Ryan Woodman . . . The Welsh Captain From Red Rose Stock Whose Dad Has Been Successfully Converted

Wales U20's captain Ryan Woodman. Pic: Getty Images.

Ryan Woodman . . . The Welsh Captain From Red Rose Stock Whose Dad Has Been Successfully Converted

By Graham Thomas

Ryan Woodman will have a small army of fans cheering him against England on Friday night – most of whom are English.

The Wales U20s captain is from purest red rose stock, with his parents and grandparents hailing from the other side of the border.

In fact, his father Kirk used to sit and watch Six Nations matches on TV, wearing a white shirt and urging the sweet chariot onwards.

Not on Friday night in Colwyn Bay, though. Woodman senior will be dressed in red, the proudest man in the ground as his 19-year-old son leads Wales against the olde enemy in a match that is live on S4C.

“I’ve changed him,” says Woodman junior. “He’s now cheering for Wales and I think he’s just about over the shock.

“My parents moved to Wales just before I was born, so most of my dad’s mates now are Welsh. He used to get stick for supporting England and now he gets a bit of stick from the London side of my family for supporting Wales.”

https://twitter.com/WelshRugbyUnion/status/1628803774168039424?s=20

The same goes for Woodman’s mother, Cheryl, and both will join his grandparents and other friends at Stadiwm CSM in backing the highly-rated Dragons youngster trying to lead his country to their first win of the tournament.

Woodman’s early years were spent in Caerphilly before he moved to Caldicot, where he became one of several players to have recently emerged from the town’s rugby club, including Wales senior squad member, Ben Carter.

From there, Woodman caught the eye of the Dragons U16s, captained that team, and moved through the Dragons U18s, Newport in the Welsh Premiership, before making his senior debut for the region in December.

A versatile forward, who is at home in the second row or at blindside flanker, he earned seven caps for the U20s last season and some rave reviews, but the game he missed was against England.

Unlike Wales, who lost their opening two games to Ireland and Scotland, England are two from two after beating Scotland and Italy.

But both victories were narrow and far from convincing and Woodman admits: “I don’t really know what to make of England. “Scotland should have beaten them and they only beat Italy by seven points, so it’s hard to gauge where they are.

“England are big and physical and they have won two tight matches, so they will be confident.

“What’s certain is that we need to improve, especially our discipline in defence. There’s nothing more frustrating than when you are getting back into a match and you give away a penalty, then another penalty, then a yellow card.

“We gave away 22 penalties against Scotland and you can’t expect to win any game if you do that.”

Woodman says he has not locked horns with many of the England team before, but adds: “I know one of them well, because I played with him, but I don’t want to go into that too much.”

That player is not so much of a mystery, as wing Josh Hathaway caused plenty of ripples last month when he switched allegiances to England, having previously played for Wales U20 last season.

His decision drew public disappointment from Wales U20 coach Byron Hayward, but Wales are keener to now focus on the upset they can cause England on the field, rather than the one that got away.

To do that, Woodman and the rest of the Wales back row – Scarlets flanker Luca Giannini, who replaces injured Morgan Morse, and Cardiff’s Mackenzie Martin – must get to grips with England’s strong suit.

At the same time, Woodman know Wales – over-powered at times by Ireland – must play at a pace that England find uncomfortable.

“Our style of rugby, the pace at which we play, is really enjoyable,” adds Woodman.

“It is two or three times faster than the rugby we play in the Welsh Premiership,” adds the skipper.

“In the Premiership there are big men, some coming to the end of their careers, who just whack everything. If you carry into those players square on, then you are going back 10 metres.

“In the U20s, the players are smaller but they will run around you and past you if you give them space.

“It’s two different styles of rugby. In regional rugby, it’s maybe the size and power, but also played at pace, so we get good preparation playing both.”

That combination – handling size and power, but able to play with skill at high tempo – is the ethos of the U20s squad under Hayward and led last year’s crop of Joe Hawkins, Mason Grady, Christ Tshiunza and Dafydd Jenkins progressing to the senior squad.

Hayward says: “England will come with a big, strong driving game and we have to stop that – legally, and at source.

“If we can do that and get parity in possession, then I’m confident we can beat England.”

S4C – Friday: Clwb Rygbi Rhyngwladol – Wales U20 v England U20.

Live coverage of Wales v England in the 2023 Under 20s Six Nations from Colwyn Bay. English commentary available.

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