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)
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Cardiff managed to keep their unbeaten record at home intact, but only just as Bridgend made them work extremely hard before the Blue and Blacks secured a hard fought Principality Premiership win at the BT Sport Arms Park last night.
Former Wales back row Andy Powell gives a guided tour of The Wern, home of Merthyr RFC, who are determined to prove a lot of people wrong and make their mark in their first season in the Principality Premiership.
Wales Sevens head coach Gareth Williams looks back on the Rio Sevens success where he helped GB win silver. He believes the successful campaign is a huge boost to his Welsh squad as they prepare for another World Series, as WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie discovers
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Llandovery made it three in a row when they defeated Aberavon in the final of the National Foster's 7s at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday. On another eventful day of sevens, Newport claimed the Plate and the Dragons won the women's crown
Last week saw Cardiff welcome players from around the world for the 21st Golden Oldies Festival. The tournament features players over 35 years of age, and this year's event saw a select few represent the WRU in a 'friendly' against the Wooden Spoon.
Wales Under 18 captain Callum Bradbury is delighted to have seen his side claim a narrow 18-17 victory against a strong SA Schools 'A' side to end the three-match Under 19 International Series in South Africa on a high note.
The Wales U18 squad spent an emotional day in the drug-riddled townnship of Hout Bay. Hout Bay Warriors President Fred Johannes said the visit was 'the talk of the town' and will dream about the day everyday for the rest of his life.
RGC 1404's new head coach Mark Jones is hoping to build 'something special' in north Wales and is already looking forward to the development region participating in the Principality Premiership for the very first time.