Welsh Schools Under 16 squad arrived in Rome today for the 2010 Under 16 /17 Four Nations Tournament, looking to continue where they left off last season.
Simon Davies' side have a 100% record in the past two seasons of this competition, beating England Under 16 and France and Italy Under 17 teams in the Wales-based event last season, and in France in 2008.
They play England in the opening match on Saturday at Rugby Capitolina (4pm), followed by Italy at the Stadio Tre Fontane on Tuesday 6th (2.30pm) and France on Friday 9th at Italy's RBS 6 Nations venue, the Stadio Flamino (2.30pm).
Davies is confident his side is ready for the challenge. "I think our squad is equally as strong as in the past two or three years. Our approach and preparation is similar to the past two seasons and we can't wait to play now. I really think the WRU Regional Under 16 Championship gives us a massive head start because it's a step between club and schools rugby and the international game and it seems to be getting more intense and competitive every year.
"The Welsh Schools Under 16 set-up is the first taste of international rugby for these players and while we all want to keep winning, it is very much about developing players too. Every player will start at least one match but we firmly believe each of the three teams we will select for our games will be of equal standard.
"We start with England on Saturday and it would be great to kick the tournament off with a win. There are no easy games, especially with Italy playing at home this year and both Italy and France field Under 17 sides so we have to counter that age difference.
"We had a number of potential captains in our side but Sion Bennett and Sam Davies certainly put their hands up as good leaders both on and off the field and will lead the side depending on selection for the duration of the festival. They both captained their Regions this season." Vice-captain Davies is the son of Scarlets Director of Rugby Nigel.
WRU National Academy Manager Phil Davies added, "On behalf of the WRU, we wish the Welsh Schools Under 16 side all the very best for the forthcoming tournament. From next season, the age group will come into the National Academy and will be the first team in our international player pathway programme."
Welsh Schools Under 16 squad and starting team v England (Saturday 3 April)
Jordan Williams (Scarlets); Aron Evans (Gogledd), Lloyd Chalke (Blues), Ben Roberts (Ospreys), Ryan Evans (Ospreys); Sam Davies (vice-capt, Ospreys), Will Batcup (Ospreys); Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Evan Yardley (Ospreys), Daniel Goode (Dragons), Chris Lacey (Blues), Rhodri Hughes (Ospreys), Sion Bennett (capt, Scarlets), Daniel Thomas (Scarlets), Jonathan Williams (Scarlets)
Replacements from: Steffan Hughes (Scarlets), Ben Edwards (Dragons), Luke Connolly (Blues), Tomos Owen (Ospreys), Rob Dudley Jones (Ospreys), Gavin Nash (Blues), Thomas Ball (Scarlets), Connor Lloyd (Scarlets), Jake Randall (Scarlets), Jack Dixon (Dragons), Rhys Williams (Ospreys)
Angus O'Brien has quickly settled into the Wales Sevens squad after solid performances in Hong Kong and Japan. With two rounds remaining in Glasgow and Twickenham on the World Series, WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie chats to the rising star.
Wales winger Luke Morgan has established himself as one of the deadliest finishers on the Sevens World Series. WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie catches up with him on the eve of this weekend's round in Glasgow.
All roads lead to Cardiff on Sunday for the SSE SWALEC Finals Day at the Millennium Stadium. Cambrian Welfare tackle Ystradgynlais in the Bowl final, Ystrad Rhondda play Newcastle Emlyn in the Plate final while defending champions Pontypridd face Bridgend in the Cup final.
WRU Chief Executive Roger Lewis, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism Ken Skates and WRU Chairman Gareth Davies earlier this week launched a new competition in conjunction with the WRU unveiling its archive room.
Welsh players and management joined Deputy Minister for Sport Ken Skates at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay earlier this week to reveal the Union's pioneering school-club hub initiative has been so successful the project will now almost double the scale of the original project.
The Scarlets, Newport Gwent Dragons, Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys look ahead to Judgement Day III which sees the Blues take on the Ospreys (2.30) and the Dragons tackle the Scarlets (4.45pm) at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
Ystradgynlais and Ynysddu played out a titanic struggle at Taffs Well in the SSE SWALEC Bowl semi-final. At the end of the game neither team could be separated after a 15-15 stalemate but Ystradgynlais go through on try count.
Blues strike first in JD III battle - Newport Gwent Dragons lock Andrew Coombs, WRU referee Dylan Llyr Jones and Cardiff Blues hooker Matthew Rees decide dressing room allocations for Judgement Day III
Wales Under 18 captain Calum Haggett has received a conditional offer to read Biomedical Science at St Anne's College, Oxford. WRU chairman Gareth Davies went to meet Calum and Coleg y Cymoedd Principal Judith Evans to wish him luck in his exams and pass on some of his personal experience.