Wales U20 coach Hayward – ‘We showed how much potential this group of players has’

Byron Hayward believes that his team's 27-44 loss to Ireland shoed the potential of his group

Wales’ U20s will be looking to bounce back from their first round loss against Ireland in the 2023 U20s Six Nations this Friday night. They take on Scotland, who were denied what would have been a famous win over England in their opening game. 

Wales played an exciting, expansive brand of rugby and will have been pleased with what they were able to produce but ultimately disappointed as they were dealt with relatively comfortably by a travelling Ireland side. 

Head Coach Byron Hayward is keen to look at the positives ahead of round two.

He said: “I think we showed how much potential this group of players has, particularly in the first half.

“We were disappointed as it is a game we could have won. I’m not saying it’s a game we should have won but we could have.

“We probably should have got more points from the entries that we had into their 22. That’s something we’ve been working on this week, and it’s been a big priority for us.

Scotland will be tough opponents for Wales. They produced an extremely impressive performance against England in round one and were leading with just over ten minutes to go. Wales should certainly expect a big test. 

Hayward said: “I watched that game and for sixty minutes Scotland were winning against England who are always a powerful team at this level. Scotland are obviously a very good side and we have to go and play them away.

“We are under no allusions that this is going to be a very difficult challenge.

“They (Scotland) played with a lot of width and that’s something we’ve got to fix in our defence because we were narrow at times last week. 

“We can’t give them too many opportunities to play around us. That’s the intention if you watch Scotland play. They’re very good with ball in hand, high skill level.

Friday will be a test of the Welsh squads’ maturity and composure as they will leave their home turf of Colwyn Bay and face off against Scotland in Edinburgh. Hayward is aware of the new challenge facing some of his men this Friday.

Hayward said: “Some of the boys had their first experience of playing for the first time at test level last week. Now it’s a different challenge again.

"It will be something we will have to try and mentally prepare them for because we won’t have people cheering and shouting them on. That motivation and desire will have to come from within the group.”

Wales’ attack was phenomenal in patches last Friday and showed off the ambition and skillset within the squad. There was an early try of the year contender from Llien Morgan in the first half.

All Blacks legend Sonny Bill Williams heaped praise onto the Wales U20 side last Friday night

Louie Hennessey and Cameron Winnett threw some sumptuous offloads to put the winger in the corner. It received massive praise across social media, most notably from arguably the greatest offloader in rugby, Sonny Bill Williams who described their build up to Morgan’s try as ‘poetry in motion.’

Hayward was delighted that his players attracted the attention of the World Cup winning All Black.

He said: “That’s great for the boys to have someone like Sonny Bill basically applauding them for great play. We work a lot on the offload and we encourage it.

"As an ex-defence coach, I know how difficult it is to defend, it’s basically undefendable. We had the most offloads we’ve ever had in a game with eleven, four of them leading to tries. That’s just natural ability.”

Wales will look to play with the same attacking prowess this Friday against Scotland to get them off the mark in this campaign.