There’s a good history of Wales U20 involvement from the Cardiff Blues regional development pathway, and 2016 was no different as the current crop of youngsters looked to follow in the path of the likes of Ellis Jenkins and Sam Warburton, both of which captained the young national side.
Altogether there were nine of the Cardiff youngsters called up to the Wales U20 squad by head coach Jason Strange ahead of the 2016 Junior World Championship, held this year in Manchester.
The honoured players were Corey Domachoswki, Dillon Lewis, Jarrod Evans, Harri Millard, Kieron Assirratti, Liam Belcher, Seb Davies, Shane Lewis-Hughes and Morgan Sieniawski. All, except Seb Davies due to injury, had already been involved in The U20 Six Nationa squad, so did come with experience already.
As a nod to the early quality and potential of some players, as well as the willingness of Danny Wilson to blood youngsters, all nine had made appearances in the A team during the British and Irish Cup campaign, while Domachowski, Lewis, Evans and Millard had all made first team debuts.
During the tournament Wales U20 played Ireland, Georgia and New Zealand in the pool stages, before somehow ending up playing the Baby Blacks again in the knockout stages where they were on the end of a 71-12 hammering. The seventh place play-off was their final game of the event, where they comfortably beat Scotland 42-9.
All nine players played some part in proceedings during the tournament, with Dillon Lewis and Shane Lewis-Hughes scoring a try apiece along the way, while Jarrod Evans picked up a few points off the tee.
The big piece of news though was in the knockout game against New Zealand an all-Cardiff tight five was selected by Wales, giving much cause for excitement over the future of that department in the club.
The players all represented Cardiff Blues admirably, and there’s plenty of scope for them to have big careers at the Arms Park. Especially with Richard Hodges working closely with Danny Wilson in pathway terms.
Since the Junior World Championship in June we have seen Seb Davies and Shane Lewis-Hughes both involved on a more regular basis with the first team, while Corey Domachowski, Dillon Lewis and Jarrod Evans may all have had a chance at more minutes had it not been for injury.
All players continue to further their development in the British and Irish Cup, while also playing in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, which has made a return this season, as well as featuring for their respectively allocated Welsh Premiership clubs.
With Rhun Williams, not one of the nine mentioned having not signed for Cardiff at the time, also getting first team exposure, it seems the U20 experience is still as important as ever.
On the seventh day of Christmas, Danny Wilson gave to me nine Under 20s, eight tries v Treviso, seven missing Welshmen, six Pro12 debuts, five away league wiiins, four derby wins, three derby losses, two Royal Kings and a flying Blaine Scullyyy…