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Wales under-20 unchanged for Irish challenge

Pathway | 24th June 2021

Wales under-20 have named an unchanged side for Friday's Six Nations clash against Ireland at Cardiff Arms Park (KO 8.00pm).

After battling to a gritty victory over Italy in the opening game of the campaign, head coach Ioan Cunningham has kept faith with his starting XV, who aim to make it two from two in this year's Championship.

Academy back row Alex Mann once again captains a matchday squad containing six of his Cardiff team-mates, as two changes are made on the bench.

Efan Daniel and Nathan Evans once again combine in the front row, alongside former Cardiff academy prop, Garyn Phillips.

Ioan Evans, who will link up with Cardiff in the summer, retains the number 13 jersey and is joined in the backline by full back, Jacob Beetham.

Loosehead prop Theo Bevacqua, who made his Guinness PRO14 debut earlier this year, is named on the bench alongside scrum half Ethan Lloyd.

The two changes on the bench sees Ospreys' Rhys Thomas introduced in the place of Cardiff back row, Evan Lloyd. Former Cardiff Blues age grade lock, Christ Tshiunza, who now plies his trade with Exeter Chiefs, is also involved in the matchday squad for the first time.

Head coach Cunningham said: “It’s always good to start with a win to build from, and credit to the group, they stepped up when they needed to.

“Early on Italy had a lot of possession and territory, they were camped close to our try-line and the boys dug in and we came out without conceding so we could see the boys growing in to the game which was great for us.

“We’re hoping to build from the cohesion created against Italy and as a group we haven’t played many games so it’s a good opportunity for those guys who deserve to back it up with a second opportunity. There is still loads to develop with the group but we are getting closer which is the plus side.

“Hopefully the group will continue to grow and get better every game and that is one of the key reasons why we are keeping the same group, to get those connections and get that cohesion in the group again.”

Cunningham believes Ireland will provide a stern test for his players but having come through some tough times against Italy, he is confident his side will take a lot of self-belief into the game.

“I thought we came together and showed real spirit against Italy, especially early on when Italy had a lot of possession, they were camped in our 22 and we held them out so that was a big plus for us as we sort of grew into the game.

“Then obviously we found a way to win in the second half when the weather turned and it was wet, we found a way to squeeze them with scoreboard pressure and I thought there was some mature game management from Sam Costelow and our leaders.

“It’s going to be a different type of challenge this week with the kicking threat they have got and their forwards like to carry through the defence so we have really got to step up this week.”

Wales U20s: Jacob Beetham (Cardiff Rugby), Dan John (Exeter Chiefs), Ioan Evans (Pontypridd/Cardiff Rugby), Joe Hawkins (Ospreys), Carrick McDonough (Dragons); Sam Costelow (Scarlets), Harri Williams (Scarlets); Garyn Phillips (Ospreys), Efan Daniel (Cardiff Rugby)Nathan Evans (Cardiff Rugby), Joe Peard (Dragons), Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs), Alex Mann (Cardiff Rugby – Capt), Harri Deaves (Ospreys), Carwyn Tuipulotu (Scarlets)

Replacements: Oliver Burrows (Exeter Chiefs), Theo Bevacqua (Cardiff Rugby), Lewys Jones (Nevers), James Fender (Ospreys), Chris Tshiunza (Exeter Chiefs), Ethan Lloyd (Cardiff Rugby), Will Reed (Dragons), Tom Florence (Ospreys), Morgan Richards (Dragons/Pontypridd), Eddie James (Scarlets), Rhys Thomas (Ospreys)