Coach Richard Hodges looking for Wales U20s to continue their mean streak

9:22am Friday 21st February 2014

IT'S not just the seniors that are the recipients of defensive orders barked in a northern accent at Wales' Vale of Glamorgan headquarters, writes Chris Kirwan.

While Wiganer Shaun Edwards attempts to get his charges back on track following two unusually lax efforts against Italy and Ireland a coach that hails from the other side of the Pennines is far more content.

Neither Italy or Ireland managed to cross the Under-20s' try line in the first two rounds of the Six Nations while the former managed just three penalties and the latter didn't trouble the scoreboard operators.

That has left Leeds-born assistant coach Richard Hodges delighted – but he expects a stern examination against France, who have also won both games, in Colwyn Bay on Saturday evening (kick-off 6.05pm).

"We set ourselves a target of keeping Italy down to single figures, which we managed to do after shutting them out in the second half, and against Ireland we were superb," he said.

"We made 135 tackles of which the starting back row made 47. That shows that there is a good atmosphere and a good unity in the squad; they will work hard for the mucker that is stood next to them and they understand the policies.

"We will concede tries at some point in the Six Nations and I don't mind doing that as long as teams have to work damn hard for them.

"France will bring a bag of tricks with Baptiste Serin of Bordeaux-Begles at nine, who is a class act with his kicks, while the 10 (Brandon Fajardo) likes to step and go. We will suffer if our concentration levels drop."

The Wales management team, headed by Byron Hayward, are preparing for plenty of selection headaches ahead of this summer's Junior World Championship in New Zealand.

And no area of team appears to be contested more fiercely than the back row where Dragons trio Scott Matthews, James Benjamin and Ollie Griffiths have been catching the eye.

"Scotty is a very rough, tough individual who I believe would get Premiership player of the year if it was voted for now," said Hodges.

"He was man of the match against Italy then James Benjamin won it against the Irish while Will Boyde, a butcher from Carmarthen, made 22 tackles.

"Ollie is a year young and has had a terrific impact off the bench, Ben Roach is knocking on the door with the Blues and Rob Dudley-Jones still can't quite get into a matchday squad but is training superbly.

"The back row is a really competitive area and there are some great battles for starts."

Wales Under-20s: Steffan Evans (Scarlets); Ashton Hewitt (Dragons), Harri Evans (RGC), Steffan Hughes (capt, Scarlets), Dafydd Howells (Ospreys); Ethan Davies (Dragons), Connor Lloyd (Scarlets); Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Nicky Thomas (Ospreys), Scott Andrews (Dragons), James Sheekey (Blues), Will Boyde (Carmarthen), Scott Matthews (Dragons), James Benjamin (Dragons)

Replacements: Ethan Lewis (Blues), Luke Garrett (Dragons), Callum Lewis (Blues), Rory Thornton (Ospreys), Ben Roach (Blues) Luc Jones (Dragons), Luke Price (Ospreys), Tyler Morgan (Dragons)

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