It is now just a few days until the World Rugby U20 Championship gets underway as Wales U20 takes on hosts Argentina at the Hipodromo in Rosario, kick-off 5pm UK time on Tuesday.
We’ve had a look at the 28-man squad Gareth Williams has taken to South America off the back of an U20 Six Nations campaign that showed glimpses of what the young Welshmen are capable of, but didn’t quite achieve as much as there’s no doubt they would have liked.
To improve on this they will have to overcome a potentially very tricky pool, starting with the hosts Argentina who, according to their coach Jose Pellicena, have “a great opportunity in the U20 Championship at home, with is a great motivation for players and staff.”
Los Pumitas are having an excellent season, with four of the squad named for this tournament having won a gold medal in the Rugby Sevens at the Youth Olympic Games, while in a XVs warm-up tournament last month they beat Georgia and hosts South Africa.
They haven’t finished higher than third in the pool during the last two tournaments, but did comfortably beat Wales with a 15-39 scoreline in the 5th-8th place play-offs last year.
The Welshmen then face the hosts and winners of the 2018 competition France at the Racecourse Stadium in Rosario, in what will undoubtedly be the toughest test of the pool stage.
Nine of last year’s Championship winning squad are still involved in a French setup with just under half of the squad have had Top14 exposure this season, while the increasing quality of the Espoirs competition – the French U23 tournament – stands them in good stead for a World Rugby U20 Championship.
They will be looking to improve on a Six Nations campaign that saw them undefeated at home, but came unstuck away at England and Ireland by narrow margins. Wales will point to a competitive first half against France in round one as a positive in this game, only going in 17-10 down, although a 15-0 defeat in the second half sent them home empty-handed.
Finally, the pool stage comes to an end against Fiji back in Rosario, with the Pacific Islanders returning to the competition for the first time since being relegated from the top tier of U20 rugby back in 2014.
At the fourth attempt they managed to win the World U20 Trophy last summer, securing their spot in this summer’s World Rugby U20 Championship, but have only five second year players in their squad, giving them an inexperienced feel.
They are making moves to solidify this group moving forward for Fiji though, with eight playing for the second string Fiji Warriors side, tying them to the country, while there are two players returning to play for the national U20 team after being schooled in Australia.
Wales were one of their pool stage opponents back in 2014, Nicky Smith, Tyler Morgan and Josh Adams among the familiar faces in the matchday 23 as the young Welshmen won 48-19.
There are two guaranteed knockout games to come after the pool stages for the young Welshmen, either in the competition Semi-Final, 5th-8th place play-off or the 9-12th place relegation play-off.
You can follow all the Wales U20 action live on S4C.
Wales U20 v Argentina U20 – Wednesday 4th June – 5pm UK time
Wales U20 v France U20 – Sunday 8th June – 5pm UK time
Wales U20 v Fiji U20 – Thursday 12th June – 5pm UK time
Semi-Finals – Monday 17th June
Finals – Saturday 22nd June