While the LV= Cup hasn't been the happiest of hunting grounds for the Ospreys this season, for teenager Ashley Beck it has provided the opportunity to get some valuable senior rugby experience under his belt.
The 19-year old centre is the youngest player ever to feature in a Celtic League game having made his debut as a replacement against Leinster at the Liberty Stadium in November 2007, aged just 17 years and 222 days. Still more than two months short of his 20th birthday, the Wales Sevens cap has been enjoying the chance to step up from Premiership level where he has been impressing with Aberavon, and test himself at the higher level.
With the Ospreys hit hardest of all four Welsh regions by international call-ups, the coaching team have certainly taken full advantage of the LV= Cup’s status as a development competition, handing out valuable experiences to a number of young Ospreys, with Ashley Beck one of the main players to benefit.
His three Ospreys appearances this season have all come in the new-look Anglo-Welsh tournament, featuring off the bench against Northampton at the Liberty Stadium, before well deserved starts away to Bath and Newport Gwent Dragons.
This week, Beck will be hoping for further involvement when the Ospreys entertain Leeds Carnegie at the Liberty Stadium on Thursday evening (KO 7.35pm), and he says that he has no doubt that a youthful Ospreys side will be keen to go out on a high:
“After the first three games, we’re determined to go out and get a win, we don’t want to finish on four losses. It was tough out there last week against the Dragons, particularly in the contact area, and we gave away a lot of penalties. We’ve all got to get over that for this week, we’ve got to be squeaky clean when it comes to our discipline. We’re expecting a tough game, they’ve not got the best of records in the Premiership this season but they are going to make it difficult on Thursday, and like us, will want to end the competition on a high so we know that it won’t be an easy 80 minutes.
“There’s a lot to be gained just from being involved, and playing alongside Sonny, or Andrew Bishop like I did earlier in this tournament. It’s nice to get to play alongside those boys, and to get used to playing at this level. The best thing about playing with the senior guys is that you learn how to adapt your game and how to play off them. With Sonny, he’s more direct and you can look to work from the offload, but with Shane, who was outside me on Friday you’ve got to hold off him and let him do what he’s got to do first. It’s just nice to play with different players and build my experience.
“When you get the chance you have to make the most of it. Sonny, Andrew and James Hook have been playing very well in the centre, so all I can do is take the opportunity when I play and hopefully impress the coaches. I’m still learning the game so I have to be patient, my chance will come, but it will definitely help me if I can play well in the games that I do get, just to show that I’m improving and won’t let anybody down if they need me.”
Beck has featured seven times for Aberavon this season, scoring two tries, after really establishing himself in the competition over the previous two campaigns with a series of eye-catching performances as he scored eight tries in 26 games. Along with a spell on duty with the Welsh sevens side this season, the youngster says that his time at Aberavon has helped accelerate his personal development:
“Things are going really well for me, I’m really enjoying my rugby. Being down at Aberavon has really helped me. The team is doing well and it’s a good environment to be a part of, playing for them has certainly helped to bring me along as a player quicker than if I’d still been playing at age-grade level I’d say. It’s a step-up from that and I’ve held my own, now I’ve got to try and step up again to regional level, which is where the LV= games help.”