SIX Dragons prospects will line up against New Zealand in Wales’ opening game of the World Rugby U20 Championship on Saturday – with fit-again flanker Ryan Woodman leading the charge.

The 20-year-old from Caldicot will skipper the Welsh youngsters in South Africa after missing the Six Nations with a thumb injury.

The blindside, who made 10 appearances for the Dragons last season, adds some welcome bulk to Richard Whiffin’s side in a tough group that features New Zealand, France and Spain.

First up is the Baby Blacks at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town (kick-off 6pm) with Woodman joined in the XV by Rodney Parade teammates Huw Anderson and Harry Rees-Weldon at full-back and wing.

Loosehead Jordan Morris, lock Nick Thomas and fly-half Harri Ford, who has returned to the Dragons from RGC, are on the bench for the opening encounter.

They are joined as replacements by the only two uncapped players in the matchday squad – Cardiff centre Steffan Emanuel and Scarlets scrum-half Lucca Setaro.

“We feel we have picked a really strong squad and gone with what we think is a very strong bench,” said head coach Whiffin.

“We had to make some tough selection calls on a few guys who started a number of games in the Six Nations. We’ve put them on bench as we feel they will provide an impact in the second half.

“It’s great to have Woody back to skipper the side. He gives us physical presence and is somebody who can dominate the line-out.”

POWER: Dragons winger Harry Rees-Weldon on the charge for Wales against France in the U20 Six NationsPOWER: Dragons winger Harry Rees-Weldon on the charge for Wales against France in the U20 Six Nations (Image: PA)

Wales, who finished fifth in the Six Nations after beating Scotland and Italy, face tough encounters against New Zealand and France in the group stages either side of Thursday’s game against Spain.

They will eye a five-point haul against the Spanish and could do with as many points as possible from the fixtures against the heavyweights in the 12-team tournament.

Wales will hope to at least qualify for the fifth to eighth play-offs rather than ninth to 12th, with the bottom side dropping out of the 2025 tournament.

Whiffin hopes that his young guns set the tone for the competition in their opening game.

“We have done our homework on New Zealand and know what to expect to come our way,” said the head coach.

“They are always a very good ball moving team, quick and powerful players that will look to dominate the collision, but we need to focus on ourselves in terms of how we are going to execute our own game plan.”

Wales U20: Huw Anderson (Dragons); Harry Rees-Weldon (Dragons), Louie Hennessey (Bath), Macs Page (Scarlets), Aidan Boshoff (Bristol Bears); Harri Wilde (Cardiff), Ieuan Davies (Bath); Josh Morse (Scarlets), Isaac Young (Scarlets), Sam Scott (Bristol Bears), Jonny Green (Harlequins), Osian Thomas (Leicester Tigers), Ryan Woodman (Dragons – captain), Lucas de la Rua (Cardiff), Morgan Morse (Ospreys).

Replacement: Harry Thomas (Scarlets), Jordan Morris (Dragons), Kian Hire (Ospreys), Nick Thomas (Dragons), Harry Beddall (Leicester Tigers), Lucca Setaro (Scarlets), Harri Ford (Dragons), Steffan Emanuel (Cardiff Rugby).