CHRIS KIRWAN: Junior World Championship talent must not be rushed
10:07am Thursday 29th May 2014 in Sport
IF you're good enough, you're old enough; an adage that has been applied after successive years of impressive showings by Wales Under-20s at the Junior World Championships.
Plenty of players have gone on to be key regional figures from the crop that finished third in South Africa 2012 and as runners-up in France last year.
Newport Gwent Dragons now count teenagers Jack Dixon, Hallam Amos and Elliot Dee as first team regulars and will hope that more will follow in their footsteps next season.
The Rodney Parade region has provided 12 youngsters (including Dixon and Dee) for the tournament in New Zealand, which starts on Monday, and will want a sizeable chunk to bolster their Pro12 squad.
Burgeoning talent is frequently asked to do man's work in Welsh rugby as a result of the regions' financial struggles; that has led to the quartet struggling to make an impact in both the Pro12 and Europe but it has meant that Warren Gatland has plenty to pick from.
Tomorrow's Wales trial will feature 10 players that took part in the Junior World Championships of 2012 or 2013 – wings Jordan Williams and Harry Robinson, centre Cory Allen, fly-halves Sam Davies and Matthew Morgan, scrum-half Rhodri Williams, props Samson Lee and Rob Evans, flanker Ellis Jenkins and number eight Dan Baker. Injured quartet Amos, Eli Walker, Tom Prydie and Rhys Patchell can be added to the list.
The above are all fine players but the danger is that young talent is flung in too early and sometimes it seems we are all in a rush.
A player doesn't necessary need to be pressing for Dragons, Blues, Scarlets or Ospreys inclusion by the time he is out of his teens; someone in their early 20s isn't necessarily destined for the scrap heap just because their regional tally of appearances is yet to hit double figures.
There is no shame in a player going back out to the Premiership to learn their trade and flourish rather than pondering why a young lad who looked so promising at the Junior World Championship has not been turning out in regional colours.
They can spend their time with the seniors in the week – Ian Gough showing Joe Davies the ropes at the Dragons, Adam Jones passing on his knowhow to exceptional Ospreys propping pair Nicky Smith and Nicky Thomas, Matthew Rees mentoring Ethan Lewis in the capital, Regan King helping Scarlets centre Steffan Hughes to flourish – and then they can put it into practice in the Premiership.
It's often said that English youngsters don't get as many chances despite there being three times as many professional teams in their top flight.
But the Aviva Premiership clubs do have a big advantage by being able to send out their young talent to the Championship, a brutal and attritional league with a steep learning curve.
The Dragons should benefit from that next season as new (Welsh-qualified) tighthead prop Lloyd Fairbrother heads over the Severn Bridge from Exeter after an introduction to the dark arts with Plymouth.
The Championship is an exceptional proving ground for tight five players and hopefully a fresh rugby services agreement between the Welsh Rugby Union and the regions will provide a boost to the Principality Premiership.
Passengers cannot currently be afforded in trimmed down regional squads but more funds will attract a better calibre of mentor and give the young talent more time to learn their trade in club rugby.
The past few years have shown that there is a rich seam of talent in Wales but we must be careful not to ruin it by wanting too much, too soon from them.
Comments are closed on this article.