7:58am Friday 31st January 2014
THREE Newport Gwent Dragons forwards will attempt to take the lessons learnt in senior regional rugby in recent weeks onto the international stage with Wales Under-20s this evening, writes Chris Kirwan.
Hooker Elliot Dee and back row forwards Scott Matthews and James Benjamin have featured in the Rodney Parade region's pack ahead of the Six Nations opener against Italy (kick-off 7.10pm).
Dee has locked horns with the heavyweight front rows of Bath and Northampton, Matthews impressed in the Amlin Challenge Cup win at Mogliano while Benjamin slotted in at 7 against the Saints in the LV= Cup.
Along with regional teammate Ethan Davies, at fly-half, they have been named in the starting line-up as the Wales young guns start their campaign against their Italian counterparts at Colwyn Bay while fellow young Dragon Scott Andrews is the lock on the bench.
The Dragons forwards and fly-half Davies will be hoping to provide plenty of chances for a full cap to show his finishing prowess.
Ospreys wing Dafydd Howells was capped by Wales against Japan last summer and head coach Byron Hayward is looking for the speedster to inspire his teammates.
"Daf brings a lot to the team in terms of coming from the senior set-up," said the boss, who has taken over the reins after being Danny Wilson's assistant.
"His ability as a rugby player is the main thing he can bring to our team. He is a bit like Jordan Williams who we had with us last year in that he can change a game and do something out of nothing.
"He has an X factor and hopefully the other boys will follow him."
Wales triumphed 25-10 when the teams met in farcical conditions in Viterbo, with the match played on a boggy field in the pouring rain.
The Welsh forwards had to graft hard to secure the spoils and Hayward is looking for his 2014 crop to repeat the trick.
He said: "Italy will be an unknown quantity as they haven't played any games yet this season but we are expecting a forward battle and that will be our first challenge, especially if the conditions are wet."
Wales under-20s team: Afon Bagshaw (RGC); Dafydd Howells (Ospreys), Harri Evans (RGC), Steffan Hughes (captain, Scarlets), Joshua Adams (Scarlets); Ethan Davies (Dragons), Tom Williams (Blues); Callum Lewis (Blues), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Nicky Thomas (Ospreys ), Ben Roach (Blues), James Sheekey (Blues), Will Boyde (Carmarthen), Scott Matthews (Dragons), James Benjamin (Dragons)
Replacements: Scott Otten (Ospreys), Leon Crump (Blues), Benjamin Leung (Scarlets), Scott Andrews (Dragons), Connor Lloyd (Scarlets), Luke Price (Ospreys), Garyn Smith (Blues)
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