Six Cardiff Blues academy starlets have been named in the Wales U20s squad to take on Australia in their World Rugby U20 Championship opener on Wednesday.
Dane Blacker and Ben Jones, who featured regularly in last season’s Championship combine at half-back, with scrum-half Blacker returning to the international fold following injury.
Rhys Carre and Iestyn Harris pack down in the front-row, while Ben Thomas provides cover across the backs and Will Davies-King could make his debut in Beziers.
“Selection has been very difficult, with the entire squad working hard and putting in lots of preparation for the World Rugby U20 Championship,” said head coach Geraint Lewis. “
“Competition for places is strong, but we’ve gone with the team which we feel is best suited to the challenge presented to us by Australia.”
“It’s quite an experienced team, with some players having enjoyed exposure to the Guinness Pro14 this year. Due to our approach during the Six Nations in giving opportunities to the entire squad, we’ve got a strong nucleus of players who are adept and happy at U20 level. Hopefully those experiences can hold them in good stead on Wednesday.”
The Junior Wallabies represent the first of three challenges in Wales’ pool, followed by New Zealand (3rd June) and Japan (7th June).
“Australia are a formidable rugby nation that always produce talented players,” Lewis said of a team Wales met in the pool stage last year in Georgia. “With the limited footage we’ve seen of them, we know they’re a big side, and from last year’s encounter we’re aware that they present a real challenge with ball in hand.”
Lewis accepted that the weather in the south of France might suit the Australian style of play, but insisted his team were equally looking forward to playing in such conditions. “It’s exciting for us to play southern hemisphere opposition, not least because it’s quite new for most of the squad. It’s what we’re here for: to test ourselves against the best.”
Wales U20 v Australia U20 at the Stade de la Méditerranée will be shown live on S4C, with coverage starting from 19:45 BST.
Wales U20 team to face Australia:
15 Cai Evans (Ospreys)
14 Rio Dyer (Dragons)
13 Corey Baldwin (Scarlets)
12 Ioan Nicholas (Scarlets)
11 Ryan Conbeer (Scarlets)
10 Ben Jones (Cardiff Blues)
9 Dane Blacker (Cardiff Blues)
1 Rhys Carre (Cardiff Blues)
2 Iestyn Harris (Cardiff Blues)
3 Rhys Henry (Ospreys)
4 Rhys Davies (Bath Rugby)
5 Max Williams (Dragons)
6 Tommy Reffell (c) (Leicester Tigers)
7 Dan Davis (Scarlets)
8 Taine Basham (Dragons)
16 Dewi Lake (Ospreys)
17 Rhys Davies (Scarlets)
18 Will Davies-King (Cardiff Blues)
19 Lewis Ellis-Jones (Scarlets)
20 Lennon Greggains (Dragons)
21 Harri Morgan (Ospreys)
22 Ben Thomas (Cardiff Blues)
23 Joe Goodchild (Dragons)