Having waited almost two years for the chance to pull on the Ospreys number nine shirt in a competitive fixture, Rhys Webb says that he is hoping to make a positive impression on the coaches now that he's had a rare chance to start for the region.
After being handed his chance as a 19-year old back in early 2008, Webb was quickly into double figures for the region in a matter of months, his debut coming in a 32-7 win over Ulster at the Liberty Stadium in March that year, and his first start duly following just weeks later at Rodney Parade against Newport Gwent Dragons.
He remained a regular in the squad for the rest of the year, but little did he realise when he took to the field at Murrayfield against Edinburgh at the end of November 2008 that he wouldn’t start a game for the Ospreys until earlier this month.
He was selected for the Wales Squad that won the Sevens World Cup in Dubai in early 2009, before suffering a double injury blow that saw him undergoing reconstructive surgery on both his shoulder and ACL, restricting him to just four replacement appearances between January 2009 and the start of the current season.
However, now fully fit once again, he was involved off the bench three times in the early part of the campaign, before making his long awaited first competitive start in 23 months when the Ospreys travelled to Newcastle in the LV= Cup at the start of November, following it up with an impressive stint against Leicester Tigers last weekend. Now that he has tasted first team action again, he says that he wants to make the right impression, to ensure that he gets more:
“It’s difficult to get into the team when you’ve got two good scrum halves in the squad like Mike and Jamie, so to get the chance to get out onto the pitch and play is great” he said.
“Just starting for the Ospreys means a lot to me. It’s my area, I’ve grown up with the Ospreys and come through the system so it’s really nice to get the opportunity to start a few games.
“I picked up a couple of injuries last year which didn’t help the situation, but I’ve worked hard to get back to where I need to be. I think I’m fitter and in better condition than ever before, and hopefully, that I can take that onto the pitch.
“It was frustrating at times, but that’s behind me now, I’m just happy to have the chance to play for the Ospreys again. I’m just concentrating on enjoying every minute when I’m out there. I haven’t had a run of games at any level for a while and there’s only so much training you can do, you want to be out there playing.”
If he wasn’t happy enough to be back playing again, there was further reason to celebrate last weekend when he ran in first ever try for the region in the Leicester game, a score that was even more memorable as it came at the Riverside Hardware Brewery Field in Bridgend, his home town and a club that he has proudly represented in the past. While acknowledging his own satisfaction at getting his first try, he insists that the nature of the team win was even more pleasing:
“It was nice to get a try, especially being in Bridgend in front of all my friends and family who were watching, it meant a lot to me. The team performance was the most important though, we played well and showed good skill levels in very difficult conditions to get a good win.
“It was nice playing alongside Matthew Morgan, another Bridgend boy. He’s great lad and a good player. He’s had a couple of starts now and made an impression, so like me, he will want to make the most of whatever chances he gets before the international players come back.”
Still only 21, Webb admits that he has come a long way since he made his debut back in 2008, and says that he feels that he is a much improved player now:
“Definitely, I came into the team as a teenager without any experience. I was thrown in, which is a good thing for a young player, but I didn’t really take my chance that well at the time. Now, I think that I can bring a bit more to the team and show that I’ve worked hard to improve my game.
“Hopefully I’ve done a few things well that would’ve caught the coaches attention over the last couple of games, I’ve trained hard, and I just want to keep pushing for a place in the 23. I know that Mike will be back soon which will make it more competitive again, but I’ve just got to keep pushing myself on.
“I want to play as many games as possible for the Ospreys, that’s my aim, and that’s what I’m working hard to do.”