Blaina's best battle as Hayward takes on Ruddock

First published in Sport

WALES Under-20s boss Byron Hayward hopes he'll come out on top in the Battle of Blaina, part one on Friday evening, writes Chris Kirwan.

Hayward takes his side to Athlone to face an Ireland side that are led by ex-Wales and Dragons coach Mike Ruddock.

The pair hail from Blaina but will put their friendship to one side for 160 minutes in 2014.

Not only do their sides clash for Six Nations glory but they will lock horns in New Zealand this summer after being drawn together in the group stages of the Junior World Championship.

Hayward, 10 years Ruddock's junior, hopes to draw first blood in Ireland on Friday (kick-off 7.35pm).

"I grew up looking up to Mike, who was on course to be an international player at the time," said the former fly-half/full-back.

"He coached me for Wales A and I'm still friendly with him; it will be nice to catch up after the game but until then it is business as usual."

Wales got their campaign up and running with a 26-9 victory against Italy last Friday but, much like the seniors, know that an improvement is needed if they are to take the spoils in Ireland, who thrashed Scotland 34-7.

"It will be a step up in intensity," said Hayward. "Ireland are a good team that are well coaches.

"Our defensive effort will have to be higher because they will certainly pose more challenges than Italy did.

"Along with a solid defence, our discipline needs to be good and we need to attack in the right areas and at the right times."

Hayward includes seven Dragons in his matchday squad with wing Ashton Hewitt, fly-half Ethan Davies, lock Scott Andrews and back row James Benjamin starting while prop Luke Garrett, flanker Ollie Griffiths and centre Tyler Morgan are poised for action off the bench.

A pair of Rodney Parade youngsters that impressed against the Italians miss out through injury, openside Scott Matthews because of a deep cut in his knee and hooker Elliot Dee with a dead leg.

Wales U20s: Afon Bagshaw (RGC); Ashton Hewitt (Dragons), Steffan Hughes (capt, Scarlets), Garyn Smith (Blues), Joshua Adams (Scarlets); Ethan Davies (Dragons), Tom Williams (Blues); Nicky Smith (Ospreys),Ethan Lewis (Blues), Nicky Thomas (Ospreys), Scott Andrews (Dragons), James Sheekey (Blues), Will Boyde (Carmarthen), James Benjamin (Dragons) Ben Roach (Blues). Replacements: Scott Otten (Ospreys), Luke Garrett (Dragons), Callum Lewis (Blues), Rory Thornton (Ospreys) Ollie Griffiths (Dragons), Connor Lloyd (Scarlets), Luke Price (Ospreys), Tyler Morgan (Dragons)

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