Former Wales U20 captain Steff Hughes is backing the current team to defy the odds at the World Rugby Under 20 Championship.
Wales start their campaign against Australia on Wednesday – with live coverage from France on S4C at 7.45pm – but they are also in the same group as New Zealand. Japan make up the quartet.
Scarlets centre Hughes, who led the youngsters in 2013, believes it will be a tough assignment, but believes Geraint Lewis’s side can spring an upset.
Wales have been put in the group of death in this year’s championship. How do you think they’ll approach their campaign?
It’s going to be tough with the teams in their group, but I don’t think Wales will be too worried about their opponents. It’s important they prepare as well as they can and get themselves ready. If they’ve prepared in the right way, they will be very competitive.
Which players are you most looking forward to watching play for Wales?
I’m looking forward to seeing Ioan Nicholas. I’ve played a lot with him this year and I think he’ll be important for Wales. I’m also excited about Ryan Conbeer. He can score tries out of nothing and he’s so elusive; I hope the boys can get the ball in his hands. The Under 20s play an attacking style of rugby, which isn’t too different from the Scarlets.
The matches against Australia and New Zealand promise to be very exciting….
Australia and New Zealand are fierce, they’re full of energy and their skill levels are very high. I’ve played against Southern Hemisphere teams with the Under 20s and it will be a new challenge for the boys, mentally and physically. It’s very different to playing against the 6 Nations sides, so those two matches in particular will be a huge test. But I’m sure the boys will have prepared well and they’ll be looking forward to the challenge.
What are your memories of playing with the Under 20s and what sort of experience will this be for the current team?
It was a very special experience and one that will stay with me forever. We reached the final against England in 2013, and the following year we flew out to New Zealand, and that was a great experience too. The championship will be very memorable for the boys. You’re in a different country for a month, playing five matches in a very short time. It’s a unique experience and something totally new for a lot of the boys. I’m sure they’ll remember it forever.
Wales’ match against New Zealand will be shown live on S4C on Sunday, 3 June, and their game against Japan can be watched, live, on Thursday, 7 June.
Rygbi: Pencampwriaeth Dan 20 y Byd: Awstralia v Cymru
Wednesday 30 May, 7.45pm, S4C Kick-off, 8.00
Available to watch on-demand at s4c.cymru, iPlayer and other platforms
A Sunset+Vine Cymru and Sports Media Services production for S4C