COACH Gareth Williams believes his Wales young guns can hit the ground running next season if they use the summer wisely.

The Welsh youngsters were meant to be taking on New Zealand, Australia and Georgia in the pool stages of the World Rugby U20 Championship in Italy in June and July only for the coronavirus pandemic to lead to the tournament being cancelled.

That denied a large chunk of his squad the chance to play a final age-grade game for their country but it does mean the likes of the Dragons' Aneurin Owen will head into next season ready to fire.

"The players have all come to terms with the disappointment of missing out on representing their country at a major tournament and have been very mature about it. I've been in contact with them all and told them to use this summer wisely," said Williams, who is in charge of the development and welfare of all players under 23.

"A large number have also taken up the offer of regular catch-ups over video calls regarding some work they are undertaking in their homes under isolation.

"The advantage they now have is being able to participate in a full pre-season campaign at their regions.

"For a few others it will give them extra time to get over injuries to ensure they are fit and firing for next season.

"Given the fact the U20 tournament had been moved back a few weeks we had factored in an off season break for the players post-Six Nations, allowing them to go straight into pre-season on their return from Italy.

"That was just another small example of the collaborative approach that has been established with the regions. The players were also earmarked for a further development phase around the autumn.

"Now they will be able to join in from the start and benefit from that. Despite missing out on a fantastic playing experience, we all realise it is down to a unique set of circumstances and there are still hugely positive interventions to put in for the players."

South Wales Argus:

Six Dragons – wing Ewan Rosser, centre Owen, scrum-half Dafydd Buckland, hooker Will Griffiths and locks Ben Carter (pictured above) and Ed Scragg – featured for Wales in the U20 Six Nations.

While there will be the usual summer of change, with some academy prospects heading for pastures new, Williams hopes that young guns will get the chance to follow the likes of Taine Basham, Rio Dyer and Josh Reynolds in turning out for Dean Ryan's seniors next season.

"With players of all ages and experiences set to start the season on a level playing field in terms of pre-season I hope the coaches at every level will give their youngsters a fighting chance to make their mark," said the former sevens boss.

"The under-20s team is a springboard for players – results aren't everything, but performance is. The job of the coaching team is to encourage, nurture, enhance and enrich the players who come through the system.

"Our role is to play a part in preparing the cream of young Welsh rugby playing talent for a life in the professional game.

"For some that will lead onto full international honours, others will be good enough to play regionally and there will be a few who fall by the wayside.

"The under-20 programme in Wales is a proven breeding ground for the international team and we are constantly assessing the standards and targets we set our players in order to stay in step with the requirements of the senior side.

"Part of my role at the WRU is to keep track of the game time and training workloads of our leading players up to under-23.

"That means liaising with the regions and the age grade coaches in a bid to ensure we maximise the full potential of our playing talent.

"We all want them to progress, but we don't always all pull in the same direction. It is a big part of my job to ensure these young players get the right opportunities to learn and develop."

"The development pathway for the best young rugby players in Wales has been working pretty well," continued Williams.

"Very few of the players who go on to play for Wales haven't come through the age grade process.

"We are here to identify talent, polish it, promote it and give it the best chance to flourish before moving it on to the four professional regions."