Wales Under-18 Squad for South Africa
Head coach Chris Horsman will take his Wales squad to South Africa this weekend for the Under-18 International Series, for one of their toughest tests of the year.
Ever since 2012, the best of Wales’ teenage players have headed to Stellenbosch to join teams from South African Schools, England and France for a triangular tournament that has proved the breeding ground for many future internationals.
Included in Warren Gatland’s current World Cup training squad are a number of graduates from the seven previous South African summer safaris – Josh Adams (2013), Hallam Amos (2012), Adam Beard (2013), Leon Brown (2015), Rhys Carre (2016), Elliot Dee (2012), Ryan Elias (2013), Steff Evans (2013), Dillon Lewis, Nicky Smith (2012), Owen Watkin (2014) and Tomos Williams (2013).
A change in age range will mean this side will be younger than many of the previous teams and the only players to return after the 2018 trip, when Wales lost an epic battle with the South African Schools team 43-40 before beating England 26-20, are Bath Academy prop Archie Griffin and Dragons centre Morgan Richards.
Griffin is one of a number of Exiles players in the 26-strong squad that includes the Millfield School fullback Dan John, son of former Wales scrumhalf Paul John. Looking to earn his first cap at this age will be flyhalf Ben Burnell, whose father Justin Burnell is a former Wales Under-19 head coach and the current director of rugby at Pontypridd.
Horsman said: “We’ve got a lot of strength in depth in certain positions and for the first time in a few years we’ve got a very good batch of second rows – James Fender, Ben Carter, Chris Tshiunza. There is also some real strength in depth in the loose forwards.
“One of the strengths of our performance pathway is that we are very aligned all the way through. Coaches of the 18s, 19s and 20s all sit at the same desk, whereas in other countries they get together only in tournament time.
“When you look at our results and performances at age-grade level, along with the number of players who transition successfully into regional rugby and the senior international side, we do pretty well.
“But, as with everything, we can do better. That’s why we’re always challenging what we’re doing in order to become truly world class.”
The team will kick-off against the South African Schools team on 9 August 2019 and four days later will meet South African Schools A. They complete their trip with a game against France on 17 August 2019.
Wales Under-18 Squad
Fullbacks: Dan John (Exiles), Jake Morgan (Dragons)
Wings: Carrick McDonough (Dragons), Jake Thomas (Cardiff Blues)
Centres: Morgan Richards (Dragons), Mason Grady (Cardiff Blues), Joe Hawkins (Ospreys), Bradley Roderick (Ospreys)
Flyhalves: Ben Burnell (Cardiff Blues), Tom Matthews (Northampton)
Scrumhalves: Luke Davies (Scarlets), Ethan Lloyd (Cardiff Blues)
Props: Theo Bevacqua (Harlequins), Archie Griffin (Bath), Lewys Jones (Ospreys), Kieran Stevens (Ospreys)
Hookers: Oliver Burrows (Ospreys), Rhodri King (Scarlets)
Locks: Ben Carter (Dragons), James Fender (Ospreys), Rhys Thomas (Ospreys), Christ Tshiunza (Exeter Chiefs)
Loose forwards: Ollie Howard (Dragons), Travis Huntley (Ospreys), Alex Mann (Cardiff Blues), Peter Vickers (Wasps)
Under-18 International Series fixtures (all times BST)
Friday, 9 August 2019 at Paul Roos Gymnasium, Stellenbosch
SA Schools A vs France Under-18
England Under-18 vs Argentina Under-18
SA Schools vs Wales Under-18
Tuesday, 13 August 2019 at Paarl Gymnasium, Paarl
SA Schools A vs Wales Under-18
SA Schools vs Argentina Under-18
England Under-18 vs France Under-18
Saturday, 17 August 2019 at Hugenote High, Wellington
SA Schools A vs Argentina Under-18
France Under-18 vs Wales Under-18
SA Schools vs England Under-18
Information from the Welsh Rugby Union