Young Ospreys centre, Owen Watkin, is itching to make up for lost time after sitting out last season in its entirety following an ACL injury sustained almost exactly 12 months ago.
The 20-year old from Bridgend enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2015/16, making his debut against Munster at the Liberty Stadium during the Rugby World Cup period before featuring 12 times after the turn of the year, scoring two tries.
Having sat out last summer’s U20 World Cup to allow him to focus on his conditioning and prepare for his first full season as a pro, he then suffered the cruelest of setbacks, a serious knee injury during pre-season training ruling him out of the campaign.
Now up and running again, the Bryncethin RFC youngster is playing a full part in pre-season training at Llandarcy and is enjoying working alongside some vastly experienced centres as preparation for the forthcoming campaign gathers pace.
“I’m pretty excited to be back in the mix with the boys” Watkin said.
“I’ve been working with the physios and the conditioners for so long, it feels great now to be back out on the pitch and, really, just learning again.
“When you look at boys like Becky and Hooky, there’s a lot of experience and knowledge there that will help me develop myself over the summer and throughout the season.
“Between the pair of them there’s so much knowledge, they’ve done so much, but they are so grounded and they are always willing to help younger players. They aren’t selfish at all.
“There’s competition for places, we all want to play as often as possible, but they will work with you to help you become a better player. The key is we all want to do well as a club. The main priority has to be the team, and what we can achieve together.”
Reflecting on last summer’s agony and the ensuing frustrations, Watkin is pragmatic and only looking forward.
“I’d had a good run of games in the second half of the season so was really looking forward to trying to build on that” he continued.
“It was really disappointing. To do that kind of injury at any time is frustrating. Even more so in pre-season with a big year ahead of me. To see the boys play some great rugby at times, get to the semi final, was great as we all want the team to succeed but on a personal level it was extremely frustrating. I wanted to play my part, help the boys and do my bit, but I was stuck on the side and that’s not a nice feeling.
“Off the back of my first season I was hoping to have a good summer and really kick-on but it wasn’t to be. Now I’m back amongst it I just really want to get going.”
With the first game of pre-season now just four weeks away, when Leicester Tigers visit the Bridgend Ford Brewery Field on Friday 11th August, Watkin is keen to feature at his local Premiership ground and stake an early claim for a starting spot when the competitive action gets underway at the start of September.
“I’ve had plenty of time to think about it” laughed Watkin.
“I’m just keeping everything crossed now, and hoping that I can stay fit, stay working with the boys and get a good run of games.
“It promises to be an exciting season but a challenging one. The PRO12 is getting stronger with teams getting better and better each year, then we have a really tough European group. It’s going to be a real test for us but I can’t wait to get started.”