Wales U18 head coach Chris Horsman is hoping his young side can follow the lead set by their U19 brethren when they kick off the U18 Six Nations Festival at Hartpury tomorrow against England – and he has named three Dragons in the starting line-up.
The former Wales prop assisted Geraint Lewis in the recently completed U19 series of games where Wales defeated Japan High Schools twice before putting up a spirited display against a strong England side at Bridgend.
Several players impressed during the games to give Wales U20 coaches a few headaches as they prepare to name their squad for the World Rugby U20 Championship being held in Argentina in June.
For the game at Hartpury on Saturday, Dragons duo Carrick McDonough and Morgan Richards start on the wings while Ben Carter is named at lock. Regional team-mate Dylan Davies is named among the replacements.
“I thought as a process, the U19s this year has been well worth doing,” said Horsman. “Geraint and myself came back from South Africa last year and felt there was a need to move the U18s to January 1st birthdate.
“There was a gap in this group of players through the old U18s and first year U20s so we had the fixtures against Japan and then obviously against England – I think it has been a well worthwhile programme because the great thing now is we’ve exposed more players to international rugby.
“More importantly players are working between the programmes of the 18s and 20s in terms of the player development.
“On an isolated basis I thought the performance against England was a one-score game. I spoke to the players at the end and Gethin Jenkins (the former Wales star is an assistant coach) made a huge point about international rugby – we scored the try to go 10-7 up but we switched off from the kick-off and they scored,” he said.
Wales U19 had done well to work their way in front but from that moment on, there proved no way back as England recorded a 15-31 victory but Horsman is sure that one loss of concentration will prove a vital learning experience for the young group of players.
“I was pleased with the performance but obviously disappointed with the result against England but in terms of the overall programme this year, I’m very pleased with it.
“I’ve challenged myself this year in terms of being the head coach of the U18s and doing the defence and taking on the whole forward responsibility this year – normally Geraint and myself share it.
“I thought we were excellent against England, our line-out really caused them a lot of problems in the first half where we stole a few balls and in the second half I thought the scrum was excellent, so I thought the boys really fronted up.
“In terms of looking at it where the U19s sit – the boys want to win and I’m glad the boys got those two wins against Japan High Schools and I after what I would say was a very credible performance against England – it’s been a really pleasing programme.”
Horsman’s focus in now on the U18 Six Nations Festival where Wale begin their campaign tomorrow against England at Gillman’s Ground in Hartpury, followed by games against Scotland at Worcester’s Sixways Stadium on Wednesday and Italy at Gloucester’s Kingsholm Stadium on Sunday.
“I can’t wait,” said Horsman. “We had an excellent win against France in March, maybe not the best performance – but I’m really excited about the opportunities for player development in this tournament.”
Wales U18 v England, Gillman’s Ground Hartpury, Saturday April 13, KO 12.10 (live on FreeSports TV)
15 Ioan Lloyd (Bristol)
14 Carrick McDonough (Dragons)
13 Mason Grady (Cardiff Blues)
12 Bradley Roderick (Ospreys – Capt)
11 Morgan Richards (Dragons)
10 Ed Dunford (Exiles)
9 Ethan Lloyd (Cardiff Blues)
1 Sam O Connor (Scarlets)
2 Oliver Burrows (Ospreys)
3 Iestyn Haskins (Cardiff Blues)
4 Rhys Anstey (Cardiff Blues)
5 Ben Carter (Dragons)
6 Harri Deaves (Ospreys)
7 Ethan Fackrell (Cardiff Blues)
8 Harry Breeze (Scarlets)
16 Rhodri King (Scarlets)
17 Theo Bevacqua (Exiles)
18 Lewys Jones (Ospreys)
19 James Fender (Ospreys)
20 Carwyn Tuipulotu (Scarlets)
21 Alex Mann (Cardiff Blues)
22 Tom Mathews (Exiles)
23 Dan John (Exiles)
24 Dylan Davies (Dragons)
25 Ioan Evans (Cardiff Blues)
U18 Six Nations Festival
Matchday 1 – Sat 13 April – Gillman’s Ground, Hartpury
12:10 England v Wales
14:40 Ireland v France
17:10 Scotland v Italy
Matchday 2 – Wednesday 17 April – Sixways Stadium, Worcester
11:10 France v Italy
13:40 Ireland v England
16:10 Wales v Scotland
Matchday 3 – Sunday 21 April – Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester
11:10 Scotland v Ireland
13:40 England v France
16:10 Italy v Wales