My earliest memory of rugby was playing in a round robin tournament for Cwmafan Under-9s and losing in the final to Bridgend Athletic. That game has always stuck with me but I don’t really know why. I was always playing rugby with my mates and you would just keep progressing through the age groups with them and that was something I really enjoyed. Through all of my club rugby, playing alongside my mates was what I really enjoyed. I played for my school side and captained the Aberavon Schools side, but I actually started out as a hooker and moved to prop at Under-16s.
Mike Dyer has been very important to me. He has been here, there and everywhere with me and really put a lot of time into my rugby journey. He was there through my schools rugby and has always showed an interest in how I was doing and that has been really important to me. We regularly talk to each other and he is always checking in on me. There have been other coaches who have played a part in my career so far, but he has been massive for me and has put some miles on the clock supporting me. I played Ospreys Under-16s and Under-18s and the intensity of the Academy rugby has been key for me. There was always another challenge to meet and it has really prepped me for the step up into senior rugby. So when I played for Aberavon, it wasn’t such a whirlwind experience and I wasn’t so wide-eyed to senior rugby.
My first experience of the Ospreys was that amazing team they had and the one everybody my age always talks about, the Justin Marshall, Marty Holah, James Hook and Shane Williams team. Then, you had the front rowers of Duncan Jones, Paul James, Adam Jones and Richard Hibbard, they are my earliest memory of the Ospreys. They were successful and it was may region and there was a real affiliation with the team on a personal level. It was my home region and I just wanted to play for the Ospreys. I used to watch the likes of Duncan on TV playing for the Ospreys and Wales, and now he is coaching me. He also coached me at Neath and Port Talbot College and has been a massive help to me.
That was a whirlwind of a week because we had injuries across the front row and had boys away with Wales. Garyn Phillips started at loose head and Duncan Jones asked me before the game, if I would be comfortable backing up on that side on the scrum, and there was no way I was going to turn that opportunity down. Garyn went down after about 16 minutes and it was one of those moments, but I loved it and in the end we were unlucky not to win the game. The scrum went pretty well but I was determined not to let anyone else or myself down. It was a debut I certainly won’t forget. It just was an opportunity to show I deserved to be in the squad and that is how I looked at it.
There is unbelievable competition for places here, we have Tommy Francis now, and Tom Botha and Ma’afu Fia have loads of experience are always willing to offer advice to myself and Ben Warren. We all look out for each other, even though we are all competing for the same spot. We all know Tom Francis is the number one tight head in Wales, but I just want to get some game-time in the match day 23. I just want to show what I can do, keep training well and hopefully wracking up those appearances here and there. I just want to keep reminding the coaches that I am here by training well. I know it’s about earning the coaches trust and Toby has been as good as his word about training well and you will play. Will Griffiths, Jac Morgan, Josh Thomas and Joe Hawkins are proof of that.