Preview: England U20 v Wales U20

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Wales U20 are looking to build on the excellent victory over France U20 as they make the short trip across the River Severn to Gloucester where they face England U20 on Friday night, kick-off 7.45pm.

Gareth Williams’ men earned a first win of this season’s U20 Six Nations over Les Bleus in Colwyn Bay two weeks ago, as a brave performance in dreadful weather saw them come out 14-11 winners, although they still sit bottom of the table after three rounds.

They now go up against an England side who we have a good record against in recent years, winning three of the last five meetings between the sides including last year’s fixture when an 81st minute Deon Smith try secured an 11-10 victory at Parc Eirias.

You have to go back to 2016 for the last time Wales won over the border though, when a stunning performance secured a 16-42 win at Bristol’s Ashton Gate thanks to tries from Shaun Evans, Harri Millard, Dan Jones, Harri Keddie and a brace from Keelan Giles, as the men in red marched to a Grand Slam.

This year’s England team are looking to return to winning ways after narrow away wins over France and Scotland put them neck-and-neck with Ireland at the top of the table after round two, but a heavy 21-39 home loss against the men in green last time out put them on the back foot.

Deon Smith Wales U20

As a result their head coach Alan Dickens has made four changes to the starting XV for Friday’s contest, with three of them coming up front as the pack gets a refresh at Kingsholm.

Emmanuel Iyogun and Cal Ford form a new propping duo either side of Theo Dan at hooker, while Rob Farrar slots in at blindside flanker alongside Richard Capstick and Rusiate Tuima in the back row.

The other change comes in midfield where Max Ojomoh gets the nod at inside centre, forming a partnership with Connor Doherty who captains the side from 13.

England U20: Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers), Gabriel Hamer-Webb (Bath Rugby), Connor Doherty (Sale Sharks)(c), Max Ojomoh (Bath Rugby), Tom Roebuck (Sale Sharks), George Barton (Gloucester Rugby), Sam Maunder (Exeter Chiefs); Emmanuel Iyogun (Northampton Saints), Theo Dan (Saracens), Cal Ford (Sale Sharks), Hugh Tizard (Harlequins), George Hammond (Harlequins), Rob Farrar (Newcastle Falcons), Richard Capstick (Exeter Chiefs), Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs)

Replacements: Sam Riley (Harlequins), Sam Crean (Saracens), Harvey Beaton (Saracens), Alex Groves (Bristol Bears), Jack Clement (Gloucester), Jack Van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers), Will Haydon-Wood (Newcastle Falcons), Josh Gillespie (Northampton Saints)

Wales, on the other hand, choose to stick almost entirely with the starting XV that beat France last time out with just a single change as Will Griffiths gets the nod at hooker and Dom Booth drops to the bench.

Mason Grady France U20

There are a few changes among the replacements though as Harri O’Connor covers tighthead instead of Archie Griffin, Ed Scragg backs up the second row rather than Rhys Thomas and Luke Scully is back involved as outside back cover after missing out on the France game through illness.

Wales U20: Jacob Beetham (Cardiff Blues), Frankie Jones (Aberavon), Bradley Roderick (Ospreys), Aneurin Owen (Dragons), Mason Grady (Cardiff Blues), Sam Costelow (Leicester Tigers), Ellis Bevan (Cardiff Met); Theo Bevacqua (Cardiff Blues), Will Griffiths (Dragons), Ben Warren (Cardiff Blues), James Fender (Ospreys), Ben Carter (Dragons), Ioan Rhys Davies (Cardiff Blues), Jac Morgan (Scarlets)(c), Morgan Strong (Ospreys)

Replacements: Dom Booth (Scarlets), Callum Williams (Scarlets), Harri O’Connor  (Scarlets), Ed Scragg (Dragons), Gwilym Bradley (Cardiff Blues), Dafydd Buckland (Dragons), Joe Hawkins (Ospreys), Luke Scully (Worcester Warriors)

For the first time in this tournament, Wales will play in what are forecast to be some dry and still conditions at Gloucester on Friday, a marked change from the sideways rain and swirling wind we saw at Colwyn Bay two weeks ago.

As a result it will be the first time that the attacking game orchestrated by Sam Costelow can properly get going, and with some terrific talents in the backline and some athletic carriers in the back row then the opportunity is there to get some points on the board.

The danger will be an English pack that is always big and physical at this age level. If Gareth Williams’ men avoid being dragged into a fight up front then the chance is there to bag another famous win in the West Country.

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