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Blues Under-18s ready for final battle

24th January 2014

Cardiff Blues and Dragons go into Sunday's WRU Regional Under-18 final at The Gnoll after one of the most competitive seasons in the competition's history (kick-off 2.30pm).

Just seven points separated all five teams in the group stage, with the identity of the two sides contesting for the title only decided after the final round of fixtures earlier this week. 

Ironically, the last group stage match was a precursor to Sunday's game with the Dragons downing the previously unbeaten Blues 28-12 at Pandy Park on Wednesday.

The four-try bonus point victory sent the Dragons into the final as they edged out the Scarlets and north Wales outfit RGC 1404 by a single point. The two sides also clashed in the final held two years ago, a contest the Blues edged that day. 

While the Dragons have the confidence from their win earlier this week, the Blues include a number of Wales Under 18 internationals with Liam Belcher leading the side. The young hooker has already played Principality Premiership rugby with Pontypridd this season, as has fly half Jarrad Evans. 

Richard Hodges, WRU Performance Manager for the Blues region, said: "We've had a great season at Under 18 level and we deserve a place in the final.

"It's been an incredibly competitive season and the Dragons will be tough opposition. They got the better of us earlier this week but we know if we perform on the day then we are capable of getting a result.

"This is our second final in two years at this level which is a good indication of where we are. Last year we lost to the Scarlets in the final and we are hoping to go one better this time.” 

Wales Under 18 head coach Allan Lewis will be an interested observer this afternoon and he has reserved special praise for this year's tournament. 

"All five teams have been incredibly competitive this year with a high standard of rugby across the board. It's all about giving these young boys the chance to play,” he said.

"The WRU pathway starts with the Wednesday Under 18 League with players then progressing to the Regional Age Grade Championship, and the best of those will progress on to international level with the Wales Under 18 side.” 

Lewis will finalise his squad for the forthcoming Wales Under 18 internationals against France and England and the Easter FIRA-AER tournament after Sunday's final.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Ellis Wyn Benham 14 Harry Thomas 13 James Whittingham 12 Lewis Morgan 11 Josh Rogers 10 Jarrad Evans 9 Mike Hale, 1 Rob Lewis 2 Liam Belcher (c) 3 Kieron Assaratti 4 Ben Murphy 5 Seb Davies 6 Jordan Viggers 7 Matthew Marley 8 Hemi Barnes.

Replacements: Dai Harris, Sam Evans, Joel Ringer, Jack Davies, Owen Young, Rory Harries, Tyler Williams, Harri Collier.