Wales U20 and Dragons centre Joe Westwood. Pic: Dragons RFC

Joe Westwood Ready For Southern Hemisphere Test . . . Just Like Dad And Grandad

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By Paul Jones

Joe Westwood is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, Keith, by facing New Zealand when Wales U20 kick-off their World Rugby U20 Championships in South Africa against the Baby Blacks this weekend. 

Keith Westwood played for the Combined Abertillery & Ebbw Vale side that faced Wilson Whineray’s 1963 All Blacks at Abertillery Park in a game the tourists won 13-0. 

A fine player for Ebbw Vale and Newbridge, he went on to become a legendary coach at Newbridge. 

Next off the family production line was Joe’s father, Jonathan, who played for Wales U19 and U21, earned a call-up to the Wales National Squad and also faced the world champion Wallabies for Monmouthshire on their 1992 tour. 

Now, it is Joe’s turn to hog the limelight as he looks to give the Wales U20 side a much-needed lift after a challenging Six Nations. 

He won six caps last year, helping Wales to reach the final of the U20 Summer Series in Italy, but missed this year’s Six Nations through an injury that sidelined him for almost four months. 

Now fully fit and firing, he hopes to carry on the great form he displayed last season in BUCS Super Rugby with Cardiff Met and latterly in the Newport midfield in the Indigo Premiership. 

“We’re all excited about going to South Africa to play and we’re ready for the real thing after a long, hard four weeks of preparation,” admitted Westwood. 

“Starting against the All Blacks will be fantastic and gives us a chance to test ourselves against some of the best players of our age in the world. 

“We’ve beaten them at this tournament a couple of times in the past, including in Cape Town, so Welsh teams before us have been able to rise to the occasion. 

“There has been a little bit of chat about that in camp and everything has been very positive. We all want to step up from the Six Nations. 

“Mark Jones has come in as head coach and quickly stamped his mark on things and we can’t wait to put into practice what he’s been teaching us.” 

A year ago, Westwood was vying with Joe Hawkins and Mason Grady for a place in the U20 side and has since seen both of them graduate into the Wales senior team. 

Others from that team have joined them in winning a senior cap and they are being heralded as the trailblazers that everyone in the ‘Class of 23’ wants to follow. 

“It’s been really exciting seeing Joe and Mason, along with Dafydd Jenkins and Christ Tshiunza, play for the senior Welsh side. We’re all looking to build professional careers and they have shown us the way,” added Westwood. 

“If we can play well in South Africa, it will showcase our talent and perhaps push us closer to a regional contract. 

“Next season looks exciting for young players like me because the squads are likely to be smaller at the four regions and there should be a chance of some game time. 

“I just hope they will give us youngsters a chance to show our worth. That’s why doing well is so important individually as well as collectively.” 

 

Wales U20 Group Matches 

Saturday, 24 June: v New Zealand, Paarl Gymnasium – KO 15:00 BST

Thursday, 29 June: v Japan, Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch – KO 13:00 BST

Tuesday, 4 July: v France, Athlone Sports Stadium, Cape Town – KO 15:30 BST 

 

Wales U20 Squad 

Forwards: Josh Morse (Scarlets), Dylan Kelleher-Griffiths (Dragons RFC), Lewis Lloyd (Ospreys), Sam Scarfe (Dragons RFC), Lewis Morgan (Scarlets), Louis Fletcher (Ospreys), Ellis Fackrell (Ospreys), *Kian Hire (Ospreys), Liam Edwards (Ospreys), *Evan Hill (Ospreys), Mackenzie Martin (Cardiff Rugby), Jonny Green (Harlequins), Ryan Woodman (Dragons RFC), Morgan Morse (Ospreys), Lucas De la Rua (Cardiff Rugby), *Seb Driscoll (Harlequins), Gwilym Evans (Cardiff Rugby). 

Backs: Archie Hughes (Scarlets), Harri Williams (Scarlets), Che Hope (Dragons RFC), Dan Edwards (Ospreys), *Harri Wilde (Cardiff Rugby), Bryn Bradley (Harlequins), Joe Westwood (Dragons RFC), Tom Florence (Ospreys), Louie Hennessey (Bath Rugby), Harri Houston (Ospreys), *Huw Anderson (Dragons RFC), Llien Morgan (Ospreys), Cameron Winnett (Cardiff Rugby) 

*Uncapped at U20 level

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