Woodman back to lead Wales U20s against New Zealand

Referee Hollie Davidson chats with Lasha Tsikhistavi (captain) of Georgia and Ryan Woodman (captain) of Wales
Ryan Woodman (centre) captained Wales in the 2023 World Rugby U20 Championship [Huw Evans Picture Agency]

Ryan Woodman will lead Wales Under-20s into their World Rugby U20 Championship opener against New Zealand at Athlone Stadium, Cape Town, on Saturday (kick-off 18:00 BST).

The Dragons back-row missed the junior Six Nations through injury and his return is a welcome boost to Richard Whiffin's side, who also face Spain and then France in Pool A.

Whiffin has named an experienced matchday 23 with only two uncapped players named on the bench, Cardiff centre Steffan Emanuel and Scarlets scrum-half Lucca Setaro.

“We feel we have picked a really strong squad and gone with what we think is a very strong bench,” Whiffin said.

“We had to make some tough selection calls on a few guys who started a number of games in the Six Nations. We’ve put them on the bench as we feel they will provide an impact in the second half.

“It’s great to have Woody back to skipper the side. He gives us physical presence and is somebody who can dominate the line-out."

Of the starting XV, only hooker Isaac Young, along with Woodman, did not feature in the Six Nations and he gets the nod over Scarlets team-mate Harry Thomas, who is named on the bench.

"He [Young] has trained really well - he’s a big man and enjoys the physical side of the game and we feel he will be able to bring physicality both sides of the ball to put pressure on the New Zealanders,” Whiffin added.

“We have done our homework on New Zealand and know what to expect to come our way.

"They are always a very good ball-moving team, quick and powerful players that will look to dominate the collision, but we need to focus on ourselves in terms of how we are going to execute our own gameplan.”

Wales U20 team:

Huw Anderson (Dragons RFC); Harry Rees-Weldon (Dragons RFC), Louie Hennessey (Bath Rugby), Macs Page (Scarlets), Aidan Boshoff (Bristol Bears); Harri Wilde (Cardiff Rugby), Ieuan Davies (Bath Rugby); Josh Morse (Scarlets), Isaac Young (Scarlets), Sam Scott (Bristol Bears), Jonny Green (Harlequins), Osian Thomas (Leicester Tigers), Ryan Woodman (Dragons RFC, capt), Lucas de la Rua (Cardiff Rugby), Morgan Morse (Ospreys).

Replacements: Harry Thomas (Scarlets), Jordan Morris (Dragons RFC), Kian Hire (Ospreys), Nick Thomas (Dragons RFC), Harry Beddall (Leicester Tigers), Lucca Setaro (Scarlets), Harri Ford (Dragons RFC), Steffan Emanuel (Cardiff Rugby).