Centre Ashley Beck will enjoy only his third Magners League start in Saturday's Welsh derby clash against Newport Gwent Dragons at the Liberty Stadium (KO 6.30pm), eager to show that the competition's youngest ever player has come of age.
It’s now almost three years since Beck broke another Osprey player’s (Aled Brew) record as the youngest player to feature in the tournament when he came off the bench as a late replacement at the Liberty Stadium in a 26-19 defeat to Leinster at the age of 17 years and 222 days.
Then, as now, it was an Ospreys side depleted of their Welsh internationals, as the national side welcomed newly crowned world champions South Africa to the Millennium Stadium. In the three years since Beck’s opportunities to shine have been limited, with just 13 Ospreys appearances to his credit, but as he prepares for his first game of the season for the region this weekend, he says he is excited about getting his chance:
“I can’t wait now, I’ve been looking forward to this month since the summer to be honest” he said.
“I knew that the boys would be going off with Wales so I had to be ready if my chance came, and hopefully I’ll get a few over the next few weeks.
“The boys in my position are world class so I’ve got to wait for my turn to show what I can do. That’s why I get excited this time of the year as I know that if I’m fit there should be opportunities for me to show the coaches what I can do at this level.”
Having burst on the scene at such a tender age it’s easy for observers to forget how young a player is, but as far as Beck is concerned, his age is unimportant:
“People do forget that I’m still only 20, it seems such a long time ago since my debut. Age doesn’t really count for a lot these days though, not when you see the likes of Dan Biggar who was the same year as me coming through and he’s been playing international rugby for two years. He’s a good example of someone who’s taken his opportunities when they came and I’ve got to try and do the same.
“I’ve worked hard in training since the summer, with Gruff Rees (skills coach), and it’s helped me a lot. I’m looking forward to going out over the next few weeks and getting the chance to show the things I’ve worked on.”
As for this weekend’s game, Beck says that he’s anticipating a tough test:
“It’s going to be a good experience. Most of the Dragons squad will still be together so I’ll be playing against boys who play as a unit week in, week out, against good teams. It’ll be good for my development to test myself against good opposition, to see where I stand at the moment.
“I can’t wait now, I’m just excited about getting out there. I’m glad that I’m playing between alongside experienced players like Sonny Parker and Nikki Walker, they’ll be able to give that extra something to guide me through the game.”