Rugby Union

Wales give youth a chance once again

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Whenever the Wales RFU announce their wider training squad for an overseas tour or Six Nations tournament, you can guarantee there will be an abundance of young talent. However over the last four years, there has always been a selection who has surprised everyone, sometimes even the player. 

This year's 2015 World Cup wider training squad includes six under 21 year olds, which begs the question - how many of these exciting young players can realistically expect game time?

Talented centres Tyler Morgan (19) and Jack Dixon (20) have been in fine form for the Newport Gwent Dragons this season, however hit is unclear how much experience they can hope to obtain, with Jamie Roberts and Scott Williams firm favourites to hold onto the centre positions throughout the World Cup.

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Cory Allen, 22, is still a favourite of Warren Gatland and with, George North able to cover 13 as well as his usual wing positions, it is hard to foresee much game time for the young dragons. 

A worry with bringing young players forward before their time, is they can get too overwhelmed by the pressure and drop off the radar. Just look at young prospect Tom Prydie.

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Prydie was the surprise inclusion in the Welsh 2013 Six Nations squad, when he was still 17 years old. Having only played seven minutes of first team rugby for the Ospreys, even Prydie was surprised by his selection saying the first time he had ever spoken to Wales coach Gatland was when he was told about his selection over the phone. 

Prydie went on to play 5five games for the Wales first team, becoming their youngest ever player, before dropping off the radar for nearly two years - until he was named as a part of the Wales U20 squad in 2015.

This effective 'fall from grace' shows exactly what an early selection can do for a player. Prydie is now no longer a member of the U20 squad and has been unable to push for contention for a place in Wales' World Cup wider training squad.

Another such talent who has struggled of late is Hallam Amos. Also a Newport Gwent Dragons prospect, Amos was controversially included in Wales' 2013 Autumn international series matches at aged 18. While impressing in training, he went on to play just one match for the Welsh first team and has since not been involved with any aged grade or elite rugby within the Welsh RFU.  

Conversely to Prydie and Amos, George North made his debut for the Wales first team when he was just 18 years old, scoring a hat-trick of tries against Australia. North has been a mainstay in the Welsh team ever since. The question has to be asked, why do one mercurial talent fall off the radar and the other become one of the top wingers in the world?

I think for Wales' selectors in the past it has been a matter of trial and error, and less care has been taken over the individual. As shown with North, a lot of care was taken over his fitness and exposure meaning he seamlessly slotted into the Welsh first team. With Prydie and Amos perhaps a lot was asked of them too young, a mistake that they are desperately trying not to make again.

Tyler Morgan, 19, who has been sent back to the U20 side for game experience in the World Championships, has been given a few more years than his Gwent Dragons team mates and seems to be fitting into international rugby well, impressing Gatland already in the short time he has been involved in the setup.

Morgan had no first team caps when he was offered a national duel contract, meaning the national coaches must have spotted something special in him. Whilst Jack Dixon, who holds the record for the youngest ever person to play top level rugby in Wales, is recognised as a special talent who has earned his place in the wider training group through hard work over the last three years with the under 20 squad. 

Hopefully Morgan and Dixon can perform well in training and earn themselves a place on the bench as centre cover, as nobody likes to see a young talented centre fall off his form due to lack of game time. Two highly promising youngsters who have earned themselves at least a chance.

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Rugby Union
Six Nations
IRB Rugby World Cup
Wales Rugby

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