Wales U20 head coach Ioan Cunningham has named his 32-man Six Nations squad for the tournament, which kicks off next Saturday at Cardiff Arms Park against Italy.

Forwards Theo Bavacqua (Cardiff Blues) and James Fender (Ospreys), along with backs Joe Hawkins (Ospreys), Sam Costelow (Scarlets), Dan John (Exeter Chiefs) and Jacob Beetham (Cardiff Blues) all return after playing in last year’s campaign, but there are a raft of new faces.

They include Exeter Chiefs prodigy Christ Tshiunza, the 6ft 6in giant second row who has been described as one of the hottest young properties in British rugby. You can read more about him here.

Christ Tshiunza has signed for Exeter
Christ Tshiunza, pictured here with current Wales squad member Owen Lane,

Carwyn Tuipulotu, a cousin of Wales number eight Taulupe Faletau, is also named in the squad.

The son of former Tonga international Kati Tuipulotu is only 18, but the back rower is already a bulldozing 6ft 1in and 19st 10lb. You can read his story here.

Cunningham, in his first campaign as head coach, admitted a number of tough calls had to be made before he confirmed his squad.

"It’s been a challenge but a real exciting one," he said. "It’s been a long process observing players in a training environment which has also been a challenge with covid protocols and no games but we are confident as a coaching group that the right decisions have been made and we’re excited to see them go.

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"We initially had a squad of around 46/48 and then we cut that down to 36. Then there were some more tough conversations when we brought it down again and that brought home how much it meant to these players to represent their country – dropping it down to 32 has been tough, in some positions the depth is very strong."

Despite the majority of the squad having not played for some time due to the pandemic, Cunningham is optimistic he has assembled a squad capable of putting some good results together.

"Overall it is a fairly young squad, there are only six players carrying over from last year’s group so it’s an induction of fresh new talent to the group which is exciting. We’ve got some strength up front, our forwards are a big group of big men but we also have a talented backline with gifted players - hopefully we can give them enough possession to express themselves."

Cunningham is cautiously optimistic that his young side can get the campaign under way on a positive note when they take on Italy on Saturday.

"Success I suppose means winning games, it’s getting these guys to understand what it takes to win. I think it is part of their development, it’s their process of moving forward. We like to express ourselves and play a brand of rugby that’s attractive but also have guys enjoy winning in a Welsh shirt," he said.

Wales U20 squad for Six Nations

Forwards

Garyn Phillips (Ospreys)

Theo Bavaqua (Cardiff Blues)

Cameron Jones (Ospreys)

Efan Daniel (Cardiff Blues)

Ollie Burrows (Exeter Chiefs)

Connor Chapman (Dragons)

Nathan Evans (Cardiff Blues)

Lewys Jones (USON Nevers)

Zak Giannini (Llanelli Wanderers)

Joe Peard (Dragons)

James Fender (Ospreys)

Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs)

Rhys Thomas (Ospreys/Aberavon)

Alex Mann (Capt – Cardiff Blues)

Christ Tshiunza (Exeter Chiefs)

Harri Deaves (Ospreys)

Tristan Davies (Ospreys)

Carwyn Tuipulotu (Scarlets)

Evan Lloyd (Cardiff Blues)

Backs

Jacob Beetham (Cardiff Blues)

Morgan Richards (Dragons/Pontypridd)

Carrick McDonnough (Dragons)

Eddie James (Scarlets)

Tom Florence (Ospreys)

Joe Hawkins (Ospreys)

Ioan Evans (Pontypridd)

Daniel John (Exeter Chiefs)

Sam Costelow (Scarlets)

Will Reed (Dragons)

Ben Burnell (Cardiff Blues)

Harri Williams (Scarlets)

Ethan Lloyd (Cardiff Blues)

Wales U20 Six Nations Fixtures (all at Cardiff Arms Park)

Saturday 19 June: Italy v Wales, KO 8pm

Friday 25 June: Wales v Ireland, KO 8pm

Thursday 1 July: France v Wales, KO 5pm

Wednesday 7 July: Wales v England, KO 8pm

Tuesday 13 July: Scotland v Wales, KO 8pm