15 Cardiff pathway youngsters have been called up for international duty as Wales prepare for Six Nations action over the coming week.
Liza Burgess’ Women squad travel to Edinburgh tomorrow, while Matt O’Brien’s Men group head to Marcoussis. Both tournaments kick off on Saturday 9th April.
The promising Blue and Black youngsters are rewarded following impressive Regional Age Grade Championship campaigns, where the women finished top of the pile and the men dramatically edged out in a tense finale against Dragons.
Cardiff have the largest representation in Burgess' 26-woman squad with captain Gwennan Hopkins included alongside seven of her club team-mates. Fellow forwards Katy Hudd, Georgia Morgan and Fern Cumine are given the nod as well as backline quintet Molly Reardon, Rachel Thomas-Evans, Mya Dixon, Gabby Healan and wing Grace Bellamy.
Meanwhile, there are seven Blue and Blacks named in O'Brien's squad, which includes back row trio Kenzie Jenkins, Lucas de la Rua and Harry Beddall. Prop Ioan Emanuel, who is educated at Millfield, is amongst the front row contingent, with Orson James, Harri Wilde and Louie Hennessey all competing for places in the backline.
Wales Women U18 head coach Burgess said: “It’s been brilliant working with this group of girls for the last couple of months. The regions put a lot of hard work into their training and playing programmes after Christmas and since then the players have really applied themselves.
We have seen an incredible progression. Improvement is clear across the board technically and in terms of the players’ game understanding. The cohesiveness of the group and their willingness to learn has really impressed me. They have taken every opportunity to progress, which is very rewarding."
The format of the female tournament sees Wales play 35 minute matches against Scotland and Italy on Saturday at the DAM Health Stadium on Saturday before a full match against Ireland next Wednesday at the same Murrayfield venue.
Burgess added, “The girls will take so much from this experience. Not only will we be preparing for and playing matches but there will be opportunities to spend time with other teams, for example analysing each other’s games and developing all of their skills.”
O'Brien added: “There were some really tight calls in certain positions but we’re happy with the squad selected so we’re now just looking forward to going to France.
Wales begin their campaign on Saturday against England before facing France next Wednesday and completing the tournament against Ireland on Sunday April 17.
“England will be without their Under 19 players this time, but they are still going to be a really good opponent. The fact we played our U18 boys last time out will hopefully stand us in good stead.
“Obviously, it is international rugby so we want to win games, but we are taking a fair few boys that weren’t capped in the first game against England so it is another opportunity to get a few new caps so the boys who have already had that experience can help those new boys along.
“I think the growth in the players from when they first came in has already been massive. Yes, results will be part of it but performances and the improvement of the players on and off the field will be a big thing for us as well.”
Wales Women U18 squad, Under 18 Six Nations festival, Edinburgh - April 9 – 13: Lowri Pritchard (Scarlets), Chelsea Chesters (Scarlets), Dali Hopkins (Ospreys), Maisie Davies (Scarlets), Molly Wakely (Dragons), Georgia Morgan (Cardiff), Milly Summer Webb-Greenslade (Scarlets), Fern Cumine (Cardiff), Erin Jones (RGC), Catrin Stewart (RGC), Katy Hudd (Cardiff), Lucy Isaac (Dragons), Jess Rogers (Ospreys), Gwennan Hopkins (Cardiff); Sian Jones (RGC), Molly Reardon (Cardiff), Rachel Thomas-Evans (Cardiff), Mya Dixon (Cardiff), Jenna De Vera (Scarlets), Gabby Healan (Cardiff), Molly Powell (Dragons), Lowri Elias (Scarlets), Grace Bellamy (Cardiff), Nel Metcalfe (RGC), Mollie Wilkinson (Exiles), Carys Hughes (Scarlets)
Wales U18 squad for U18 Men’s Six Nations festival, Marcoussis – April 9 – 17: Ioan Emanuel (Cardiff Rugby), Morgan Williams (Dragons), Isaac Young (Scarlets), William Rees (Scarlets), Conall Couch (Dragons), Kian Hire (Ospreys), Jonny Green (Harlequins), Lewis Marsh (Ospreys), Nicholas Thomas (Dragons), Gianluca Giannini (Scarlets), Kenzie Jenkins (Cardiff Rugby), Lucas de la Rua (Cardiff Rugby), Morgan Morse (Ospreys), Harry Beddall (Cardiff Rugby); Rhodri Lewis (Ospreys), Orson James (Cardiff Rugby), Sam Berry (Dragons), Harri Wilde (Cardiff Rugby), Walker Price (Dragons), Ioan Duggan (Dragons), Harri Ackerman (Dragons), Louie Hennessey (Cardiff Rugby/Hartpury), Cameron Davies (Dragons), Gabe Lacey (Bristol Bears), Isaac Morgan (Ospreys), Huw Anderson (Dragons)