Young scrum-half Tom Habberfield heads off to the Ospreys pre-season training camp in Issoir this week aiming to build on the hard work of an impressive last twelve months and to once again follow in the footsteps of one of the region's senior number nines.
Over the course of last season Habberfield rose to prominence, making his senior Ospreys bow with four appearances in the region’s LV= Cup campaign, as well as gaining international recognition – first on the HSBC Sevens World Series before being capped by Wales U20 in June at the Junior World Championship in South Africa where he caught the eye as part of a Welsh team that got to the last four and inflicted a first ever tournament defeat on favourites New Zealand in the process.
One of nine Ospreys in the Welsh squad – the largest contingent of any region – Habberfield made four appearances in the competition, an experience he says will stay with him forever.
“It was a great time, great to be a part of it” he said.
“I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity of some good game time against good opposition, but the experience wasn’t only about the rugby, it was about getting to see South Africa. It was a great opportunity and I realise how fortunate I am to have been a part of the whole trip.
“The way it went on the field meant it was beyond what anyone would have thought at the start, it definitely exceeded anyone’s expectations. I don’t think anyone believed that we could get to third place before the start but we had a good squad and a good spirit and we dug in together. I think that spirit got us a lot of the way towards third in the end.
“The highlight was obviously the win against New Zealand. The game plan from the coaches was to kick it off nine, to try and force them to play a loose game in the wet weather, and it worked out in the end. It was a huge team effort, everybody played their part, and we were really happy with how it turned out for us.”
Having enjoyed his international experience in June, it’s very much back to reality for the 20-year old from Bridgend now, with his pre-season campaign well underway. Having gained Premiership experience with the Ravens last season in addition to his LV= Cup outings, he admits that he’s hoping that the combination of his Wales form and the hard work put in on the training field will catch the coaches eye:
“I was happy with how the Junior World Championships went for me personally” said Habberfield.
“I just hope that the coaches here have seen what I can do, and if I keep on working hard this season, hopefully I’ll get my chance to do the same here.
“I think it’s good that I worked with Steve at Bridgend, he knows what I’m about, he knows me as a player, and I hope that I can do enough to give him confidence in me to step up this year.”
Habberfield is one of the travelling party that set off for France on Monday and will be hoping to get some game time when the Ospreys step up their pre-season preparations with a game against French giants Clermont Auvergne on Friday evening. Having followed the same career path as PRO12 winning scrum-half Rhys Webb along the development pathway, Habberfield admits that he will be looking to use the trip as another step towards once again emulating Webb.
“It is a massive opportunity now, going to France this week and getting a chance to work as part of the first team ahead of the game on Friday night. I can look at what Rhys Webb has done over the last few years, breaking into the Ospreys and then the Wales team and I can take a lot out of that. It shows that if you put the hard work in, you will get your reward.
“There is the opportunity there for players if you are willing to do what you need to take it. We both played for Bridgend Athletic as youngsters, then Bridgend Ravens, and now I’m learning off him at the Ospreys. It’s a massive step for me this season now but I’m really looking forward to working hard and hopefully getting some more game time under my belt.”