Alongside the senior tournament, the U20 Six Nations also get underway this weekend, with Gareth Williams’ Wales U20 side opening up against Italy U20 in Colwyn Bay on Friday night.
A 33-man squad has been named with the majority being first-year players at this level after the graduation of a number of last year’s squad, with the likes of Tommy Reffell, Cai Evans, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler and Ryan Conbeer having gone on to play regular first team senior rugby at their regions or clubs this season.
Ahead of the campaign getting underway I’ve had a run through of five players to look out for over the next two months.
Full-back John is arguably the most exciting prospect in the side this season, and could well start a bidding war for his services with a strong showing during the U20 Six Nations.
He is currently studying at and playing for Millfield School in Somerset, where Gareth Edwards is a former pupil, but is yet to be on the books at a region as far as is known publicly.
Impressive showings for the U18s and U19s last year caught the eye as he showed off an attack-minded style of play along with a cultured left boot.
One of the senior members of the squad as a second year player at this level, Owen will no doubt feel he has something to prove after only seeing five minutes of game time in last summer’s World Rugby U20 Championship before a head injury ended his tournament.
However, the Dragons Academy member is back fit and firing, ready to be a crucial player at inside centre where his long-term future seems to be having played as a fly-half ahead of entering the regional development pathway.
That experience at 10 makes him a capable second playmaker while a strength and conditioning programme may well see him take on more carrying responsibilities over the next few months, offering the dual threat to keep opposition defences guessing.
A lot of the attention when it comes to fly-halves in this squad has gone towards Bristol’s Ioan Lloyd, who has been a standout player off the bench for the English side’s first team this season, scoring three tries in 11 appearances across the league and Europe.
However, with Wales U20 operating on the basis of releasing players to their clubs if they are involved in the first team, how much we’ll see of Lloyd in a red jersey this campaign remains to be seen, with Sam Costelow a real option to be first choice fly-half in any circumstance.
Into his second year at this level the soon-to-be Scarlets player won eight caps for the 20s last season playing back-up to Cai Evans, with many believing he should have been the first choice going to Argentina for the World Rugby U20 Championship, myself included.
Also capable of slotting in at inside centre, Costelow is a born playmaker with the ability to take the ball to the line and create space for others or himself. His game management may well be tested, but with Lloyd, Owen or John adding another first receiver presence then there should be enough support for him to thrive.
The Ospreys back rower has been a key figure for Bridgend this season despite their Indigo Group Premiership struggles, turning in some eye catching performances for the Ravens and Wales at u18 and U19 level.
Likely to be the man wearing the number eight jersey for the Six Nations, Strong is an adept carrier using a mix of footwork and power to give his side front foot ball, and could be a long-term option for his region and country in a position we don’t produce many talents.
Linking up with captain Jac Morgan, who will need to take on a talismanic role during the Six Nations, they could make the back row a position of real strength for Wales.
The final player on the list is Price, who steps up to be the experienced second row in the squad having been the junior partner alongside fellow Scarlets Academy member Morgan Jones last season.
He started every game at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Argentina last summer, making a name for himself as a maul defence specialist, using his 6ft5 frame to disrupt and destroy.
This season he will likely take on more responsibility as the lineout caller, with a strong set piece vital if Wales are going to be able to show off the talent in the backs.