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Hodges proud of Wales U20s defensive display

1st June 2018

Cardiff Blues coach Richard Hodges has paid tribute to the hard work undertaken by the Wales U20 squad in the build-up to the 26-21 win against the Junior Wallabies.

The region’s defence coach also assists Wales U20s in their campaigns and has led the rear-guard action once again in France.

In the late fixture in Béziers, Wales' aggression in defence was a driving component in their first victory over Australia at this level. 

"Having come back into the group post-Six Nations, there was a need for us to address some key defensive issues," said Hodges. "We decided to strip it down and take things back to basics."

"What you get with this age group is that they'll hang off your every word. You give them two or three key principles and keep repping it and repping it and it sinks in. I'm really pleased with how the things we've worked on transferred themselves to the field yesterday."

"The boys have gone to some dark places at times during our pre-tournament training camps. We've integrated a lot of power-endurance sessions on defence days, so they understand that when they get down to the last few minutes of the game - as they did last night - that's what it's all for."

Wales had identified Australia's danger men - hooker Efi Maafu, blindside Esei Haangana and inside centre Isaac Lucas - and aimed to nullify their threats. 

"We speak about collision dominance in this game, and we needed to have the hunger and desire to lessen the impact of those players," said Hodges. "Watching the game back, I think our players achieved that."

Hodges emphasised that the players remain grounded, particularly with the next challenge a formidable one against New Zealand. 

He continued: "The boys deserve credit, but they're very humble. We've got a huge game on Sunday against the Baby Blacks, so we've got a short turnaround. There are a few areas we need to brush up on, because there's no greater opposition than New Zealand. The players can go into that game with a huge amount of confidence, though.

"We've got four games to go, and I couldn't really ask for a better start to my final campaign. Afterwards, I'll be able to concentrate on my family - we've got a couple of little ones - and the Blues. I've hugely enjoyed my time with the U20s. It's been a massive part of my coach development, but it's probably time for somebody else to have a go."