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Cardiff pair selected for U20s Ireland clash

International | 21st February 2024

Wales head coach Richard Whiffin has named Cardiff Rugby pair Lucas de la Rua and Harri Wilde in his matchday 23 to face Ireland at Virgin Media Park, for the third round of the 2024 Under 20 men’s Six Nations championship on Friday in Cork. (KO 7.15pm, S4C).

For the third consecutive game the back-line remains intact while there are three changes in the pack with two positional switches in the engine room.

Scarlets’ loosehead prop Josh Morse will earn his first start after six appearances from the bench while Midlands Central’s tighthead prop Sam Scott also gets a first start after impressing with his cameos against Scotland and England.

Dragons RFC’s Nick Thomas joins Jonny Green in the second row with Osian Thomas switching to blindside flanker and Cardiff Rugby’s Lucas de la Rua moving to No 8 with influential Morgan Morse being rested.

“Looking at what is best for Morgan’s long-term development along with the high volume of rugby he has already played this season we have planned, along with the Ospreys, for him to have a break. This will enable him the best opportunity to be in peak condition to perform for both us and the Ospreys for the remainder of season and into the summer.

Defending Grand Slam champions Ireland suffered a fright against Italy before squeezing home 23-22 in their last game which means Wales are expecting the home side to come out of the blocks firing on all cylinders.

“They have an all-court game, they move the ball outstandingly well and threaten you with the ball as well as having a good kicking game,” said Whiffin.

“They also possess a good aerial threat and set-piece wise you can’t switch off. They will cause us problems all across the field but that is nothing that we aren’t ready for and we’re looking forward to going up against them.

“Italy got under Ireland’s skin a little bit and rattled them and really forced them into changing how they played. They were a lot of more a kicking threat in the last 20 minutes and almost strangled the game away from Italy whereas in the first 40-50 minutes they tried to play their way out.”

The last time Ireland lost on home soil was when Wales beat them 41-38 at Donnybrook in 2018. If Wales are to storm the Cork fortress, then the backline will have to be razor sharp in attack and convert more chances into points, said Whiffin.

“They’re offering a real threat in the wide channels, and we showed a lot of clips in our review against England where we created really good opportunities, but we need to be a little more clinical on finishing them – but I think the backline offers us a real dangerous threat,” he said.

“It would be awesome to come away with a win – every game we prepare for we aim to win. The boys have been confident going in to the two previous games and we’ll be confident going into the Ireland game. We know we can threaten teams and put them under pressure – it’s just the ability to do it for the full 80 and it would be great to get a scalp over in Ireland.”

Wales U20s v Ireland U20s – Virgin Media Park, Friday 23rd February, KO 7.15pm (S4C)
15 Huw Anderson (Dragons)
14 Harry Rees-Weldon (Dragons RFC)
13 Louie Hennessey (Bath Rugby)
12 Harri Ackerman (Dragons RFC – Capt)
11 Walker Price (Dragons RFC)
10 Harri Wilde (Cardiff Rugby)
9 Ieuan Davies (Bath Rugby);
1 Josh Morse (Scarlets)
2 Harry Thomas (Scarlets)
3 Sam Scott (Midlands Central)
4 Jonny Green (Harlequins)
5 Nick Thomas (Dragons)
6 Osian Thomas (Leicester Tigers)
7 Harry Beddall (Leicester Tigers)
8 Lucas de la Rua (Cardiff Rugby)

16 Will Austin (Sale Sharks)*
17 Jordan Morris (Dragons)
18 Kian Hire (Ospreys)
19 Owen Conquer (Ebbw Vale)
20 Will Plessis (Scarlets)
21 Rhodri Lewis (Ospreys)
22 Harri Ford (RGC)
23 Macs Page (Scarlets)