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Wales to bring back A team fixtures

Wales are set to play international A team fixtures next season for the first time since 2002.

The likes of Shane Williams and Tom Shanklin featured in a team coached by Mike Ruddock when the A side last played.

Wales withdrew from the 2003 A team Six Nations due to what were understood to be primarily cost reasons, and have not been seen since..

But confirming the decision for a return to action, Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips said: "We will reconstitute the Wales A team for next season.

"We believe getting these fixtures up and running can help both ourselves and the (Welsh) regions by exposing the next group of players to a different, higher level of competition.

"If we can identify at Under-20 level and upwards those players who can handle the intensity, and help to improve those who can't just yet, we can actually move forward quite rapidly.

"They will be Six Nations fixtures to start with, but we have an open mind over other opponents.

"We will pick teams where we are giving players an experience, where it is from a travel or intensity perspective.

"A big part of the job is making sure that the Wales A team and Under-20s are about development and then winning, but in that order. We also have to give the confidence and support to the coaches, so they realise we are okay with that."

WRU player development chief Geraint John believes the A team set-up will be "a rich development area," adding: "The A team will provide the missing link for some players, and ultimately improve the depth of talent available to both the national squad and to the regions.

"We will be looking for the next tranche of players who will be coming through beyond 2019, and the A team will be a rich development area for us."

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