Ospreys youngsters Tom Prydie and Kristian Phillips are preparing for an experience of a lifetime at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi with the Wales Sevens team.
The duo are relative rookies to the sevens scene and the competition marks their first call-up to the squad, although the pair have already caught the eye, setting a number of individual records since they were elevated into the senior squad at the Ospreys at a young age.
Landmarks already held by the pair include youngest ever Magners League appearance and try scorer (Phillips) and Wales’ youngest cap and try scorer, as well as the youngest to make an appearance in the Heineken Cup (Prydie), and their experience at the Commonwealth event will be the next step in their continuing development.
18-year old Prydie enjoyed a meteoric rise last season after Ospreys Director of Coaching Scott Johnson promoted him early to the A Group after impressing in pre-season, and he says that he’s hoping that the experience gained in India will allow him to kick on to the next level.
“I can’t wait to get out there” he said. “I haven’t played much sevens before, only one competition with the Ospreys really, so it’s going to be a new experience for me. It’s always an honour to represent your country so it’ll be great to be out there.
“I’m still learning, still improving and developing as a player so although I’m not playing for the Ospreys it’s important that I’m getting some game time. I’ve played for Swansea in the Premiership and this will be a step-up for me again. It’s going to be a big occasion, I’d expect we’ll be playing in front of big crowds. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity really and I can’t wait to get out there.”
Prydie, who became the first person to represent the Ospreys while still at school last season, says that while the call into the sevens side came as a bit of a surprise given his lack of prior experience, he believes that it will prove to be a hugely beneficial couple of weeks for him:
“It’s come as a bit of surprise to me really, like I said I’ve not played much sevens before. Most of the boys have been training together for a while and they are looking fit and sharp. I’ve been invited along and taken part in a couple of sessions now and I’ve enjoyed it. We went up to Scotland earlier this week for a couple of days where we were able to work together as a group.
“I’m the new boy but I’m getting used to it. I think I’ve taken to it okay, obviously speed is a big factor in sevens, it’s a more open game and it’s about taking people on one-on-one and I’d say that’s a big part of my game. It’ll help me with the conditioning as well, the fitness, and working out the spaces for tackling one-on-ones, which is good for my positioning in fifteen-a-side as well and will benefit me.”
Having celebrated his 20th birthday last month, former Ysgol Ystalyfera pupil Phillips is the ‘old man’ of the pair, and like Prydie, he is looking forward to the challenge ahead despite being a newcomer to the shortened form of the game. He said:
“It’s going to be brilliant, I’m really looking forward to it now. A week’s preparation in Dubai and then onto Delhi, it’ll be a fantastic experience.
“We’re gone there with the aspiration of winning Commonwealth gold, but there will be a number of teams who hope to do that. There are a number of steps we need to take before we get to there, we play India first and that will be massive with them hosting the competition and then we come up against Tonga which could be the crucial game in the group. We’d want to have some momentum before we play South Africa, and hopefully take that into the quarterfinal. When you get to that stage anything can happen, as the boys who played in the World Cup last year found out and there are two of those with us now, their experience will be vital.”
Despite media coverage of the preparations for the Games highlighting poor facilities, Phillips insists that there are no issues for the Welsh team, and that he will savour every moment:
“Team Wales are already out there” he said. “They’ve told us that things are fit for purpose, so we are looking forward to getting out there now. We have a little bit of luxury first in Dubai, and then the Delhi experience will be a great one.
“It’s a totally different environment from what most of us will have experienced before and that’s what makes the Commonwealth Games so exciting. Playing rugby I’ve been fortunate enough to go to a lot of places, and to experience some great things, but we were talking about it the other day and it’s going to be incredible.
“Some of the world’s leading athletes and sportsmen and women will be there, big names like Asafa Powell, one of the fastest men in the world. To think that people like them will be sitting in the same canteen as you, it’s totally different to the IRB series, or what I’ve experienced with the Ospreys and Wales so far in my career. I just want to make sure I enjoy every minute of it from start to finish.”