Mark Jones Promises Wales U20s Will Go All Guns Blazing Against New Zealand

Mark Jones has promised Wales will live by the sword when they open their World Rugby U20 Championship campaign against New Zealand on Saturday.

The question is whether they will also die by the sword up against the renowned Baby Blacks.

When Jones was in his pomp as a player, he was one of the most exhilarating sights in the game – flying down the wing, high knees pumping – for both the Scarlets and Wales.

Now, as temporary head coach, having taken over from the departed Byron Hayward, he wants Wales’ youngsters to play with the same spirit of thrill-seeking adventure.

“Counterattack is definitely an area of the game from which I think we can produce more points,” says Jones.

“We’re hoping that the conditions will be decent enough to allow us to move the ball around a little bit.

“I think there’s an opportunity for us to improve from the unstructured side of the game. The boys have shown a great appetite to try and get stuck into that.

“They were pretty dangerous off set piece during the Six Nations and there are areas of the game we can grow and build upon. My philosophy around the game is it’s a ball in hand game.”

Parachuted in at late notice when Hayward decided to stand down, Jones couldn’t have asked for a tougher start with an opening game against the Kiwis.

New Zealand are six-times previous winners, but have not won this annual tournament since 2017.

The Baby Blacks won their first 21 matches in a row on the U20 Championship stage, but it was Wales who ended their run with a 9-6 victory in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in 2012.

Jones has called up five uncapped players to his 30-strong squad as Wales look to bounce back from disappointment in the U20 Six Nations, when they lost all five matches.

Skipper Ryan Woodman and his men went through a tough time, as they were whitewashed for the first time.

But they put themselves in a position to win a couple of the games and now find themselves facing New Zealand, France and Japan in their pool in South Africa.

Seeded sixth for the Championship, Wales captain Woodman insists: “We’ve looked back at the Six Nations and there were things that went well, and other bits that we need to improve on. We’ve gone after those pretty hard for the last three and a half weeks.

“You can’t fix everything all at once, but I’m confident that this group of players will be able to put the Six Nations behind them and treat this tournament as a one-off.

“They all want to put their best game out on the field and really try and show that they’ve improved in a short space of time.”

World Rugby U20 Championship

Pool A – Wales v New Zealand

Saturday, June 23 – 3.00pm (UK)