Wales U20 go into their fifth-place play-off game with Australia determined to pick up their third win of the competition in South Africa and consign their Six Nations whitewash to the horrible history books.
The transformation of Ryan Woodman’s side under emergency head coach Mark Jones has been encouraging to see. No sooner will the game against the young Wallabies be over than the players will be seeking new opportunities with their regions.
Jones has no doubts that a number of his charges will come through to the senior. As he points out, the Wales senior side and U20 teams train on either side of the barn at the National Training Centre and it is his role to move the youngsters across.
For Jac Morgan, Dewi Lake, Kemsley Mathias, Tommy Reffell, Teddy Williams Sam Costelow, Rio Dyer, Max Llewellyn and Cai Evans in 2019, read Morgan Morse, Dan Edwards, Ryan Woodman, Lloyd Lewis and Archie Hughes potentially for 2027.
“The World Cup in 2027 has to be a goal for all of us. We are learning every day and we are in a good position to develop over the next four years at our regions,” said scrum half Hughes. “After this tournament has ended, I want to put myself in the best position to get some game time at the Scarlets.”
The success of the side to date in South Africa has fueled the ambitions of the players. With budgets tight across all four regions, and the World Cup stretching into October, there should be chances for them to show what they can do at senior level.
It is a progression that head coach Jones has seen in the past, when he first stepped into coaching at the Scarlets.
“Sometimes you’ve got to learn the hard way. There’ll be players that will play regional rugby here who will find it a big jump,” admitted Jones.
“It goes back to what you do when you’re not on the field. If you get your preparation right, it’s surprising how quickly you can develop.
“I remember early in my coaching days, we had to play the likes of George North, Ken Owens, Jonathan Davies and Rhys Priestland because of budget restraints at the time. Through that period, those players learned a huge amount.
“We learned a lot about them, and they learned a lot about themselves. We were still able to be pretty successful, finishing fifth and then fourth in the league.
“They learned on the job, and what you find with young players is that when you put five or six years into them, you can end up with the likes of Jonathan Davies going on a Lions tours and Ken Owens captaining Wales.
“Not all of them succeed, but most of them end up being so much better for the experience. It’s tough as a coach as you expect them to win every Saturday, but I’d love to see a lot of these players playing in the URC moving forward.
“It might be off the bench initially or it might be starting, but you’ve got to give them a crack. They’ve got to have an opportunity.
“if anyone picks any of these players in their regional squads, they won’t be disappointed. They’ll front up and the one thing they’ll do is work for them.”