Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler has been receiving pearls of wisdom from some former World Rugby U20 Championship stars during his breakthrough season at the Ospreys.
The Ospreys and Wales Under-20s centre missed most of the Six Nations campaign after making an impact with the Ospreys. Still only 19, Thomas-Wheeler played seven games for Allen Clarke’s men as they secured Heineken Champions Cup rugby.
But now he turns his attentions to taking on the best players in his own age group at the U20 World Rugby Championships in Argentina. His regional teammates Sam Davies and Owen Watkin made their names in the junior ranks before kicking on to earn senior caps, and Thomas-Wheeler has been leaning on them for advice during a whirlwind campaign.
“Regional rugby is definitely a step up but I’ve had good boys around me to help me through it,” he said. “They’ve given me good advice and it’s just about working hard really, that’s what it’s all about.
“This experience will definitely help, it’s a different kind of rugby, the Under-20s is a lot less physical but it can be faster and looser at times. Those games with the Ospreys have definitely put me in good stead heading into this tournament.
“People like George North, Owen Watkin and Sam Davies have been in my shoes, they came into the team at a young age. They’ve given me great advice, we can all play the game of rugby but sometimes it’s all about what’s going on in your head.”
Wales will be given a hostile welcome when they begin their tournament against hosts Argentina next Tuesday. Physical tests against France and Fiji lay in wait before the fate of the pool is decided. But Thomas-Wheeler believes this Wales group are in perfect condition to take on the best the rugby world has to offer.
“The Six Nations was a building block but we had players missing with their regions, but now we’ve got the boys back together, we’re looking pretty strong,” he added.
“The goal for me is to start, you always want to wear that Wales shirt, for me I just want us to put our best foot forward as a team and pickup some good victories.
“England and New Zealand are always the teams to beat. Historically they have strong U20s teams, but we have to control the controllables and beat the teams in front of us.
“We can always improve, we’ve put things right from the Six Nations. We’ve got new boys in the squad and they are up to speed now so all we can do is prepare well.”