Ryan Jones and Richard Hill are a pair that know a thing or two about winning rugby matches on the international stage, and they believe that the U18 Six Nations Festival is the perfect proving ground to give the next generation a taste of how it’s done.
Both multiple winners of Rugby’s Greatest Championship in their time, former Welsh back row Jones and English flanker Hill were in attendance as the competition got underway for its second edition at Hartpury College.
And in spite of an opening round defeat for Wales, Jones was quick to sing the praises of the new-look tournament.
“It’s a fantastic arena and a great contest,” said Jones, who captained Wales to Grand Slam glory in 2008.
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“The whole concept of this week is for these guys to come in and experience an international level competition against guys that they don’t regularly play against.
“The great thing about this competition is there’s two more Test matches to go, so it’s about recovering fast, taking all the positives from it and moving on quickly.”
The first round of fixtures saw Italy snatch a last-minute 19-18 win over Scotland, while France bested Ireland 29-24.
And it was Hill who held bragging rights as England toppled Wales 38-20, a result that the 45-year-old believes that the youngsters will be desperate to build on when the tournament continues on Wednesday.
“It’s a massive day for these young players,” he said.
“I know a number of them will have had the opportunity to play for England, but others haven’t.
“We get to see them in their school and club environments, but to see them come up to the next level is an important part.
“Having spoken to a couple of players post-match, they know that there were some elements of the game today which didn’t go the way they wanted, so they’ve now got the rest of the week to work with the coaches, but more importantly to apply themselves in training and have two more games to get it right.”
Matchday Two of the U18 Six Nations Festival sees France take on Italy, England face Ireland and Wales play Scotland at Worcester Warriors’ Sixways Stadium on Wednesday, before the competition concludes at Kingsholm on Sunday 21 April, with Scotland playing Ireland, England coming up against France and Italy taking on Wales.