WALES defence coach Byron Hayward has heaped praise on Dragons boss Dean Ryan for his role in Taine Basham’s rapid rise to the senior national squad.

Uncapped Basham was one of eight Dragons in a party of 35 picked by Wayne Pivac ahead of the New Zealander’s first match in charge of Wales next Saturday against the Barbarians in Cardiff.

Ex-Ebbw Vale, Pontypool, Newport, Newbridge and Abertillery fly-half Hayward worked with Wales U20s at this summer’s World Championship, a tournament Basham missed through injury.

Blaina-raised Hayward got to see what the back-rower was all about before the 20-year-old snapped a tendon in his finger during a pre-championship warm-up against South Africa.

He was impressed by what he saw then, and the former amateur boxer has been pleased with Basham’s (pictured below) development since Ryan’s arrival at Rodney Parade.

South Wales Argus:

“Because I was going with the U20s to the World Cup I had watched them play South Africa in a friendly and Taine played, so I’ve known about him for a while,” said Hayward, 50.

“He’s obviously a very explosive and very exciting young player.

“I was looking forward to him going to the World Cup but he snapped a tendon in his finger so he couldn’t go.

“I was a bit disappointed we didn’t get to see him in the World Cup. I’d spent time with him, getting to know him as a person.

“He’s one of many youngsters we’ve been watching and keeping our eye on.

“He seems to be going in a forward direction very quickly and is accelerating in his growth, and I think that’s credit to Dean and what he’s doing at the Dragons.

“He’s allowing him to express himself, which a lot of the players at the Dragons are, so that’s credit to Dean (pictured below), and to Taine as well.”

South Wales Argus:

Basham only turned 20 earlier this month, but Hayward says the new Wales coaching set-up aren’t concerned about age when blooding young talent.

“We certainly believe that age is just a number,” he added.

“If somebody has got the credentials and they can cope with the strain at this level, because the demands are very tough on the boys, then they will be here.”

Hayward also paid tribute to the Dragons, who he previously worked with as part of the region’s academy.

He said: “The Dragons have always produced some unbelievable young players.

“I was in the academy there 12 or 13 years ago and they had some great young players come through. Toby (Faletau) came through when I was there and Lewis Evans, who is still playing now, was in that group.

“Credit to Ashton Hewitt (another uncapped Dragons player in the Wales squad) as well, he’s been going really well this season, and hopefully he can stay injury-free, get a good run and an opportunity.”