Welsh Schools Under 16 play their only international Test of the season when they take on England Under 16 at the Gnoll on Sunday (2.30) and head coach Simon Davies believes the match comes at a good time for his young squad.
Davies, along with assistant coaches Geraint Lewis, Jason Strange and Mark O'Kelly, took a group of 50 to the Wellington International Festival over Easter where two squads - named the Celts and the Druids - played national and regional teams from England, Scotland and France, coming away with two wins, two draws and two losses, and Davies believes his players developed a huge amount during the course of the week.
"The games were all of a very high standard, and playing three international level games in a week was a huge learning curve. The players certainly increased their performance levels during the week and the 34-17 win over France by the Druids on the last day last Saturday was very pleasing. They showed a high level of intensity and produced the attacking rugby we want to play. They were 29-3 up at half time and although France came back in the second half, our players showed some maturity to seal a convincing win in the end.
"The matches were a great way of assessing players' abilities and attitude and the majority of the players that played in that win over France have earned a place in the side for Sunday's match."
Despite the positives that came out of the festival, Davies insists England will provide the players' sternest test yet. "We will certainly have to up our game again. All of the Regional English teams were very strong in Wellington so we are expecting a huge challenge from the England Under 16 side. We will have to be on our mettle from the off if we are going to be competitive. We need to cut down our errors and be more accurate in our execution, while staying true to our attacking philosophy.
"It will be a fantastic experience for these young players to run out at the Gnoll, a traditional Welsh rugby ground, as they look to make further progress on the international pathway."
Welsh Schools U16 v England U16
Sunday 27 April, The Gnoll (2.30):
Jared Rosser (Abersychan Comp / Pontypool Utd/ Dragons); Keelan Giles (Gowerton Comp / Waunarlwydd/ Ospreys), Owen Lane (Whitchurch High / Rhiwbina/ Blues), Ioan Nicholas (Maes Yr Gwendraeth/ Pontyberem/ Scarlets), Patric Lewis (Lewis School Pengam / Penallta/ Dragons); Phil Jones (Gowerton Comp / Fall bay/ Ospreys), Harri Randall (capt, Llandovery College / Kidwelly/ Scarlets); Rhys Carre (Corpus Christi / St. Josephs/Blues), Corrie Tarrant (Porth Comp / Treorchy / Blues), Jordon Davies (Amman Valley / Amman Utd/ Scarlets), James Ratti (Bishopston / Dunvant/Ospreys), Callum Bradbury (Bryn Celynnog / Beddau/Blues), Shane Lewis Hughes (Ysgol Gyfyn Cymmer / Ystrad/ Blues), Owain Ellis (Ysgol Llanhari / Pontyclun/Blues), Morgan Morris (Gowerton Comp / Penclawdd/ Ospreys)
Replacements: Jordan Liney (Gowerton Comp / Dunvant/Ospreys), Steffan Gibbon (Gowerton Comp / Waunarlwydd/ Ospreys), Harri Dodds (Cathedral School / St Peters/ Blues), Joe Thomas (Blackwood Comp / Penallta/Dragons) , Jack Cambriani (Gowerton Comp / Waunarlwydd/Ospreys), Declan Smith (Glan Y Mor / Kidwelly/ Scarlets), Declan Williams (Treorchy High / Treorchy/ Blues), Tom Sheppard (Ysgol Gyfyn Cymer / Treorchy/ Blues).
Tickets for the game are £5 adults, free entry for Under 16s
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.