Cardiff Blues prop Rhys Carre will captain Wales U18 when they play Scotland at St Helens tomorrow (Good Friday, 2.30pm) to kick off the inaugural U18 International Series.
Ben Thomas (Blues/ Cardiff & Vale Coll, St Peters), Ben Jones (Blues/ Coleg y Cymoedd/ Treharris), Dane Blacker (Blues/Cymoedd / Pontypridd); Rhys Carre (capt, Blues/Cowbridge Comp) and Harri Dobbs (Blues/ Cowbridge/ St Peters ) all start the game while Iestyn Harris (Blues/ Ysgol y Cymer/ Wattstown) and Ben Sier (Blues/ Cymoedd/ Merthyr) are on the bench. Congratulations also to Corrie Tarrant in being named in the wider Under-18s squad.
Wales head coach Geraint Lewis said, “Playing three games in 12 days is a fantastic opportunity to give a new batch of players exposure to international rugby, and it also gives those who have been involved before a further chance to express themselves at this level.
“International rugby isn’t easy but the level of effort, preparation and concentration needed in a short space of time will only benefit them in the long term. It’s tough but it’s what we wanted to expose the players to.
“Every player will get a start during the course of the series, which will help their development and also lessen the physical demands of playing three games in close succession.”
Lewis has kept a level of consistency in his starting line-up for tomorrow’s game following the England friendly international a fortnight ago.
“It’s a mix of new players and boys who have been involved over the past two seasons.
“We know Scotland will offer a stern challenge and we are hoping that keeping some of the tried and tested combinations will bring some familiarity, help integrate the new players and help produce a good performance in the first game.
“There is a good pitch at Swansea but we will have the same intentions to play fast, attacking rugby whatever the weather, and we have also been working hard on our defensive play.”
Prop Rhys Carre will captain the side for the opening game and Lewis added: “Rhys has been prominent for the past two seasons, this is just reward for his standard of play and will help Rhys as he progresses in the game. Hopefully the captaincy will bring out the best in Rhys on and off the field.”
Future Cardiff Blues player Jim Botham, Harri Dobbs, Ben Thomas and Dane Blacker earn their first caps, while Leon Randell and Joe Goodchild make their first starts.
Lewis added, “Harri has been brought in due to injuries and has caught up to speed very well, Jim is a very determined and focussed player with lots of potential. He’s working hard on some areas of his game and hopefully this exposure will accelerate that development. Dane Blacker has been rewarded for excellent performances for Pontypridd and Ben Thomas is an exciting talent, it will be good for him to build on his Blues combination with Ben Jones.”
Wales team v Scotland:
Leon Randell (Scarlets/ Coleg Sir Gar); Joe Goodchild (Dragons/ Coleg Gwent/ Garndiffaith), Corey Baldwin (Scarlets/ Llandovery Coll), Ben Thomas (Blues/ Cardiff & Vale Coll, St Peters), Ryan Conbeer (Scarlets/ Coleg Sir Gar); Ben Jones (Blues/ Coleg y Cymoedd/ Treharris), Dane Blacker (Blues/Cymoedd / Pontypridd); Rhys Carre (capt, Blues/Cowbridge Comp) Jordan Liney (Ospreys/ Hartbury Coll/ Dunvant), Harri Dobbs (Blues/ Cowbridge/ St Peters ), Rhys Davies (Bath/ Millfield/ Exiles), Will Griffiths (Ospreys/ Gowerton Comp/ Gowerton), Lloyd Pike (Scarlets/ Sir Gar/ Llanelli Wanderers), Jim Botham (Sedbergh School/ Exiles). Morgan Morris (Hartpury/ Exiles)
Replacements: Iestyn Harris (Blues/ Ysgol y Cymer/ Wattstown), Josh Reynolds (Dragons/ Newport High/ NHSOB), Christian Coleman (Dragons/ Newport High/ Gardiffaith), Ben Sier (Blues/ Cymoedd/ Merthyr), Will Jones (Ospreys/ Gower Coll/ Penclawdd), Charlie Davies (Ospreys/ Gowerton/ Gowerton), Connor Tantum (Ospreys/ Porthcawl/ Kenfig Hill), Callum Carson (Ospreys/ Gower Coll/ Gowerton), Gethin Gibby (Scarlets/ Sir Gar)
U18 International Series:
Friday 25 March, St Helens, Swansea – Wales v Scotland (2.30pm)
Tuesday 29 March, Caerphilly Centre of Sporting Excellence, Ystrad Mynach – Ireland v Scotland (5.15pm) and Wales v Italy (7.30pm)
Saturday 2 April, Caerphilly Centre of Sporting Excellence, Ystrad Mynach – Italy v Ireland (11am), Scotland v England (1.30pm)
Wednesday 6 April, St Helens, Swansea – England A v Italy (2.30pm) and Wales v England (7.30pm).
Tickets available on the gate £5 adults, U16s free