By Graham Thomas
Dan Edwards hopes the James Hook flair factor can finally deliver a victory for the Wales U20s on Sunday night.
Edwards will again be the man with his hand on the tiller at No.10 when the Welsh youngsters try to end their Six Nations campaign with a first victory against their French counterparts in Oyonnax on Sunday night.
It has been a difficult campaign for head coach Byron Hayward and his stars of tomorrow. They have been in the contest in all four of their matches so far, but ended with defeat in each, normally as the power of opposition forwards has induced costly errors.
Edwards – who was part of last year’s squad that included Joe Hawkins, Mason Grady, Christ Tshiunza and Dafydd Jenkins – admits: “I think a lot of the boys have come into this tournament not knowing the standard and the pace of the international 20s.
“But I think they’ve come out of it now really well, gained a lot of experience from it, and will be better players because of these games.
“I’ve had more of a leadership role this season and have been pretty pleased with that. But it is still not over for us. We think we can get a win in France which would mean so much.
Seaford Rugby – Congratulations and good luck to last years skipper Jonny Green who is representing @WalesU20 against France this evening. Enjoy every moment. We are all very proud! #effort #energy #enthusiasm https://t.co/fJTV4jfQ5A pic.twitter.com/cLD47VVpG2
— Seaford Sport (@SeafordSport) March 19, 2023
“We should have beaten Ireland, Scotland and Italy. England was a different game, but we know it’s no good getting close and being happy with that. We need to be winning.”
Edwards has gathered club experience at Aberavon and Swansea and as part of the Ospreys squad, he could not have better tutors on hand.
Gareth Anscombe, Owen Williams and Stephen Myler are all still playing, whilst the coaching set-up includes a third international No.10 in Hook, whose huge experience playing in Wales, France and England as well as the Test arena for Wales and the Lions is proving invaluable.
Edwards says Hook was the kind of outside-half he wants to be – a creative player, but one who can still be relied upon to do the basics well, including goal-kicking.
“James Hook was a flair player and that’s how I see my game – someone who’s not afraid to try things,” says Edwards.
“I try and take things from listening to James and bring them into my game. I’ve got lots of other fantastic No.10s at the region, too, so it’s a good place to be.
WelshRugbyUnion: 🗨️ It would be massively important to come away with a result…#WalesU20 captain Ryan Woodman speaks ahead of tonight's @SixNationsU20 clash against 🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/ikijudMizu
— ItsAllRugby (@ItsAllRugby_com) March 19, 2023
“James is great with me. There’s always a bit of banter coming my way, but he’s always got something useful to pass on.”
The Hook masterclasses take place on a Thursday evening and including honing the goal-kicking talent that has seen Edwards emerge as the most accurate goalkicker across the U20s and senior tournaments this season.
A few training spells under the watch of Leigh Halfpenny didn’t do any harm, either and if Wales can somehow dig in on Sunday night then Edwards’ accuracy off the tee might prove a decisive factor.
“I have been kicking pretty decently,” adds Edwards, who is from Cwmafan, near Port Talbot.
“I just hope to carry on now through this France game and then, hopefully, into the Junior World Cup later in the year.
“Kicking is about confidence and having a good routine.”
Wales will hope Edwards is in the old routine at the Stade Charles-Mathon, as Wales seek a first U20 win on French soil since 2013.
Haywards says: “It was another disappointing result against Italy last time out, but again, there were plenty of positives to come out of that game.
Dylan Kelleher-Griffiths will start in the front row in Wales' final U20 Six Nations game against France on Sunday.#WeGoAgain pic.twitter.com/8p3lIv6E8D
— Pontypool RFC (@PontypoolRFC) March 17, 2023
“There was no shortage of effort from the boys and we still managed to score some good tries with slick play against what was a very dominant pack.
“We expect France to be very similar opposition on Sunday. They are big and physical up front and possess pace in the backs so we will have to be on our toes to keep them at bay.
“We have taken the opportunity to make a few changes by rotating players in positions where we are particularly strong.
“It’s great for the likes of Lewis Morgan and Louis Fletcher to get their first starts after doing well when they came on against Italy.”
S4C: Saturday, 7.45pm – Clwb Rygbi Rhyngwladol – France U20 v Wales U20
Live coverage of France v Wales in the 2023 Under 20s Six Nations from the Stade Charles-Mathon, Oyonnax.
English commentary available