NEWPORT Gwent Dragons have been boosted by the news that their Wales Under-20s starlets are likely to be released for regional action during the Six Nations.
Wales coach Danny Wilson, who left Rodney Parade for the Scarlets last summer, yesterday named eight Dragons prospects in his 27-man squad for the tournament.
Included were three teenagers who have featured prominently for the region this season – back row forward Ieuan Jones, centre Jack Dixon and full-back Hallam Amos.
Given they have a small squad, the Dragons are loathe to lose the trio when there are fixture clashes and the problem is especially pressing when it comes to Jones.
Toby Faletau is absent on senior Wales duty and Tom Brown is out for 10 weeks with an ankle injury, leaving them without a specialist number eight.
Dragons head coach Darren Edwards had expressed his hope that their young guns would be released from international camp to play prominent roles with the region.
“We are waiting for clarification but Ieuan, Hallam and Jack are front line players in our squad,” he said. “They are not academy boys, they are here to play rugby.
“I thought that Ieuan was outstanding in Bayonne last week and it would be nice to see him explode onto the scene with us over the coming weeks.
“We are down to our bare resources in the back five of the pack and need every player, so hopefully the right decision for all parties will be reached.”
There are three fixture clashes in the Six Nations – London Welsh in the LV= Cup on the weekend of Wales v Ireland, Treviso in the RaboDirect Pro12 on the Friiday before the France clash and Zebre in the league when Italy are the opponents.
Wilson is keen to avoid conflict and believes the youngsters could be better served by playing for their region in important games.
“Each game will be and has been assessed on its merits for the player,” said the former Dragons forwards coach, who will also be under pressure to release Rhys Patchell and Harry Robinson back to Cardiff Blues.
“If there is a RaboDirect Pro12 game and they are selected for their region then it is more than likely they will play in that because it’s great experience for them.
“There are already plans in place but we also have to respond to individual situations, as we will with Ieuan Jones because Toby has been selected for Wales, which we knew would happen, and Tom Brown has got injured, which we didn't.
“If it's deemed the best thing for Ieuan is that he plays for the Dragons then that will happen, if it's deemed the best thing for Ieuan is that he plays in the Six Nations then that will happen. The same goes for Jack, Hallam and plenty of others in the squad.
“We benefited from that in the Junior World Champ-ionship last year because the likes of Luke Hamilton and Cory Hill, who weren’t with us in the Six Nations, experienced senior rugby and were better players for that.
“If that means not quite being at full strength in the Six Nations then so be it. To be honest the important thing for me is having our best players available at the Junior World Championship because that's the pinnacle for us.”
Jones, Dixon and Amos are joined in the squad by five more young Dragons in hooker Elliot Dee, back row James Benjamin, scrum-half Josh Davies, fly-half Ethan Davies and wing Ashton Hewitt.
Forwards: Ellis Jenkins (captain, Blues/Cardiff), Nicky Smith (Ospreys/Swansea), Dan Suter (Ospreys/Bridgend), Nicky Thomas (Ospreys/Swansea), Bradley Thyer (Pontypridd), Ethan Lewis (Blues/Cardiff), Elliot Dee (Dragons/Bedwas), Carwyn Jones (Scarlets/Carmarthen), Jack Jones (Ospreys/Rovigo), Rhodri Hughes (Ospreys/Swansea), Ieuan Jones (Dragons/Newport), Daniel Thomas (Scarlets/Llanelli), Sion Bennett (Scarlets/Carmarthen), James Benjamin (Dragons/Bedwas)
Backs: Rhodri Williams (Scarlets/Llandovery), Joshua Davies (Dragons/Bedwas), Rhys Patchell (Blues/Cardiff), Ethan Davies (Dragons/Bedwas), Cory Allen (Blues/Cardiff), Steffan Hughes (Scarlets/Llanelli), Jack Dixon (Dragons/Bedwas), Thomas Pascoe (Blues/Pontypridd), Ashton Hewitt (Dragons/Newport), Dion Jones (Scarlets/Llanelli), Harry Robinson (Blues/Cardiff), Ashley Evans (Ospreys/Bridgend), Hallam Amos (Dragons/Bedwas)