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Pugh says his players are full of pride ahead of Six Nations Under-18s Festival

Pugh says his players are full of pride ahead of Six Nations Under-18s Festival

Pugh says his players are full of pride ahead of Six Nations Under-18s Festival

Wales’ young stars will relish the opportunity to wear the famous red jersey at the Six Nations Under-18s Festival, according to head coach Richie Pugh.

The festival, played at Energia Park in Dublin over three matchdays between April 8-16, will give the stars of the future a chance to represent their country and show what they can do on the international stage.

Pugh’s side will take on Italy on Matchday 1 ahead of games against Ireland on Matchday 2 and Scotland on Matchday 3.

“It is a huge opportunity, we have spoken about the privilege and honour to represent your country, it is something that every 16, 17, or 18-year-old who is in the regional set-up is aiming to do,” he said.

“The boys selected in the 26 have worked hard to be where they are, and it is an exciting opportunity for them.

“Many of them have not had the opportunity to represent Wales before, so it is a new experience for them, but they are relishing the opportunity.

“For the players as individuals, the opportunity and exposure of playing for Wales is amazing.”

Wales fell to defeat against Ireland, England and France during the 2022 festival and it won’t be any easier for Pugh’s new cohort, with a tricky test against Italy on Matchday 1.

The Azzurrini have seen progress across their set-up in 2023, from the senior side down, and they will be hoping to continue their upward trajectory in Dublin.

And Pugh predicts a physical encounter on Matchday 1.

He added: “You can see the investments that Italy have made and it is a credit to their pathway really.

“They have been getting it right over the past few years, you can see it in the boys coming through the Under-20s now.

“We know they have a physical front five and we know how strong they are there.

“For us, we need to relish the opportunity to come up against those players, that is the challenge for us really.

“We have prepared with a game against an older England age group and that was a real lesson in pace and power.

“The message from us is that we know that they are quality players and we know what they can do.

“This is about instilling that confidence so that they can go and express themselves against other nations, against the best.”