Nine Dragons get the nod for Wales U20s
2:55pm Wednesday 19th February 2014 in Sport
WALES Under-20s will call on nine Newport Gwent Dragons young guns for Saturday's crunch Six Nations encounter against France, writes Chris Kirwan.
Only one nation will be able to win a Grand Slam following the clash in Colwyn Bay (kick-off 6.05pm).
After easing past Italy and battling hard for victory in Ireland, it's crunch time for Wales with the French game followed by a tough trip to take on England in Newcastle.
Six Dragons are handed starts this weekend – wing Ashton Hewitt, fly-half Ethan Davies, hooker Elliot Dee, lock Scott Andrews and back row forwards Scott Matthews and James Benjamin.
Three of their regional teammates, prop Luke Garrett, scrum-half Luc Jones and centre Tyler Morgan, are named among the replacements.
Head coach Byron Hayward has one eye on this summer's Junior World Championship and is relishing seeing how his youngsters fare in a stern challenge versus a French side that have beaten England and Italy.
Hayward said: "This is certainly set to be our biggest test so far and with England coming up in two weeks' time, we will have a very good idea of where we are after these two games.
"The French team looks to be a formidable force. They have very few new players in their squad from last year, they have a scrum half (Baptiste Serin of Bordeaux-Begles) who can kick with both feet, they are unpredictable and have a lot of balance throughout their side so they can vary their game.
"This is the type of challenge we want, to see how players perform against the best teams."
Wales will be looking for Matthews and Benjamin, who won the man of the match awards against Italy and Ireland respectively, to lead the defensive effort against Les Bleus.
The back row has been hugely influential in Wales preventing their try line from being crossed in the 26-9 success in the opener against the Azzurri and hard-fought 16-0 win against Ireland in the wind of Athlone.
Wales Under-20s: Steffan Evans (Scarlets); Ashton Hewitt (Dragons), Harri Evans (RGC), Steffan Hughes (capt, Scarlets), Dafydd Howells (Ospreys); Ethan Davies (Dragons), Connor Lloyd (Scarlets); Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Nicky Thomas (Ospreys), Scott Andrews (Dragons), James Sheekey (Blues), Will Boyde (Carmarthen), Scott Matthews (Dragons), James Benjamin (Dragons)
Replacements: Ethan Lewis (Blues), Luke Garrett (Dragons), Callum Lewis (Blues), Rory Thornton (Ospreys), Ben Roach (Blues) Luc Jones (Dragons), Luke Price (Ospreys), Tyler Morgan (Dragons)