9:13am Thursday 5th June 2014
By Chris Kirwan
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons hooker Elliot Dee comes into the Wales Under-20s side for their must-win clash with Ireland at the Junior World Championship tomorrow morning (kick-off 6.35am).
Head coach Byron Hayward has made three changes to the side that beat Fiji 48-19 on Monday with Dee, flanker Will Boyde and wing Joshua Adams coming in.
There are seven Rodney Parade youngsters in the starting XV – wing Tyler Morgan, centre Jack Dixon, fly-half Angus O’Brien, scrum-half Luc Jones, Dee, lock Joe Davies and number eight James Benjamin.
Dragons openside Scott Matthews drops down to the bench where he is joined by Cross Keys teammates Luke Garrett and Scott Andrews at loosehead prop and lock respectively and Ebbw Vale-bound fly-half Ethan Davies.
Hayward said: "We are using the squad, but in a way we feel will add impact to our performance. The hooker and openside flanker positions are very competitive within the group.
"I expect it to be a tight game,” he continued. Our scrum won us the Six Nations game against the Irish in Athlone and we need to maintain the pressure in that area but we need to try and play some expansive rugby too.
“Ireland's scrum has improved, causing problems against the French, and the weather is very good at the moment so the conditions are set be different from that Six Nations game.
"It was very pleasing to produce a disciplined performance against Fiji and come away with a bonus point, but if we beat Ireland by a point, it will be a job well done.”
Wales must beat Ireland – who are coached by Blaina’s Mike Ruddock – to set up a Group B decider against France next Tuesday.
It is highly likely that only the table-toppers will progress to the semi-finals because the best runner-up berth should come from one of the other two pools.
New Zealand and South Africa enjoyed thumping wins against Samoa and Scotland respectively before their round two meeting. The losers should go on to boost their points difference in their final Group C fixture.
The same applies in Group A with England, who hammered Italy on opening day, meeting Australia, who crushed Argentina.
Wales’ pool contains three teams that are more than capable of beating each other, meaning that their final points difference will be comparatively small.
Therefore the Welsh young guns will have to beat the Irish and French if they are to make the semi-finals for the third season on the spin.
Wales U20: Ashley Evans (Ospreys); Tyler Morgan (Dragons), Steffan Hughes (capt, Scarlets), Jack Dixon (Dragons), Joshua Adams (Scarlets); Angus O'Brien (Dragons), Luc Jones (Dragons); Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Nicky Thomas (Ospreys), Joe Davies (Dragons), Rory Thornton (Ospreys), Olly Cracknell (RGC), Will Boyde (Carmarthen) James Benjamin (Dragons)
Replacements: Scott Otten (Ospreys), Luke Garrett (Dragons), Callum Lewis (Blues), Scott Andrews (Dragons), Scott Matthews (Dragons), Tom Williams (Blues), Ethan Davies (Dragons), Afon Bagshaw (RGC)
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