UNDER-20s head coach Danny Wilson believes his side’s performances in the Junior World Champion-ship proves there is hope for the future of the sport in Wales.
While the senior side are smarting after yet another narrow defeat in Australia on Saturday, the former Newport Gwent Dragons coach says his youngsters have proved Wales can compete with the southern hemisphere big guns.
The under-20s finished third in South Africa after beating Argentina 25-17 in Friday’s third-place play-off, having beaten New Zealand in the group stage.
Wilson, who joins the Scarlets coaching team on his return from South Africa, said: “This group of players has shown that they can beat the best sides in the world at this level. Hopefully that will spur on other age group sides to do the same.
“We are pleased with our third- place finish. That was our aim once we lost in the semi. We weren’t great in the second half against Argentina but we did enough in the first half to hold on for the win to cap off a great tournament.
“Our performances and results in this tournament show that Wales is producing players that can compete with the best teams in the world, which shows that our academy and regional systems are delivering players.
“Our target was to get two bonus-point wins over Fiji and Samoa and do as well as we could against New Zealand in the Pool rounds,” he added.
“Against the Pacific Islanders, we showed that we could be dominant up front and also turn on the gas when required within our back division, plus to beat New Zealand more than exceeded expectations.
“We have to keep our feet on the gas to continue to improve but the foundations are certainly there, we just have to continue making them better and better.”
Wilson concedes that the 30-6 loss to New Zealand in the semi-final shows that there is still a gap between sides like New Zealand and the rest in some areas.
“Our contact area was one of our strengths in the earlier games but it dropped off in the semi and third-place play-off,” he said. “That is where New Zealand are superb, but also in their clinical finishing. That is one area we need to work on in Wales.”
Overall, Wilson sees the experience as a hugely positive one, for all involved in this campaign.
“Playing high-pressure rugby at Newlands Stadium in the semi-final and third-place play-off was a great experience for the boys in front of such a big crowd,” he added.
“The ball-in-play time was 37 minutes, which is the same as regional games, so this is a good preparation for these boys to play regional rugby.”