff/Blues); Rhys Priestland (Llanelli/Scarlets), Robert Lewis (Neath/Ospreys); Hugh Gustafson (Llanelli/Scarlets), Ken Owens (Llanelli/Scarlets), Jamie Corsi (Newport/Dragons), Bradley Davies (Cardiff/Blues), Lou Reed (Llanelli/Scarlets), Danny Lydiate (Ebbw Vale/Dragons), James Harris (Bedwas/Dragons), Lewis Evans (Newport/Dragons).
Replacements: Ben Flower (Bedwas/Dragons), Kieron Jenkins (Glam Wands/Blues), Adam Brown (Bedwas/Dragons), Sam Kiley (Swansea/Ospreys), Darren Allinson (Cardiff/Blues), Rhys Jones (Sale Sharks), Richard Thomas (Aberavon/Scarlets).

Ireland Under 20: Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock/Leinster); Shane Monahan (Dublin University/Leinster), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Aidan Wynne (Buccaneers/Connacht), Keith Earles (Thomond/Munster); Ian Keatley (UCD/Leinster), Paul O'Donohoe (UCD/Leinster); David Millard (Belfast Harlequins), Richard Sweeney (St. Mary's/Leinster), Jamie Hagan (Greystones/Leinster), Conor McInerney (UCD/Leinster), Andrew Browne (Galwegians/Connacht), Thomas Anderson (Dungannon/Ulster), David Pollock (Captain, QUB/Ulster), Sean O'Brien (UCD/Leinster)
Replacements: Ger Slattery (Young Munster/Munster), Ruaidhri Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Neilus Keogh (UCC/Munster), Tommy O'Donnell (UL Bohemian/Munster), David Drake (Ballymena/Ulster), Niall O'Connor (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Felix Jones (Seapoint/Leinster)

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