Teenage hopeful Tom Prydie has spoken of his pride at becoming the youngest player ever to appear in a Heineken Cup fixture.
The Porthcawl youngster came off the bench during the final minutes of Saturday’s win against Viadana to make his competition debut at the age of 17 years and 293 days, 15 days younger than the previous record holder, Leinster’s Richard Governley.
Fly-half Governley made just three Heineken Cup appearances in his career, the first coming aged 17 years and 308 days in a 34-17 defeat against the Scarlets in October 1996, while the next youngest player in the competition is Nicolas Morlaes who turned out for Dax against Benetton Treviso the same week as Governley’s debut, aged 18 years and 14 days. In recent years, the youngest player has been Bourgoin’s Morgan Parra, whose tournament debut came in December 2006 against Leicester Tigers, aged 18 years and 23 days.
Speaking about his appearance at the weekend, Prydie said that the debut, while unexpected, had been a welcome boost for him:
“I didn’t really expect to play to be honest. We had a few problems last week with players being unavailable so I got a call-up to the squad. I thought I was pretty much just going to be making up the numbers and I was just excited to be involved to be honest. Everything else is just a bonus.
“I’d been involved in pre-season against Leeds and Gloucester, as well as on a match-day at the Liberty Stadium, but this was my first real involvement and my first proper away trip, so it was a great experience for me. To be part of the group travelling away and preparing for such a big game has given me a real taste of what will hopefully be in store for me in the future.
“I didn’t really think about anything like being the youngest player or anything like that, I didn’t even realise. When I go the call to go on from the bench I was just excited to be playing and concentrating on doing everything right. I didn’t really have much time to get that involved, I made a couple of tackles, but it was just nice to be on the field. It was a good experience for me that hopefully I can build on.”
Fast-tracked through the Ospreys age-grade system this season after catching the eye of Director of Coaching Scott Johnson during the summer, Prydie’s landmark appearance means that the region now boasts not only the Heineken Cup’s youngest ever player, but also the Magners League’s youngest ever player, Ashley Beck. In fact, in the Magners four of the five youngest players of all time were wearing an Ospreys shirt, the others being Kristian Phillips, Aled Brew and Matthew Jarvis, with only John Barclay of Glasgow getting a look-in from outside of the region, while Phillips is also the competition’s youngest ever try scorer.
With the region’s record for putting its faith in youth clearly unparalleled, Prydie says that he’s in the best set-up possible for a developing young player:
“The target for me was to be playing regular Premiership all this season, so obviously being called up for the Heineken Cup is incredible, much more than I could have hoped for. The coaches have given me a chance, they’ve put their trust in me as a youngster, which is great. The Ospreys are keen to develop local young players, my involvement on Saturday shows that it’s a good place for anyone starting off in their career, and the number of players being developed by the region is really high. I couldn’t be in a better place to try and achieve my ambitions as a rugby player. Obviously, after being involved on Saturday I’d love to play in the Heineken Cup again, but I know that I’m still only young and need to be patient as my chance will come.”