There were mixed emotions for Leicester Tigers’ young guns as they opened their accounts in the Under-20s Six Nations.
Wales – steered by Tigers fly-half Sam Costelow – kicked off their campaign on Friday evening against a testing Italy team in Colwyn Bay.
And the 19-year-old ensured his side made the perfect start, capitalising on a strong Welsh scrum to go over for the opening score and adding the extras from the tee for good measure.
But Italy were soon back into the game through their strong forward pack, giant loosehead prop Matteo Drudi the scorer, and while the conversion was missed a penalty gave the Azzurri a one-point advantage at the break.
Wales, though, couldn’t add to their tally in the second half, while Italy kept the scoreboard ticking with three more penalties to draw the full-time score to 17 points to seven.
Meanwhile England’s U20s got their Six Nations campaign off to a winning start with a 29-24 bonus-point victory over France on Saturday.
James Whitcombe, Jack van Poortvliet and Freddie Steward all earned their first caps at this level in the Round 1 win over the pre-tournament favourites in Grenoble.
Front-rower Whitcombe was involved from the off in a see-saw first half that saw both teams exchange penalties before a breakthrough score from Rusiate Tuima, converted by full-back Josh Hodge, gave England a 10-9 lead at half-time.
Hodge and Tom Roebuck extended the lead with second-half tries, before France fought back to 24-all with just five minutes remaining.
But England had one score left in them, with back-rower Richard Capstick bundling over to seal victory in the south of France.
England U20s head coach Alan Dickens said: “We kept on fighting and got the win, and that just shows how tight this group are. We knew we would get one more chance and they showed great composure to score it.
“I’m proud of the group, but this is testament to the wider network around them, their parents and coaches and the great work that is being done in the academies to develop these players.
“This is such a new group, we had nine debutants on the field so to come to France and defeat the double world U20s champions in front of a hostile crowd is a brilliant achievement and will hopefully play a crucial part in their development as future senior internationals.”
England travel to Myreside in Edinburgh to face Scotland this Friday (February 7, 7.30pm) while Wales continue their campaign against Ireland at Irish Independent Park (Friday, February 7, 7.15pm).