Young second row James King has enjoyed his first taste of senior rugby with the Ospreys in recent weeks, with his first, brief, appearance for the region coming as blood replacement against Glasgow before a lengthier outing the following week against Northampton Saints.
The 19-year old North Walian, who arrived in Ospreylia early last year, followed those two appearances with his first ever start in last weekend’s game at Bath, and the Under-20 cap says that he’s delighted with the way is season has progressed so far, after being asked to step up to senior level after injuries and international calls saw the Ospreys stripped of a host of more experienced locks. He said:
“It’s something I’ve been working hard towards since I came down here last year, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and it’s been a fantastic experience so far, training and playing with some quality players. I don’t think I could honestly have hoped or expected to have come along so far, so quickly.
“Obviously, with so many players absent, we were low on second row numbers so I was fortunate to have been asked to step up and train with the seniors over the last few weeks, and that led to me getting onto the bench for the Glasgow and Northampton games, I had a brief run-out as a blood replacement against Glasgow which was great, but the real big moment was against Northampton. I had a bit of a shock coming on after only 35 minutes, I thought before the game that I’d be happy to get five or ten minutes at the end to be honest. To follow that with my start last weekend means it’s been a brilliant few weeks for me, a really great experience.”
The Mold RFC product acknowledges that while he has enjoyed the chance to test himself against experience professionals, his recent experiences have also left him in no doubt whatsoever of the level of fitness and ability that is required to carve a successful career for himself with the region:
“It’s been tough. I’ve found it hard going, stepping up to a higher standard than I’ve been used to playing at before. I’ve played a lot in the Welsh Premiership but this has been a completely different level again, definitely. It’s been a real eye-opener for me, the physicality and the standard of fitness is so high, it really is. I think I’ve realised that I need to go back and work on my fitness before I get my next chance! It’s pretty intense at that level, you’ve got fitter, bigger players, who have higher skill levels, and the game is that much faster, so there’s no hiding place, you’re pretty much flat out and I was puffing by the end.
“I’m still quite young so it’s been a massive learning curve for me. Training and playing with experienced players who are capped for their country has been a real bonus, and it’s just up to me to try and match their standards. The coaches have said they’ve got trust in me and just told me get on with it, get my head down and do the work, so I hope they are happy with what I’ve done so far. I’ll go back to Aberavon now for the British & Irish Cup, which should be a higher standard than the Premiership again, and hopefully, I can build on what I’ve done with the Ospreys in the last few weeks, it’s all part of my development.”
Capped by Wales at Under-20 level last season, King travelled to Japan for the Junior World Championships in June, but he admits that were it not for the Ospreys timely invitation to come and join them in spring 2008, he may now have been part of the English set-up. He explained:
“To be honest, I was looking to probably go down the English route, I was at Ellesmere College in Shropshire and had the chance to go for the English Schools side. With the Scarlets supposed to be responsible for North Wales I’d had one or two games for them at Academy level but it didn’t really work out, so I went back home and just kept working. Just I was supposed to be going for the English School trials, that was when the Ospreys got in touch and offered me a chance to come down here so they could take a closer look at me. I’m just delighted that they did, I came down and it wasn’t long before I was moving down here permanently to give it a go. I’m glad that I made the move, things have gone very well for me so far, but I realise that there is a long way for me to go yet.
“Between now and the end of the season, I have to keep playing well for Aberavon and hopefully make a name for myself in the Premiership, target keeping my place in the seniors for training here at the Ospreys and with it, hopefully get some more exposure to game time at that level so I can get used to it and see how I’m developing. If I can do all that I’ll be happy, and hopefully, of the back of it, I’ll be able to go to Argentina next summer with Wales U20’s for the World Cup.”