Keelan Giles is backing the intense competition for a wing spot at the Ospreys to drive standards in the playing group this season.
While British & Irish Lion, George North is with Wales preparing for the Rugby World Cup and fit again Lesley Klim will meet up with the Namibian squad later this month, there is a competitive mix of youth and experience back at Llandarcy Academy of Sport eager to claim a starting berth for the start of the new Guinness PRO14 campaign.
As well as 21-year old Giles, with 19 tries in 42 games and edging back to his dangerous best in the latter stages of the 18/19 season after a year out with injury, Ospreys coaches can also call on the Region’s fourth highest all-time try scorer, Hanno Dirksen, and Luke Morgan, Wales Sevens’ all time record try scorer, who grabbed nine tries for the Ospreys last season.
Also keen to make a positive impression are 19-year old Dewi Cross, who enjoyed a try scoring first start against Bath last year, and 22-year old Tom Williams, who made eight appearances across the PRO14 and Europe last season.
It’s a mix of talent that excites Giles, and he says they will help to push each other one:
“It’s healthy competition, which is important if we are going to be successful this season” he said.
“We’re all different, we’re not all the same players.
“It’s a good bunch, with a good attitude, which is important. After training you’ll see us all doing extras together, all pushing each other, all striving to be in that starting spot and understanding that healthy competition is key to pushing on.
“You’ve got 30 games in a season, we will need everyone to be at their best. We are a team here, not individuals, and everyone has got a role to play. That outlook has been what allowed us to end last season on a high. We really stated to blossom when we spent that time away together in South Africa and we need to take that, keep improving, and move to the next level.”
Reporting back to Llandarcy for pre-season last week was something of a novelty for Giles, whose previous summers have seen him on Wales duty – with the U20 and senior squads – or, like 12 months ago, sidelined with injury. He says he’s enjoying being part of a notoriously difficult time of year:
“It’s been a tough first week or so but it’s nice to be back in with the boys and blast away the cobwebs.
“It’s a fresh slate for everyone coming in at this time of year. For me personally it’s my first full pre-season as a professional because I’ve had international duties or injury before now, so it’s nice to be fresh and to be part of the group from day one. It’s an unusual year, it’s a very long pre-season, but I want to be hitting the ground running. “
With the words of his coaches ringing in his ear, Giles is clear on targets for the season:
“It’s positional specific stuff really, we aren’t being overloaded with info at this point. I think it’s pretty clear what I need to do, which is try to stay fit and impress every opportunity I get.
“That’s professional sport really, people get injured and when that happens, opportunity arises for someone else. That’s the nature of the game. You want to limit the injuries you get but you accept that they happen. You just focus on being the best you can be in everything you do so that when you are selected you take the chance.”