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Rees Forced To Shuffle Side for Italian Job

7th March 2007

Wales Under 20 head coach Dai Rees has made five changes and three positional to his side to face Italy at Piacenza on Friday night (7.30pm).

In the backs, wing Tom James (calf) and outside half Rhys Priestland (groin) have been added to the Wales Under 20s injury list, while skipper Ashley Smith, who missed the clash with France in Brive two weeks ago, has been ruled out for six months to undergo a shoulder operation.

In the forwards, Blues locks Bradley Davies and James Down will make their first starts at Under 20 level with Davies having recovered from an ankle injury that has kept him out of the side until now.

Elsewhere, Marc Jones will start at hooker after impressing as a replacement in Brive. Prop Hugh Gustafson retains the captaincy.

Wales Under 20 head coach Dai Rees said, "This campaign has understandably been a steep learning curve for our players, particularly the heavy defeat to France two weeks ago.

"However, the group is improving with each game which is all you can ask. Results would be great - and we were unlucky in our opening game against Ireland - but they are not the be-all-and-end-all.

"The boys have set themselves high standards for our next match in Italy so hopefully they can show what they are made of on Friday.

"Our backs suffered the brunt of the French back line last time out but there were also a lot of good points to our game, especially from our forwards who have been solid throughout this tournament.

"The Italians will be tough up front but I am confident we can match anyone in that area and we will look to put some width to our game."

Wales Under 20 v Italy Under 21, Friday, 9 March, Piacenza (kick-off 7.30pm):

Martyn Thomas (Dragons); Alec Jenkins (Llanelli / Scarlets), James Lewis (Bedwas/ Dragons), Gareth Maule (Newport / Dragons), Marcus Johnstone (Cross Keys/Dragons); Rhys Jones (Sale Sharks); Robert Lewis (Neath / Ospreys); Hugh Gustafson (captain; Llanelli / Scarlets), Marc Jones (Sale Sharks), Jamie Corsi (Newport / Dragons), Bradley Davies (Blues), James Down (Cardiff / Blues), Danny Lydiate (Ebbw Vale / Dragons), James Harris (Bedwas / Dragons), Lewis Evans (Newport / Dragons).

Replacements: Ben Flower (Bedwas / Dragons), Nick Eaves (Pontypridd / Blues), Adam Brown (Bedwas/Dragons), Matthew Larsen (Cardiff / Blues), Darren Allinson (Cardiff/Blues), Luke Ford (Wanderers / Blues), Jimmy Norris (Bedwas / Dragons)

Louise Rickard will become Wales' most capped rugby player on Sunday when she wins her 93rd cap as Wales Women continue their Six Nations campaign against Italy in Rome (kick-off 12.30pm at Rugby Roma).

Wales Women: Elen Evans (Dolgellau); Non Evans (Clifton), Naomi Thomas (Clifton), Clare Flowers (Clifton), Louise Rickard (Saracens); Rachel Poolman (UWIC), Mellissa Berry (Cardiff Quins, captain); Amy Broadstock (Llandaff North), Jennifer Davies (Waterloo), Louise Horgan (Saracens), Gemma Hallett (Pontyclun), Claire Donovan (Saracens), Catrina Nicholas (Cardiff Quins), Jamie Kift (Clifton), Kylie Wilson (Clifton).

Replacements: Caryl Thomas (Cardiff Quins), Liza Burgess (Clifton), Hannah Torangi (UWIC), Nicola Evans (Wasps), Amy Day (UWIC), Rhian Williams (Wasps), Hannah Szigetvari (Tylorstown).