Wales Under 20 head coach Phil Davies has named a 27 man squad for the forthcoming Under 20 Six Nations Championship.
The squad includes four players with professional regional experience including last season's Principality Premiership Best Newcomer, Dragons utility back Jason Tovey. Tovey has made ten appearances for the Gwent region, including eight starts since his debut against the Ospreys last April, while the other players in the squad with professional experience are Ospreys backs Ashley Beck and Kristian Phillips and Dragons prop Aaron Coundley.
Jason Tovey, along with Glamorgan Wanderers prop Scott Andrews and Cross Keys lock Ashley Sweet were members of the Wales Under 20 squad that reached the semi-finals of the Junior World Championship in Wales last season, while Bridgend no 8 Rory Pitman returns to the Wales Under 20 Six Nations squad for the second successive season after missing out on the inaugural Junior World Championship.
Davies has named a list of 10 reserve players who could be called into the Six Nations squad at any time as a result of injuries or lack of form, and a further nine stand-by players. All 46 players will continue to be assessed throughout the season and all will have a chance to make Wales' squad for this season's IRB Junior World Championship which takes place in Japan in June. These include a number of players who have suffered long-term injuries this season including Justin Tipuric, another member of last year's Under 20 squad, who has made the reserve list having recovered from a back injury, while Wanderers scrum half Lloyd Williams and Llanelli hooker Ricky Guest are on the stand-by list.
The 27 Six Nations players head to Leeds this weekend for a training camp at Leeds Carnegie University which will culminate in a match against a Leeds Select XV at Headingly Stadium next Wednesday (14 January).
The WRU has also secured three international fixtures against Japan in Wales at the end of March and early April as part of Wales' preparation for the Junior World Championship in June.
Phil Davies said, "Age group rugby is all about developing players so that they fully understand what international rugby is all about. Leigh Halfpenny and has already made the step-up into professional regional, and international rugby from last year's Under 20 squad and Dan Biggar, Jason Tovey and Jonathan Davies are all now playing regularly for their professional regions.
"Having said that, we have talked about being ambitious and making sure we compete with intensity and efficiency in every game and tournament we enter into. Every match is there to be won and that is what we will try to achieve, starting with Scotland at McDiarmid Park, Perth on February 6th.
"We are a relatively new coaching team but we are pleased with the work we've achieved to date, I'd like to thank the whole of the Under 20 management team - Tony Clement, Gareth Baber, Rob Hoadley and Wayne Proctor, for their support and commitment to watching all the players in action in regional age grade, Principality Premiership and SWALEC League matches and for their feedback in this selection process.
"As a management team, we are grateful to the tremendous support we have received from the four professional regions, the four WRU regional performance development managers and the Principality Premiership coaches. We have had a great response from all concerned and we feel the players have really benefitted from the regional workshops and coaching sessions we have carried out. We have also had great support from the players' employers, Universities and Colleges through Alun Davies and his WRU performance lifestyle unit.
"As we progress through the season, we will clearly be at a disadvantage at the Junior World Championship due to the three point sanction imposed after last season's tournament but we have no choice but to meet that challenge as best we can."
SWALEC Official Partner of WRU international age grade sides
Energy giant SWALEC has become the Official Partner of the WRU's international age grade sides as part of a three-year sponsorship deal which also sees the energy company become the National Community Partner of Welsh Rugby.
The partnership reunites Welsh rugby with Wales' leading energy company with SWALEC providing electricity and gas to more than a million customers in Wales and will in future provide the power for the Millennium Stadium.
Under the new agreement SWALEC are now sponsors of: The SWALEC Cup, The SWALEC National Leagues, Wales U20 and Wales Under 18; the SWALEC Community XV.
WRU Group Chief Executive Roger Lewis said: "Reuniting with SWALEC is great news for Welsh rugby and we are delighted that they have chosen to support international age grade rugby which is such a vital platform for developing talent."
Wales Under 20 Six Nations squad:
James Loxton (Blues academy /Glamorgan Wanderers), Dai Langdon (Dragons academy / Ebbw Vale), Kristian Phillips (Ospreys / Neath), Ryan Healy (Glamorgan Wanderers), Ashley Beck (Ospreys/Aberavon), Nick Reynolds (Llanelli), Adam Hughes (Dragons academy / Bedwas), Matthew Pewtner (Dragons academy / Cross Keys), Rhys Downes (Blues academy / Pontypridd), Gareth Davies (Scarlets academy / Llanelli), James Leadbeater (Cross Keys), Jason Tovey (Dragons), Matthew Jarvis (Ospreys academy / Neath)
Aaron Coundley (Dragons academy/ Ebbw Vale), Scott Andrews (Blues academy/ Glamorgan Wanderers), Dan Watchurst (Dragons academy / Bedwas), Simon Gardener (Scarlets Academy / Llanelli), Rhys Williams (Blues academy / Pontypridd), Craig Attwell (Dragons academy / Newbridge), James King (Ospreys academy/ Aberavon), Ashley Sweet (Dragons academy/ Cross Keys), Sam Pailor (Pontypool), Dan Partridge (Beddau), Jake Thomas (Cardiff), Josh Navidi (Blues academy Glamorgan Wanderers), Rory Pitman (Ospreys academy/Bridgend), James Thomas (Dragons academy /Ebbw Vale).
Jamie Murphy (Bridgend), Luke Plummer (Dragons academy, Bedwas), Daniel Newton (Llanelli), Tavis Knoyle (Neath), Scott Williams (Scarlets academy / Llanelli)
Ryan Bayliss (Ospreys academy/ Tonmawr), Daniel Etteridge (Llandovery), Lloyd Williams (Blues academy, Wanderers), Dean Gunter (Abercynon)
Stewart Maguire (Dragons academy/ Pontypool), Ricky Guest (Scarlets academy/ Llanelli), Rhys Jenkins (Dragons academy/ Ebbw Vale), Kristian Dacey (Pontypridd), Morgan Allen (Bedwas)
Wales Under 20 fixtures:
Leeds Select XV v Wales Select XV Wed 14 Jan, 7pm Headingly Stadium
Under 20 Six Nations
Scotland v Wales Friday 6 February Perth kick-off tbc
Wales v England Friday 13 February Venue tbc 7.10pm
France v Wales Saturday 28 February Strasbourg kick-off tbc
Italy v Wales Friday 13 March Biella kick-off tbc
Wales v Ireland Friday 20 March Parc y Scarlets 7.10pm
Emerging Wales v Japan Friday 28 March venue and kick-off tbc
Wales v Japan Wednesday 1 April venue and kick-off tbc
Wales v Japan Sunday 5 April venue and kick-off tbc
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.