FIVE Dragons young guns feature in Wales' U20 Six Nations opener against Italy in Colwyn Bay on Friday (kick-off 7.35pm), writes Chris Kirwan.

Centre Aneurin Owen and scrum-half Dafydd Buckland start after being influential figures for Gareth Williams' side last season while there are debuts for wing Ewan Rosser and lock Ben Carter.

Hooker Will Griffiths, a member of the 2019 World Rugby U20 Championship squad like Owen and Buckland, is among the replacements.

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Rosser is the brother of Dragons speedster Jared and has been in fine form for Ebbw Vale in the Premiership while Carter captained the region's title-winning Under-18s team last year and has made an impression in training with Dean Ryan's seniors.

Wales finished fourth in the tournament last season and beat Italy 42-12 when Dragons flanker Taine Basham scored a hat-trick in Mantova.

As usual, the Six Nations is seen as a building block towards the World Rugby U20 Championship, which is in Italy this summer when the Welsh prospects will go up against New Zealand and Australia in the pool stages.

Williams is looking for the likes of Owen and Buckland to help the new blood settle.

"The returning boys gives us a good nucleus to work from and provides us a good spine throughout the side," said the head coach.

"It's good to have that sort of experience going into a campaign and I know those players are ready to take on the mantle of being a senior player in what I think is an exciting squad.

"It's great to have a group of returning players, while also blooding new players as we build towards the Junior World Cup later in the year."

Italy finishing fifth last year but the head coach is taking nothing for granted.

"Italy will be a stern challenge, and we know we are going to face a difficult night," he said.

"Italy played some good rugby in last year's World Cup, and their U18s were outstanding against our boys in their win in Gloucester last season. So our preparation and performance needs to be of a high standard."

Wales U20 v Italy: Josh Thomas (Ospreys), Dan John (Millfield School), Osian Knott (Scarlets), Aneurin Owen (Dragons), Ewan Rosser (Dragons), Sam Costelow (Leicester Tigers), Dafydd Buckland (Dragons), Callum Williams (Scarlets), Dom Booth (Scarlets), Ben Warren (Cardiff Blues), Jac Price (Scarlets), Ben Carter (Dragons), Ioan Davies (Cardiff Blues), Jac Morgan (Scarlets, captain), Morgan Strong (Ospreys).

Replacements: Will Griffiths (Dragons), Theo Bevacqua (Cardiff Blues), Archie Griffin (Bath Rugby), James Fender (Ospreys), Travis Huntley (Ospreys), Ellis Bevan (Cardiff Met), Luke Scully (Worcester), Bradley Roderick (Ospreys)