The Brewery Field in Bridgend will host an U20 match between Wales and Scotland on Tuesday 16th May (14:30), as both teams prepare for this summer’s World Rugby U20 Championship in Georgia.
Wales head coach Jason Strange believes that being able to play in a competitive fixture before their match against Australia on 31st May could make all the difference to their campaign: “We’re making sure that by the time we get to Georgia we know our style of play and have confidence in everything we’re trying to do. You can do as much training as you like, but the one thing we lacked going into last year’s tournament was a warm-up game. We’ll probably use 26 or 28 players against Scotland. That will give us a real indication of what the starting fifteen will be going in against Australia, which will be a very important game for us.”
Strange’s extended squad has spent this week at Aldershot Garrison in Hampshire, where the British Army has overseen a series of exercises geared towards giving them an extra edge come the end of the month. It has allowed them to benefit from full use of the military’s top-class facilities as they fine-tune their preparations for the tournament in the Caucasus.
“We’ve had a really constructive time in Aldershot, where the Army couldn’t have done enough to help us,” Strange explains. “They’ve given us a fantastic welcome. The players have learnt how things that are done in the military – especially from a problem-solving point of view – can be applicable to a sporting environment.
“At this stage of the season, getting the boys back together, growing that bond again which they built during the U20 Six Nations is crucial – rediscovering that camaraderie and togetherness they had on the field. Being in Aldershot is playing a big part in that: we’re working on the finer details in order to be ready for Georgia.”
Looking back on this year’s U20 Six Nations, Strange is pleased with the overall performance of the team. “There were some real highlights in our style of play, while players improved and grew throughout the competition,” he reflects. “That’s one of our big measurements: how the players are developing. I thought they did that individually and as a team, particularly with their performances against the Scottish and Irish, which I thought were excellent.”
The U20 programme received welcome recognition yesterday when the national squad was announced for its summer tour, with almost every one of its 13 uncapped players a product of the age grade. “That says pretty much everything regarding the pathway,” says Strange, whose team will also come up against England and Samoa in Georgia. “We’re in a really good place in terms of developing the players, but that’s the whole point of the U20s: getting players through to the national team. We spoke to the boys this afternoon about how close they are to fulfilling that.
“You look at both Rhun Williams and Keelan Giles. Obviously, we want our best players coming to Georgia with us this summer, but what a fantastic opportunity for these boys. They’ve been given the privilege of going on tour with the national team. Only 12 months ago, if you considered the likes of Adam Beard, Seb Davies, and Tomos Williams just before them: these were players who were in exactly the same position as this current crop of U20 players are now. As long as they keep working hard and developing themselves to be the best they can, it’s a reachable dream for them.”
Tickets for Tuesday’s match against Scotland U20 at the Brewery Field will cost £5 at the gate, free for U16s. Gates open at 13:30.
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