London Welsh's partnership with the Ospreys is already bearing fruit after on loan hooker Marc Breeze marked his competitive debut for the Championship club with a try in last Saturday's 33-9 win over Birmingham & Solihull.
The 23-year-old from Carmarthen, who joins the Exiles on a season long loan from the region, made himself an instant hit with the Old Deer Park faithful when he emerged with the ball after a well executed catch and drive.
“It’s a bit of a fairytale really. You couldn’t ask for a better start than that; a bonus-point win and a try in my first league game and first home game. I’m very happy with that” said Breeze, who is settling in nicely to life in south west London.
“It’s a bit busier than Carmarthen so I’m getting used to amount of traffic - when I get back home I can be places in two minutes. Carmarthen is a bit quieter and it’s hectic all the time here, but it’s good though.
“The boys have been brilliant; they’re pretty much the same kind of boys as back in Wales, good with the banter! The management have also been very good to me as well and I’ve slotted in straight away.”
Last Saturday’s bonus-point over Birmingham & Solihull was an important one for Welsh after head coach Phil Greening demanded a response from his players following a disappointing display at Cornish Pirates.
“That’s exactly what Phil [Greening] wanted; we weren’t impressed with our performance at the Pirates and before the game he said ‘it’s time now to prove ourselves’. Saturday was a real boost to the boys and we’ve got that bit of confidence back now,” said Breeze, who says Welsh still have plenty to improve upon ahead of Saturday’s game against Plymouth.
“Plymouth won’t be an easy game on their turf, but we need to concentrate on us. We need to cut down on the number of penalties we conceded against Birmingham & Solihull – in the last three games we’ve only had one try scored against us but we’ve conceded 52 points. So we need to cut down on the penalties and just be patient.
“Our defence has been rock solid so far and our scramble [defence] has been really good. Phil has really nailed into us the need for everyone to buy into the [defensive] system, and when everyone does buy into it the opposition can have the ball all day.”
A product of the Ospreys Academy, Breeze was mentored by former Wales international Garin Jenkins, who can take the credit for converting the aspiring flanker into hooker. Since making the switch, Breeze has also benefited from the guidance of fellow ex-internationals Jonathan Humphries and Robin McBryde.
“I was told that if I wanted to make it internationally I wouldn’t be able to make it in the back row because of my height, but I was also told that I might have the attributes to play hooker. So, I thought I’d give it a go and touch wood it’s worked out well so far,” he said.
It was his performances for Aberavon in the Welsh Premiership that saw him force his way into the Ospreys first team squad, and he made his debut for the region against Edinburgh in the Magners League in November 2008.
The following month he put pen to paper on an extension to his current deal with the Ospreys that takes him through to the end of the 2010/11 season, and now he’s hoping that a season in the Championship under the watchful eyes of Greening and Mike Friday will bring his game on leaps and bounds.
“The standard is very good, I’ve been really impressed. There are a lot of good players in the league and because it’s professional teams have more time to work on their weaknesses and improve” he said.
“I’ve only been playing hooker for three years, so this will be a really good experience for me to take back to the Ospreys.
“It’s a very talented squad of players at London Welsh, there’s so much potential here, but Phil and the strength and conditioning team have been getting it into our heads just to keep working and working to make us the fittest – they’ve been very hard us on, but to our benefit.”
Breeze may have been playing hooker for only three years, but his ability in the role quickly saw him gain further representative honours with Wales, having previously been capped at U16s. A full international cap would be a dream come true, but for the moment it’s all about the here and now, starting Plymouth on Saturday.
“I don’t like to look too far ahead. My plan is to concentrate on London Welsh, do well for the team, keep working hard and keep improving” said Breeze, who is part of a unique family tradition at former club Aberavon.
When he made his Aberavon debut against Llanelli in May 2005 he joined his older brother Paul in playing for Aberavon at every level. But he also followed in the footsteps of his great grandfather, Dan Jones, the club’s first ever Wales international in 1897 - an occasion he marked with a try against England.
What Breeze wouldn’t give to do the same. For the moment, a try against Plymouth Albion on Saturday at Brickfields and a Welsh win will do very nicely for now.
Article supplied by Damian Dolan, London Welsh RFC