Premiership pair get pre-season opportunity

There were a couple of new faces among the travelling party that arrived in Issoire on Tuesday for the Ospreys pre-season training camp, as the coaches run the rule over two players from the region's Premiership club ahead of the new campaign.

Bridgend centre Nathan Edwards and Swansea wing/fullback Nicky Thomas have been handed their opportunity after impressing in pre-season training at Llandarcy following an invitation to join the squad over the summer months, and Back Coach, Gruff Rees, says that he’s looking forward to taking a closer look at the pair.

“It’s important that we take every opportunity to look at the talent we have playing at the level below regional rugby, to ensure that we don’t miss out on any gems and so that players always believe that they have an opportunity to progress as a player, whoever they are.

“For Nathan and Nicky, this is a real chance for them to impress, to get a taste of day-to-day life as a regional rugby player, and to stake a claim for a permanent place in the group.”

20-year old Edwards came through the Ospreys development pathway as a teenager, playing regional age-grade rugby with the Eyasses up to U18 level. Having played a prominent role in Bridgend’s Division One West championship success in 2010/11 he establishing himself as a youngster of promise in the Premiership last season, scoring five tries in 16 appearances for the Ravens. He gained international recognition with Wales U20’s in the Six Nations earlier this year, just missing out on selection for the Junior World Championships in June.

Meanwhile Thomas, 28, has been a mainstay at the All-Whites for a number of years, scoring 857 points (including 86 tries) in 170 Premiership games for Swansea. He isn’t a complete stranger to life at the Ospreys, having earned a call-up into the squad during the 2009/10 season, making one appearance in the Magners League as a replacement against Glasgow at the Liberty Stadium before making two starts on consecutive weekends in LV= Cup defeats to Northampton and Bath.

Rees explained why the duo have travelled to France this week, saying:

“Nathan is someone I’ve looked at closely since his U18 days and notably his aptitude at senior level when he began with Bridgend - he is very mature, bright and has got a good understanding of the positional requirements of an outside centre. We gave him a chance to start pre-season with us and he's done well with a sharpness of mind and positive communication, therefore he's earned the right to feature in this travelling group as we continue supporting his development.

“For his part, Nicky has been a standout performer at Premiership level for a number of seasons and has gained recognition for Wales sevens. I was keen to have a closer look at him as he’s always been a very talented player for the Whites, with his counter attacking ability and one v one skills to the fore. In the past I've often questioned his week in week out consistency but I felt it was prudent to explore the option of Nicky training with us in the short term. He's another who has stepped up and we’re happy that he can provide some extra competition for some of our younger back three options. 

“We will continue to look in depth at the pool of talent that exists within our premiership clubs and below; The development of talent is rarely linear and we need to keep monitoring and supporting all parts of the player pathway.”