With the Under-20 World Championship coming to a close last week, many have wondered how much action the best players from this Wales Under-20 team will see at regional level next season.
after a big disappointment six nations where Wales resigned themselves to the wooden spoon, the young Welsh team finished sixth in South Africa this summer. While it was far from a classic campaign, it impressed many players by giving real hope that they can break into the pro game in the coming seasons. With Welsh rugby about to enter a period of severe austerity, the four regions will have no choice but to rely on emerging young talent.
So we’ve selected a few players who shone at the Welsh Under-20s this summer and who we think have a real chance of playing for a long time at regional level:
The 20-year-old outside midfielder has gotten better and better over the course of the season. Edwards has all the ingredients to become an international player of the future.
He has a decent running game, is an excellent kicker and has a lot of peripheral vision, but it’s his handling of the game that makes the difference. ospreys man apart. If you look at the situation at the Ospreys, they’ve lost Gareth Anscombe and Stephen Myler, leaving a hole at No. 10.
Welsh international Owen Williams has signed a new contract and is the clear first choice in the swansea.com Stadium, but it may be out of commission at the World Cup at the start of the season.
The Ospreys also have ex-Exeter Chiefs player Jack Walsh as an option. Walsh is a talented footballer, but he perhaps lacks the authority to play outside midfield at the highest level and may be better suited as a second playmaker in midfield. There are areas of Edwards’ game that are already superior to Walsh’s, so it would be a surprise if he didn’t play a bit of rugby this season.
Tenby product Hughes has been outstanding for Wales Under-20s this season with his serving, kicking into the box, game management and threat around the margins standing out. Stylistically, he is very similar to 2005 Welsh Grand Slam No. 9 winner Dwayne Peel, who is also his head coach at the scarlet.
With both Gareth Davies and Kieran Hardy likely to be out at the World Cup and Dane Blacker having joined the Dragons, it’s highly likely that Hughes will start the season as the Scarlets’ first-choice scrum-half. The Scarlets have also signed RGC scrum-half Efan Jones, but one would expect Hughes to be ahead of North Walian in the pecking order. How much playing time he gets after that will depend on his performances for the Scarlets, but one would expect the 20-year-old to play a lot of rugby next season.
Harri Houston was arguably the most improved player in this Wales U20 squad this season. The Loughor RFC product has serious gas, excellent footwork and is a very good finisher. Defensively, he’s still a work in progress, but one would expect him to improve in this area with more minutes.
The Ospreys have some strength in depth in the back three with the likes of Keelan Giles, Luke Morgan, Mat Protheroe and Max Nagy on their books. But it would be a surprise if the Ospreys didn’t start including Houston in their squad next season, and considering they are often criticized for a lack of creativity behind the scrum, this is one area he could help address.
Lien Morgan is a player Ospreys fans should be excited about. The 19-year-old forward, who comes from track and field, is absolutely fast. The Cwmtwrch man is a sub-11sec man for the 100m with a best time of 10.90 and an impressive 21.90 for the 200m. The good news for rugby fans is that he also knows his way to the test line.
Similar to Houston, Morgan is likely to be phased into the Ospreys’ senior team this season, and he’s exactly the type of player who could really benefit from falling gaming budgets across all four regions.
Ask anyone involved in coaching at a professional level in Wales who is the best prospect in Welsh rugby and there is a good chance they will answer Morgan Morse.
The Ospreys star is so good that he made his Welsh Under-20 debut a week after his 17th birthday, and it’s incredible to think that the defender still has another two years to go at this level. It’s no exaggeration to say that he is one of the best players in the world in his age group thanks to his explosive charge, his ability to stop and turn the ball over in attack and his relentless defensive prowess.
The Ospreys have some real strength in their third row with Justin Tipuric, Jac Morgan, Will Griffiths and Morgan Morris on their books, although they have lost the underrated Ethan Roots to the Exeter Chiefs.
He’ll have to bide his time, but there’s a good chance Morse will have landed a handful of Ospreys appearances by the end of the season.