Tonight's rugby news as young Wales team ripped up and Forshaw happy with experts' verdict

Mike Forshaw at a press conference in Sydney
-Credit: (Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency Ltd)

Here are the latest rugby headlines on Tuesday, June 2.

Young Wales team ripped up

Wales U20s head coach Richard Whiffin has made wholesale changes to his starting XV for Thursday's clash with Spain U20s.

Whiffin's side slipped to a narrow 41-34 defeat to New Zealand U20s on Saturday but did pick up two losing bonus points in the opening round of the World Rugby U20 Championship. This means Wales simply have to beat Spain on Thursday to stand any chance of reaching the top four semi-finals, with defending champions France U20s lying in wait next week.

But due to the short turnaround Whiffin has been forced to revamp his side with only winger Harry Rees-Weldon, captain Ryan Woodman, second row Jonny Green and back row Morgan Morse returning for a second consecutive start.

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"We will be coming up against a side who will throw everything at us with nothing to lose," said Whiffin. "From our point of view we've made a few changes.

"I mentioned to the group before we flew out that we have confidence in every single one of them being able to start during the competition and hence why everyone will have played by the close of play on Thursday.

"Spain have their own strengths. They are a fit and physical team and they will be very passionate but it's a game where we go in with every confidence of getting a result."

There is a first Wales U20s start for 17-year-old centre Steffan Emanuel, while his brother, Ioan, starts at loosehead prop. Other notable selections see Kian Hire start at tighthead, Owen Conquer pack down at No 8 along with a brand new half-back pairing of Rhodri Lewis and Harri Ford.

"The ability to get six weeks with the players in the training squad has been massive," said Whiffin. "From our point of view it has allowed us to put more resources into the players.

"Everyone is physically more developed, our fitness has improved and our understanding of how we want to play the game has improved. We are a tighter group, we are a more connected group and we've got a few standout individuals.

“We always felt we would finish the game strongly (against New Zealand) with the bench we had so we were pleased with that aspect of the game but we were disappointed New Zealand got three scores ahead of us which included a couple of long range tries – they had a very good skillset which we struggled to deal with at times but it was a really courageous performance to come back into the game.

“I thought the changes we made in the second half saw a real impact on the pitch.

“We took two bonus points away from the game, one for a four-try bonus and one for losing within seven points so it keeps us alive in the pool to qualify for the top round of the semis so that is a big focus for us going forward."

Wales U20s: Matty Young (Cardiff); Harry Rees-Weldon (Dragons), lijah Evans (Cardiff), Steff Emanuel (Cardiff), Kodi Stone (Cardiff); Harri Ford (Dragons), Rhodri Lewis (Scarlets); Ioan Emanuel (Bath), Harry Thomas (Scarlets), Kian Hire (Ospreys), Jonny Green (Harlequins), Nick Thomas (Dragons), Ryan Woodman (Dragons, capt), Morgan Morse (Ospreys), Owen Conquer (Dragons).

Replacements: Isaac Young (Scarlets), Jordan Morris (Dragons), Sam Scott (Bristol Bears), Osian Thomas (Leicester Tigers), Will Austin (Sale Sharks), Ieuan Davies (Bath), Harri Wilde (Cardiff), Louie Hennessey (Bath).

Wales relish being written off

Wales are happy to have been made firm underdogs by the bookmakers ahead of Saturday's first Test against Australia.

The Wallabies are 2/11 favourites to win in Sydney, less than a year after being destroyed 40-6 by Wales at the Rugby World Cup. A lot has changed since that day, with Eddie Jones replaced by Joe Schmidt and Wales finishing bottom of the Six Nations in March after losing every game.

Wales are 5/1 to pull off a victory, with the experts predicting England are more likely to win in New Zealand on Saturday.

Defence coach Mike Forshaw, though, believes Wales are close to moving in an upward trajectory and has welcomed being written off. Warren Gatland has attempted to build a siege mentality within the squad this summer, telling his players their backs are up against the wall.

"We will take that," said defence coach Mike Forshaw when told of the bookies' views.

