Preview: Wales U20 v England U20

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Wales U20 play their final game in the World Rugby U20 Championship on Saturday afternoon as they take on England U20 in the 5th place play-off, kick-off 2.30pm UK time.

It comes after Monday’s superb 8-7 victory over New Zealand U20, the first time a Welsh side as beaten the Baby Blacks since 2012, and a result that meant we will avoid the seventh place play-off that we have played in each of the last three years.

They now meet England U20, who finished third in their pool after a defeat to Ireland, an unconvincing one-point win over Italy and a victory over 14-man Australia, before they gained revenge over the Irish in the first game of the 5th-8th place play-off bracket.

In terms of bad omens, Wales have never beaten the English in the World Rugby U20 Championship, with three losses so far including in the 2013 Final when a brace of tries from Ashley Evans, then of the Ospreys, couldn’t prevent a 15-23 defeat to a team containing Jack Nowell, Ashley Watson and Luke Cowan-Dickie amongst others.

Ashley Evans Wales U20
Ashley Evans scores for Wales U20 in the 2013 Final

However, the young Welshmen have won three of the the last five meetings between the sides in the U20 Six Nations, including this season’s game when a late Deon Smith try secured an 11-10 victory in Colwyn Bay.

Seven of the English XV who started in North Wales are named in the lineup in Rosario on Saturday, with Tom de Glanville, Ollie Sleightholme and Josh Hodge taking their places in the back three, Joel Kpoku and Alex Coles are in the second row, Aaron Hinkley still at openside, as well as Tom Willis at number eight.

Willis himself is a change to the side that beat Ireland last time out, while there are two other changes as James Kenny starts at loosehead and Luke James replaces the suspended Cameron Redpath who was banned for biting.

England U20: Tom de Glanville, Ollie Sleightholme, Fraser Dingwall (c), Luke James, Josh Hodge, Manu Vunipola, Sam Maunder; James Kenny, Will Capon, Joe Heyes, Joel Kpoku, Alex Coles, Ted Hill, Aaron Hinkley, Tom Willis

Replacements: Nic Dolly, Olly Adkins, Alfie Petch, Kai Owen, Rusiate Tuima, Richard Capstick, Ollie Fox, Tom Seabrook, Ollie Hassell-Collins, Connor Doherty

Joel Kpoku England U20
Joel Kpoku is an important figure in the England U20 pack

Wales U20 head coach Gareth Williams, on the other hand, has made six changes to his starting XV that beat New Zealand U20 on Monday, with one of them injury enforced as Max Llewellyn is ruled out with Deon Smith moving into the centre and Tomi Lewis coming in on the wing.

There are two new props up front, with Rhys Davies and Nick English getting the nod in what will be their last games at this level, while Ed Scragg replaces Morgan Jones at lock and Iestyn Rees is back at blindside with Lennon Greggains dropping to the bench.

Dewi Lake, Jac Price, Tommy Reffell, Jac Morgan, Cai Evans, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler and Ioan Davies complete the feat of starting every game of the tournament.

Wales U20: Ioan Davies (Cardiff Blues), Tomi Lewis (Scarlets), Deon Smith (Dragons), Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler (Ospreys), Ryan Conbeer (Scarlets), Cai Evans (Ospreys), Harri Morgan (Ospreys); Rhys Davies (Ospreys), Dewi Lake (Ospreys)(c), Nick English (Bristol Bears), Ed Scragg (Dragons), Jac Price (Scarlets), Iestyn Rees (Scarlets), Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers), Jac Morgan (Aberavon/Scarlets)

Replacements: Garin Lloyd (Ospreys), Kemsley Mathias (Scarlets), Ben Warren (Cardiff Blues), Morgan Jones (Scarlets), Lennon Greggains (Dragons), Dafydd Buckland (Dragons), Rio Dyer (Dragons), Tom Hoppe (Dragons), Teddy Williams (Cardiff Blues), Tom Devine (Dragons), 
Ioan R Davies (Cardiff Blues), Will Griffiths (Dragons)

Tomi Lewis Fiji U20
Tomi Lewis is back in the side on the wing

The clincher for Wales U20 will be whether they have one last hit of emotional energy in order to stand up defensively again, as it has been without the ball that we have impressed the most, with only one tired showing against Fiji U20 the let down.

What may help in that respect is that against England they should have the opportunity to hold onto possession for longer, a test for Cai Evans’ playmaking ability over his undoubted game management skills.

With Deon Smith moving into the centre there are plenty of strike runners outside him, so if Wales get onto the front foot then hopefully we can trouble the try line more than we have so far.

It’s been a very good showing all-in-all for Wales U20 and a win here would be the perfect way to cap it off for the tournament, and a number of players within the group.

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