Five Cardiff Blues youngsters have been named in the Wales under-18 squad for the upcoming tour to South Africa.
Jake Thomas, Mason Grady, Ben Burnell, Ethan Lloyd and Alex Mann have all been selected in Chris Horsman's 26-man squad, as they travel to the rainbow nation for three Test matches in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Wellington.
Wales will open their U18 International Series campaign against hosts South Africa Schools on Friday, August 9, before taking on South Africa Schools A on the following Tuesday. The tour comes to an eind against France under-18 on Saturday, 17 August.
The Cardiff Blues youngsters follow in the footsteps of senior regional stars such as Dillon Lewis, Josh Adams, Hallam Amos and Tomos Williams, who have gone from representing Wales in the under-18 series to being part of Warren Gatland's training squad for the Rugby World Cup.
Head coach Horsman said: "There has been a change in the age grade system. With every country moving to January 1, from September 1, as an academic school date it meant we were only having one fixture at Under 18 level.
"So we decided to fall in line with the international calendar. That’s why we’ve brought in the Under 19 team to give players another opportunity to play international rugby.
"It worked really well for us last season with U19 games against Japan and England. This group going to South Africa is more of an U17 team.
"In the past, the group we’ve taken has been 6-8 months older and a lot of the current group are in the first year of sixth form. It’s a younger group, but a very talented group.
"We’ve got a lot of strength in depth in certain positions and for the first time in a few years we’ve got a very good batch of second rows – James Fender, Ben Carter, Chris Tshiunza a. There is also some real strength in depth in the back-row.
"One of the strengths of our performance pathway is we are very aligned all the way through. Coaches of the 18s, 19s and 20s all sit at the same desk, whereas in other countries they only get together in tournament time.
"When you look at our results and performances at age grade level, along with the number of players who transition successfully into regional rugby and the senior international side, we do pretty well.
"But as with everything we can do better. That’s why we’re always challenging what we’re doing in order to become truly world class."
Full back, Dan John - son of former Cardiff Blues coach Paul John - is also selected through the Exiles programme.
Wales Under-18: Dan John (Exiles), Jake Morgan (Ospreys), Carrick McDonough (Dragons), Jake Thomas (Cardiff Blues), Morgan Richards (Dragons), Mason Grady (Cardiff Blues), Joe Hawkins (Ospreys), Bradley Roderick (Ospreys), Ben Burnell (Cardiff Blues), Tom Matthew (Northampton), Luke Davies (Scarlets), Ethan Lloyd (Cardiff Blues), Theo Bevacqua (Harlequins), Archie Griffin (Bath), Lewys Jones (Ospreys), Kieran Stevens (Ospreys), Oliver Burrows (Ospreys), Rhodri King (Scarlets), Ben Carter (Dragons), James Fender (Ospreys), Rhys Thomas (Ospreys), Christ Tshiunza (Exeter Chiefs), Ollie Howard (Dragons), Travis Huntley (Ospreys), Alex Mann (Cardiff Blues), Peter Vickers (Wasps)
U18 International Series fixtures (all times BST)
Friday, 9 August 2019 - Paul Roos Gymnasium, Stellenbosch
12:00 SA Schools A vs France U18
13:30 England U18 vs Argentina
15:00 SA Schools vs Wales U18
Tuesday, 13 August 2019 - Paarl Gymnasium, Paarl
12:00 SA Schools A vs Wales U18
13:30 SA Schools vs Argentina U18
15:00 England U18 vs France U18
Saturday, 17 August 2019 - Hugenote High, Wellington
11:00 SA Schools A vs Argentina U18
12:30 France U18 vs Wales U18
14:00 SA Schools vs England U18