Wales Under 18 have been given the Grand Slam treatment as they prepare to face France in the third place play-off of the FIRA-AER European Championship in Madrid.
Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards has spent the week coaching the young Welsh squad alongside head coach Allan Lewis, and coaches Dale McIntosh and Andrew Millward.
It is now part of Edwards' remit to have a direct influence on the next wave of Welsh internationals, and he has relished the opportunity.
"The lads have been a joy to work with, they have a fantastic attitude and a real pride in putting on the Welsh jersey. They came up just short against England, with a few technical errors instrumental in the defeat, but we have had a really good week's training with myself working on defence, Allan on attack and Dale and Andrew with the forwards and I feel they now have every chance of beating France tomorrow," said Edwards.
Edwards believes it is important to harnass the feel-good factor of the recent senior success. "When the first team are doing well, that always filters down to the age grade sides and these boys certainly feel very priveleged to be representing their country out here. Young Welsh players are the talk of the world at the moment, and these players know they have an opportunity to continue that trend if they keep working hard, especially with a head coach like Warren who gives young players a chance.
"Roger Lewis made it part of my job description to have direct contact with young players coming through the system, a move I totally agree with, and it was felt that Under 18 was the best age to have that influence - creating good habits for the future and teaching the defensive structures that we use at senior level. As we have seen, a number of players have already made the step-up from this age group to our set-up and this way our systems won't be new to anyone doing that in the future.
"There are a number of talented players in this group, including centre Steff Hughes who I have made our defensive captain in a similar role carried out by Jamie Roberts for the senior side.
"I've thoroughly enjoyed my time here, along with the couple of sessions I ran before this tournament, but I must say the boys are in excellent hands. Allan Lewis has a vast amount of experience in nurturing young talent and he has a huge desire to create the next wave of young professional rugby players."
Head coach Lewis has made six changes and two positional to his starting line-up for this game. Ospreys wing Ashley Evans returns to the starting line-up with fellow Osprey, centre Ben Roberts making his first start of the tournament and Steffan Hughes (Scarlets) switching from 13 to 12. Joel Raikes (Blues) returns at scrum half and the only change in the front row sees Ospreys prop Nicky Thomas starting at tight head in place of Callum Lewis. Captain Ben Roach moves from the back row to lock, with two changes in the back row - Callum Davies and Sam Parker will flank No 8 James Benjamin.
Team manager Gethin Watts, added: "The selection shows we have faith in the whole squad. Of course we want to beat France as we did last year to retain the third place position, but we have also made sure everyone has had the opportunity to play and develop for the future."
Wales Under 18 team v France, Saturday 7 April, 3rd Place Play-Off,
Justin Bridou FIRA-AER European Championship, Madrid
H Amos (Dragons); A Evans (Ospreys), B Roberts (Ospreys), S Hughes (Scarlets), D Howells (Ospreys); J Maynard (Scarlets), J Raikes (Blues); N Smith (Ospreys), E Dee (Dragons), N Thomas (Ospreys), J Helps (Scarlets), B Roach (Blues, capt), C Davies (Ospreys), S Parker (Blues), J Benjamin (Dragons)
Replacements: S Otten (Ospreys), G Rees McPherson (Blues), C Lewis (Blues), S Matthews (Dragons), S Andrews (Dragons), L Crane (Dragons), G Thomson (Blues), J Dixon (Dragons), L Hudd (Dragons)
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