"It is a long time since Wales won here and it's a different challenge playing the Wallabies in Australia. We are looking forward to it, we are going to be competitive and want to win the game.

"We are on that journey at the moment. We are probably not there yet but hopefully by the end of this tour we will have taken some steps.

"We are in the business of winning rugby matches and we need to start doing that. As soon as that starts happening, and it will, I am confident we can go upwards over the next 12 months."

Erasmus makes trophy point in Ireland rivalry

South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus says he'd rather have the trophies his side have won than worry about the fact they have lost to Ireland in their previous three meetings.

Saturday's first Test promises to be the game of the weekend, pitching the world champions against the team who were number one in the world for so long prior to last year's tournament.

The Irish have a strong recent record against the Springboks, winning the last three encounters. In fact, the last time South Africa beat Ireland was back in 2016, before Erasmus was part of the set-up.

Asked if he had unfinished business against the Irish, Erasmus said: “We don’t use those kinds of words.

“I think they probably from their side have unfinished business to try and get the world number one ranking again, but we don’t talk like that.

“We try to stay in our reality, and our reality is that we are playing at home against the team that has beaten us.

“All the games were really close, and they deserved all of those games, but it’s never ‘hell we have got a score to settle’.

“I mean, I would rather take the World Cup – two World Cups – and a British and Irish Lions series and take the three losses, but we never go out to lose. We definitely didn’t pick this team to try and lose.”

England recall Marler for All Blacks

By Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent

England have revamped their front row for Saturday's first Test against New Zealand by giving starts to props Joe Marler and Will Stuart.

Marler replaces Bevan Rodd at loosehead while Stuart is preferred ahead of Dan Cole in the number three jersey as head coach Steve Borthwick makes only two changes for the clash in Dunedin.

Rodd played 44 minutes in the 52-17 victory over Japan that opened the tour on June 22 but is left out of the 23 altogether against the All Blacks with uncapped Fin Baxter preferred as bench cover.

If Baxter makes his debut at Forsyth Barr Stadium it will continue the 22-year-old rookie's stellar season that has featured standout performances for Harlequins in Europe.

At the other end of the experience spectrum is 37-year-old Cole, Baxter's front-row colleague among the replacements who is poised to make his 114th Test appearance to become England's second most capped player alongside Jason Leonard.

While the starting XV remains largely intact, the bench has undergone significant change with only hooker Theo Dan, flanker Tom Curry and fly-half Fin Smith still present following the eight-try rout of Japan.

Alex Coles replaces Charlie Ewels after the Bath lock's tour started and ended in Tokyo because of the red card and subsequent two-match ban received for a dangerous clear-out.

Ben Spencer provides scrum-half cover for Alex Mitchell at the expense of Harry Randall and wing Ollie Sleightholme could make his debut after being preferred ahead of Tom Roebuck, who won his first cap against Japan.

England's starting XV - particularly the backline - has a settled look and attack coach Richard Wigglesworth has revealed it is part of a long-term policy to prioritise familiarity in selection.

"We know the only way of getting experience is getting out there and playing," Wigglesworth told Sky Sport NZ.

"Hopefully the core of this team can stay together for a long time. You don't want to be chopping and changing the whole time otherwise the shared experiences we get in places like New Zealand aren't going to be worth much.

"We want to get these guys to grow over the next few years and hopefully they'll become really good Test match players."

England team: G Furbank (Northampton Saints); I Feyi-Waboso (Exeter Chiefs), H Slade (Exeter Chiefs), O Lawrence (Bath Rugby), T Freeman (Northampton Saints); M Smith (Harlequins), A Mitchell (Northampton Saint), J Marler (Harlequins), J George (Saracens, capt), W Stuart (Bath Rugby), M Itoje (Saracens), G Martin (Leicester Tigers), C Cunningham-South (Harlequins), S Underhill (Bath Rugby), B Earl (Saracens).

Replacements: T Dan (Saracens), F Baxter (Harlequins), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), A Coles (Northampton Saints), T Curry (Sale Sharks), B Spencer (Bath Rugby), F Smith (Northampton Saints), O Sleightholme (Northampton Saints).