England U20 v Wales U20: Under-20 Six Nations. Pic: Getty Images.

Wales U20 Boss Byron Hayward Insists Welsh Rugby Turmoil Can Bring Opportunity For Next Generation


By Graham Thomas

Byron Hayward insists the gloom and doom around Welsh rugby at present is overstated and the game will recover quickly from its current malaise.

No-one has a closer focus of the depth of young talent in the country – or otherwise – than Hayward, the current Wales U20s coach.

Like the seniors, the youngsters have found it tough going in their version of the Six Nations this season with three defeats in as many games.

It means they will be contemplating a possible unwanted Wooden Spoon if they lose in Italy on Friday night in Treviso in a match that is live on S4C.

But an impassioned Hayward insists the outlook should be optimistic and any exodus of senior players through slashed wages can eventually be backfilled by tomorrow’s stars.

“I look outside my window and there’s an awful lot of doom and gloom about Welsh rugby, “ says Hayward, who is in his second spell in charge of the age-group side.

“People say, ‘there’s no talent in Wales’ but I see it. There is so much talent, so much talent coming through.

“I see it in college rugby, I see it at U18 level. I see the boys who are coming through. I have seen boys coming through who are going to be outstanding senior international players of the future.

“We’ve got some big, powerful forwards, too, so the systems are working. The public maybe don’t see it, but I do.”

Under Hayward’s Guidance, Young Welsh Rugby Players Forge a Path to Success in the Seniors

Under Hayward’s watch, youngsters such as Dafydd Jenkins, Christ Tshiunza and Mason Grady have forged a path from the U20s to Warren Gatland’s seniors.

Next season could be an even busier one for the players in Hayward’s squad as unfamiliar opportunities could be hammering on their door.

With the four regions poised to cut numbers as well as salary levels, the calls on younger players could be significantly increased.

The type of fixtures Cardiff played against Toulouse and Saracens last season – when they were stripped of senior players during the pandemic and had to promote youngsters – could become a regular feature.

Handled properly, says Hayward, such a dramatic churn could be turned to Welsh rugby’s long term advantage.

“It could mean a lot more opportunities for younger players in the regions which could be a plus,” adds Hayward.

“We will need to be careful that some matches do not come a little bit too early for them.

You can give a player a chance but you can also break someone if you accelerate him too quickly and he’s not quite ready for it.

“So, it’s getting that balance right, particularly if we are playing against the top Irish sides and you have heavy defeats it can be demoralizing for a young man.

“They will be learning hard the hard way there, that’s for sure.”


Switching On for Victory: Wales U20s’ Learning Process in Italy

A victory for Wales U20s in Italy would certainly help the learning process this season but to earn it, they need to switch on, according to Heyward – particularly in the final quarter of matches.

“Looking at the statistics, between the 40th and 60th minutes, we are the highest scoring team in the tournament,” he adds.

“But between the 60th and the 80th minutes we are the lowest scoring and we concede points as well

“Is it fitness and conditioning? I don’t think so. The figures don’t appear to support that. I think it’s more to do with concentration.

“We score a great try, but then we don’t catch a restart and suddenly we have given the opposition seven points. That has to change.”

Italy’s youngsters have also lost all three of their games, but they were all close and with more luck they might have beaten both France and England.

Hayward, though, is confident the first victory – and the road to long term recovery – is just around the corner.

“Like us, they have lost some tight games they probably think they should have won.

“They clearly have the best scrum in the tournament, but if we play as I know we can do, I think we will win.”

S4C – Friday: 6.45pm –
Clwb Rygbi Rhyngwladol

Italy U20 v Wales U20:
Full coverage from the Stadio Comunale Di Monigo, Treviso.

English commentary available. K/O 7.15pm.


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