2:10pm Saturday 16th June 2012
By Chris Kirwan
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons are getting a kick out of new signing Tom Prydie’s performances for Wales Under-20s.
The winger has been to the fore in the journey to the semi-finals of the Junior World Championships.
The 20-year-old was the hero with the boot in the historic 9-6 win against New Zealand when he took over responsibility from the tee and boomed over a pair of long-range penalties.
Then Prydie followed up with a 29-point haul – two tries, eight conversions and a penalty – in Tuesday’s win against Fiji that sealed their place in the last four.
When he signed a two-year deal with the Rodney Parade region it was the prospect of seeing the speedster demonstrating his running prowess that excited.
But his proficiency with the boot could be just as important to a Dragons side that struggled from the tee last season and allowed victories and losing bonus points to slip through their grasp.
One of those horror shows came against the Scarlets when the west Walians triumphed 10-6 after young fly-half Lewis Robling missed a succession of penalties that he would normally slot over with ease.
On that occasion there was nobody else in the Dragons' ranks to take over with the kicking responsibility but head coach Darren Edwards is confident that such a problem won’t be repeated.
“We now have five potential goalkickers and (Wales skills coach and the country’s leading Test points scorer) Neil Jenkins is going to be coming in to work with them next season,” said Edwards.
“It will be be terrific to have Tom, (fellow new signing) Dan Evans, Adam Hughes able to take responsibility as well as our two young fly-halves Lewis Robling and Steffan Jones.
“Lewis had some great displays but he was a bit up and down. I think that pressure is eased if there are at least two frontline kickers in the side.
“Trying to manage that pressure is key, especially with young players, and I think we are going to be in a better position to do that.
“That showed at the end of last season when Adam stepped forward and took over responsibility.
“We’ll have plenty of options next season and Tom has put his hand up with what he has done over the last few weeks.
“His running ability has always been obvious and now he is stepping forward with the kicking duties – he showed real nerve to bang those penalties over against New Zealand.”
Edwards worked with Prydie, who can also play full-back, when he was an age-grade coach and is confident that he will soon be back in the reckoning for full international honours.
He became Wales’ youngest Test player when, at the age of 18 years and 25 days, he made he started against Italy in the 2010 Six Nations.
Prydie went on to win three more caps before being hindered by injury and the Ospreys allowed him to spend the end of last season with Wasps.
But Edwards believes he will be a key figure with the Dragons and is also delighted that his Wales Under-20s teammates Jack Dixon, Jon Evans and Ieuan Jones will return to Rodney Parade from South Africa with a spring in their step.
“Tom is one of the most talented players that I have worked with and there is still plenty of development to come,” said the head coach.
“I think there has had to be something of a rebuilding job with him after everything he has been through, despite only being 20. He is showing his class and I think he will be a real hit here next season.
“And it’s terrific for all Jack, Jon and Ieuan to have experienced what they have in the tournament so far.
“They have beaten New Zealand and not many Welshman can say that, whatever the level.”
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