Billy McBryde at Wales Under 20 training over New Year
Wales Under 20 head coach Jason Strange ensured there was no festive over-indulgence for his players over Christmas by calling them in for training on New Year's Day.
Strange and his coaching team of Geraint Lewis, Chris Horsman and Richard Hodges, along with team manager Mark Taylor, held their third, three day camp of the season before cutting the training squad in time for the Under 20 Six Nations.
Strange said, "We had an opportunity to run physical assessments at a summer camp which was based on performances in the World Rugby U20 Championship and the U18 development tour to South Africa. It was also a chance to introduce some new players to the group. Our autumn camp took into account players' game time for their Premiership clubs and regions, and the British & Irish Cup has been particularly useful to us this season, giving a good benchmark for our selection process. In addition, we've enjoyed a fantastic working relationship with the Regions on indivdual player development plans.
"Players continued to be involved with their clubs and Regions over Christmas before coming into camp on New Year's Day. We focussed on bringing the squad together from a rugby perspective and growing relationships within the group. We continued our work on core skills, incorporated some team organisation and started off the process of instilling the style of rugby we want to play."
The coaching team will finalise their Six Nations squad next week before coming together again at the end of the month.
Wales Under 20 play Ireland at Donnybrook, Dublin on Friday February 5 before returning to Colwyn Bay for the first home game of the tournament, against Scotland on Friday February 12 (6.30pm).
"We are really looking forward to returning to Parc Eirias," added Strange. "The facilities are second to none and the atmosphere generated by the crowd there gives the players a huge lift. It's no coincidence that we have produced some of our best performances there and won both our home games last season. We are determined to maintain the good home record we've built up in recent seasons.
"The squad is shaping up well with quite a few boys who will benefit from the experience of last season and some exciting fresh blood too including some north Wales players."
Strange is keen to emphasise the importance of good values within the squad and Dr Rich Neil of Cardiff Metropolitan University has joined the team management as a performance psychologist.
"It's an honour and privilege to have been given this role and in conjunction with the rest of the management and Gethin Watts, National Performance Manager, we have made some changes to our environment and culture.
"We are taking a long term approach to the Under 20 programme - it's important that when the players leave us, they know it's not just a case of having played four or five internationals, but that they see it as an opportunity to grow themselves as players.
"We have brought in Rich Neil as a performance psychologist and we firmly believe he will add huge value to the programme. He is going to be doing a lot of work with the players on a one on one basis, with groups of players and the coaches.
"The changes are going to take time to have real effect but we feel that if we get it right, we will reap significant benefits, not only for Wales Under 20 but for Welsh rugby generally."
Dr Rich Neil said, "Jason places a lot of importance on achieving a culture of excellence within the squad, both on the training field, within players' general lifestyle and on matchday. We've begun by looking at the players' expectations of themselves which in turn drive behaviours which create a vibrant training and playing culture.
"That work is ongoing and we'll also be looking at preparation for competition, getting to and maintaining the right mind-set and dealing with the cauldron of pressure which will occur during that period."
There is still time to book a discounted season pass for all three Wales U20 home matches. An U20 season pass which includes entry for all three home games is £20 for adults and £10 for under 16s. Prices for the individual matches have once again been frozen at £15 for seated tickets and £10 and £5 for adult and Under 16 standing tickets.
Wales U20 home Six Nations tickets are available from:
Venue Cymru: www.venuecymru.co.uk, over the counter at their Llandudno box office or by calling the box office on 01492 872000.
WRU: www.wru.wales/tickets or by calling the WRU ticket line on 0844 847 1881
Terrace tickets can also be bought from Colwyn Leisure Centre to personal callers or over the phone on 01492 577900.
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