Deon Smith already has a taste for the blood of Englishmen and now he wants another bite.
The Wales U20s wing – who is moved to centre – will be part of the age group team bidding for a fifth-place finish at the World U20 Championships when they take on England this afternoon. The game is live on S4C from 2.15pm.
Any Wales-England clash is normally high intensity stuff, but the battle in Rosario in Argentina has that extra edge given that Wales beat England at U20 level earlier this year and that Gareth Williams’ side are coming fresh from a rare victory over New Zealand.
Fifth at a tournament which is essentially the old Junior World Cup would be the highest placed finish for Wales since they reached the final in 2013.
Dragons wing Smith scored an injury time corner try in Colwyn Bay to help Wales beat England 11-10 in this year’s U20 Six Nations. That was only their third win against them since fixtures began in 2007.
“The rivalry is always there between Wales and England and this is going to be another big game for us. We all feel good after getting that result against New Zealand, but we want to meet our target of winning four out of our five games,” said Smith.
“It was a great win over the All Blacks, but we were all pretty down to earth afterwards. We always felt we could come out here and impress on the big stage and now we need a big finish to our campaign – we want to finish the job and then just take it all in.
“England may not have done as well at this year’s tournament as they have in recent years, but that doesn’t take away from them as a team. We know they are going to be fired up for this and they will have revenge in mind after we beat them in the Six Nations.
“I’ve seen the try I scored in that match quite a few times since. It was a spur of the moment score that was down to the team rather than me.
“Games between Wales and England at this level are always going to be tight, but for those of us for whom this will be our last game at Under 20 level we’d love to end on a high.”
Wales have already beaten host nation Argentina, Fiji and New Zealand, but went down to reigning champions France, who have made it back-to-back finals. They will face Australia in the final.
Smith and co had to endure incredible conditions in their last outing against the All Blacks. A huge storm forced the game to be curtailed for more than an hour after a Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler try had given Wales a 5-0 lead.
“None of us had ever experienced anything like that storm before. We’ve had our fair share of problems to deal with while we’ve been out here, but they have only made us tighter and stronger as a group,” said Smith.
“We’ve had power cuts, water problems and hit and miss wi-fi at our hotel, but we’ve taken it all in our stride and stuck close together.”
Their strength of character and tightness as a group saw them through the game against New Zealand. Now their resolve is about to be tested to the full once again against England.
Williams has made seven changes, one positional, from the side that beat the Baby Blacks.
An injury to Max Llewellyn sees Smith move in to the centre alongside Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler with Tomi Lewis moving to the wing while Harri Morgan starts at half-back in front of Dafydd Buckland.
Rhys Davies and Nick English replace Kemsley Mathias and Ben Warren in the front row respectively while Ed Scragg comes in for Morgan Jones in the second row. Iestyn Rees has been rewarded with his fine form with a starting berth at blindside flanker ahead of Lennon Greggains.
“We have rotated the squad quite effectively over the tournament, some of it has been forced on us because of injuries, but we are comfortable in changing our combinations,” said Williams.
Wales U20s: Ioan Davies (Cardiff Blues); Tomi Lewis (Scarlets), Deon Smith (Dragons), Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler (Ospreys), Ryan Conbeer (Scarlets); Cai Evans (Ospreys), Harri Morgan (Ospreys); Rhys Davies (Ospreys), Dewi Lake (Ospreys, capt), Nick English (Bristol Bears), Ed Scragg (Dragons), Jac Price (Scarlets), Iestyn Rees (Scarlets), Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers), Jac Morgan (Aberavon/Scarlets).
Replacements: Garin Lloyd (Ospreys), Kemsley Mathias (Scarlets), Ben Warren (Cardiff Blues), Morgan Jones (Scarlets), Lennon Greggains (Dragons), Dafydd Buckland (Dragons), Rio Dyer (Dragons), Tom Hoppe (Dragons), Teddy Williams (Cardiff Blues), Tom Devine (Dragons), Ioan R Davies (Cardiff Blues), Will Griffiths (Dragons).