This weekend all Welsh Rugby Union age grade teams take the field against Italian opposition and Young Osprey players are well represented throughout the teams.
Although some of the age grade teams are partially into their season it is the first time that the under 18’s and 16’s play and the weekend can be seen as the culmination of much hard work for players and coaches alike. The key for all players in the system is to keep their feet on the ground and realise that these age grade teams are only rungs along the ladder to hopefully a professional contract.
The fixtures kick off tonight (Thursday) with an under 19 match at Aberavon in which flanker Sam Kiley makes his debut, while Mark Breeze does bench duty as the team who have already won a triple crown makes changes to develop 26 players in the lead up to the World Cup in Dubai at Easter.
Tomorrow night (Friday) the under 21 side play at Newport’s, Rodney Parade with scrum half Martyn Roberts selected to start and prop Craig Mitchell and flanker Ben Lewis doing bench duty; all three are available to play at this level next season. Also former Young Ospreys Ed Shervington, Tom Smith, Aled Brew, Andrew Bishop, and Alun Wyn-Jones are part of the 22 man squad. Outside half James Hook misses the game as he is in Melbourne as part of the Welsh 7 a-side teams’ bid for Commonwealth Games glory. Another player to have come through the Young Osprey system is replacement centre Tom Cheeseman; he is now plying his trade with Bath in the Zurich Premiership.
On Sunday both the under 18’s and 16’s are on Italian soil for matches against their respective age groups. Included in the under 18 starting line up are scrum half Rhys Webb, prop Ryan Bevington and No 8 Jon Jones; Phil Price, Kyle Maiden and Leigh Halfpenny carry out bench duties. In the under 16 set up outside half Daniel Bigger, centres Ashley Beck and Kristian Phillips and wing Chris Lewis all start. So to do 2nd Row forward Rhys Ruddock, No 8 Rory Pitman and open side flanker Ben Howe; while scrum half Tavis Knoyle is one of the replacements.