The 2021 U20 Six Nations finally gets under way later this month, with all matches being played at Cardiff Arms Park.
It’s been a difficult time for young Welsh rugby players since the Covid pandemic hit back in March, 2020. Indeed, many of Wales’ most talented young players haven’t played a competitive game of rugby since defeat to Scotland on March 13 that year just before the world was plunged into chaos.
Along the way, the U20 World Cup, which should have been a career highlight for these players, has been cancelled twice.
With only first team senior pro rugby allowed, meaning no Welsh Premiership or U-23 matches since, there have been fears the development of young talent has been stunted.
Wales U20s coach Gareth Williams was asked earlier this year if he felt young players could leave the sport through lack of game-time or lack of interest. “There’s always a chance of that, he said.
“We have a small player pool in Wales and there’s a risk it could diminish further.
“We would have had camps back in October, November through December and at the start of January that would have refined the talent ID process. Those elements haven’t been able to be put in place due to the restrictions.”
Here’s what’s happened since to the players picked in that last Wales U20 match 15 months ago. Some may get another chance when the tournament kicks off soon, others are now too old, and a few have really emerged onto the senior scene.
Was used sparingly during the 2020 U20s campaign, with Cardiff Blues Jacob Beetham starting in wins over France and England.
However, that’s largely down to how Bristol Bears were keen not to rush the prodigious talent.
Since then, he’s won his first senior cap for Wales and is now fully involved in a Premiership title bid with the Bears.
He’s an incredible talent.
The Aberavon and Ospreys winger has not played a competitive game since March, 2020
Another who has really suffered due to the lack of Premiership rugby, Roderick hasn’t played a competitive game since the U20s Six Nations.
Unfortunately for the 20-year-old, it was announced last week that he’d leave the Ospreys at the end of the season.
A real success story. The cultured centre looks the real deal, given his ability to offer a playmaking option in midfield.
Has steadily established himself with the Dragons this season, fast becoming one of their best performers in recent weeks.
Could well be looking at a senior call this summer.
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An impressive young talent, Grady signed his first professional contract for Cardiff Blues in September 2020.
After making his debut in Round 8 of this year’s PRO14 against Glasgow Warriors, he’s made a handful of appearances for the Arms Park side and is tipped for greater things.
The side-stepping fly-half was a joy to watch for the U20s, pulling out match-winning salvos that seemed to have been torn straight from the pages of Roy of the Rovers.
The Scarlets’ plan for the last season was to slowly bring Costelow through and avoid piling too much, too soon on the former Leicester Tigers man.
That’s largely happened, but his obvious class when called upon has seen him slowly build his minutes as the season has progressed.
The scrum-half was playing for Cardiff Met when he was starting in the U20s Six Nations.
He signed his first deal with Cardiff Blues in December and has been involved with some of their Rainbow Cup fixtures so far.
When Cardiff Blues signed the Welsh-qualified London-born Harlequins academy player in December, 2019, it was seen as a bit of a coup for Welsh rugby.
Bevacqua is said to be highly rated by Wales legend Gethin Jenkins, but Covid means he has played little rugby since that day back in March, 2020.
He did, however, come off the bench to make his debut against Munster back in February of this year.
Signed a new deal with the Scarlets recently, but hasn’t played since March, 2020.
The Cardiff Blues prop hasn’t played a game since the Scotland fixture, but that hasn’t stopped him securing a move to the Ospreys next year.
The young 6ft 6in giant was part of a group of players given academy contracts by the Ospreys two years ago and has played once in an Ospreys friendly at Cardiff Blues in February.
Here’s a player who has really gone on to establish himself amid a breakthrough season with the Dragons.
Carter has played 19 times for the Dragons and is said to be in the mix for senior Wales selection this summer.
He made a joint record 29 tackles in the 2020 U20 Six Nations match against Italy.
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Ioan Rhys Davies
The back rower has rarely been involved at Cardiff Blues but did get his only game time since the 2020 Six Nations when he was named in the team that played the friendly against the Ospreys in February of this year.
One of the breakthrough acts from this U20s side, Morgan has been a revelation for the Scarlets.
Has been a regular at Parc y Scarlets before announcing a deal to join regional rivals Ospreys next season.
A Wales cap seems only a matter of time and it may well come at some point this summer.
The Tondu RFC product signed an academy deal with the Ospreys and had been progressing nicely before the pandemic.
The son of respected former Welsh Premiership forward Nathan Strong, the 6ft 1in, 16st 6lb forward is a powerful ball carrier whose relatively low-centre of gravity makes him hard to tackle.
He featured in the Cardiff Blues v Ospreys February friendly.