Williams skippers Wales in Barcelona

9.7.2011 www.wru.co.uk

Owen Williams - captaining his country
Owen Williams - captaining his country

Wales are aiming high in this weekend's FIRA European Grand Prix Sevens Series in Barcelona, targeting a top four spot.

The third leg of the series sees Wales Sevens assistant coach Gareth Williams acting as Head Coach while Richard Hodges travels as the manager while Pontypridd's Owen Williams will captain the side for the very first time.

Wales finished the first leg in Lyon, France with a sixth placing and looked handily placed to make the main play-off draw in the second tournament in Moscow with a 26-26 stalemate against Romania and wins against Ukraine (29-5) and France (24-21). But defeats to Spain(12-26) and Georgia (0-14) saw the young Welsh side demoted to the Plate competition.

A 24-12 semi-final victory over Italy set up a re-match with France but the earlier pool result was overturned as the young Welsh side went down 12-21.

Gareth Williams admits his young side will have to convert pressure into points if they are to bounce back in style.

"We're disappointed not to have reached a semi-final this far - especially in Moscow where we had an excellent opportunity to make the semi final but we failed to do so," he said.

"We're in a very tough group this weekend with a few experienced sides in our pool so that's going to be a challenge for us to break into that top four."

"In Moscow we consolidated our finish of 6th place from the previous week, yet missed an excellent opportunity to progress into the top tier of the cup semi finals. Two poor performances in our opening fixtures of both days cost us dearly. The decider for the semi final berth with Georgia was hugely disappointing, yet a beneficial lesson to the group we are working to develop.

"The players showed character in recovering from disappointments and poor performances in certain matches, with the highlight of the weekend being the second half performance over France in the group stage which saw the boys overcome a half time deficit of 21 points to come out victorious, 24-21. The squad effort in defeating a stubborn Italian team in the Plate semi final, following the disappointment of the Georgia match, was also an important result.

"It would have been nice to gain 5th place by repeating our day one result against France but it was not to be, despite a keenly contested final which was decided late into the second half.

"This new group of players are having huge benefit from competing against established IRB World Series players and seeing first hand, what the rigours and challenges a 7's series has to offer. With the majority of players having had exposure to these lessons and experiences, the challenge will be to improve on our final standings in the final two competitions over the next couple of weeks."

Despite a run of poor results, Wales captain Owen Williams is confident his side can make a drastic improvement this weekend.

"We would have liked to have made the top four in the first two tournaments but that wasn't to be," he said. "But it's a new squad and this weekend it's the aim of the squad to get to the top four. It's been a steep learning curve and we've learned a lot from the first two tournaments and I think we are capable of making the top four."

The squad to travel to Barcelona for the 3rd leg of the European Grand Prix Series is: Owen Williams (Captain), Rory Watts Jones, Jordan Sieniawski, Richard Smith, Craig Price, Will Price, Justin James, Rhodri Williams, Rhys Patchell, Luke Williams, Steffan Andrews, Jake Randell.

Pool opponents:Portugal,Spain,Russia,Ukraine,Moldova

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