Nicky Smith is part of the Wales U20 squad setting off for New Zealand
Wales U20s prop Nicky Smith has hailed the influence of his Ospreys team-mates after enjoying a breakthrough season.
The loose-head's impressive performances in his 10 Ospreys appearances this term hasn't gone unnoticed by his regional and international coaches alike.
He will be on the plane to New Zealand with his country today as they gear up for the Junior World Championships, which kick off on June 2.
And there was more joy for Smith after Ospreys boss Steve Tandy handed the 20-year-old a three year contract at the Liberty Stadium, with Smith immediately praising the current crop of Wales senior stars for the part they have played in his development.
"The likes of Alun Wyn (Jones), Ian Evans and Adam Jones are guys that are happy to give you a hand," said Smith.
"Duncan Jones is another one who's really helped me through as he's the same position as me. He has a lot of time for me and they've all been brilliant."
Smith admitted it had been a 'shock' to have had so many chances in the Ospreys' matchday squad this year but he is now hoping for more of the same next season as he looks to kick on after a busy summer.
"I've been happy with how the season has gone, it's been a bit of a shock but I'm really pleased with everything," added Smith.
"I'm shocked at the opportunities I've had. I didn't expect them to be honest and then I got the contract so it's all been a big shock, but I'm chuffed and delighted by it.
"The key is to be patient and that's really what I was looking for - to keep knocking on that door. So to have the opportunity so early is great and I've been delighted with it."
Comparisons have been drawn with mentors Adam and Duncan Jones and the two Nickys, Smith and Thomas, who have both impressed this season and may line up alongside each other for Wales in Auckland next month, with Smith understandably hopeful of hitting similar heights to the hair bear duo.
"It's a bit of a coincidence that Nicky Thomas and myself are coming through at the same time like Adam and Duncan Jones did.
"If we can get anywhere near what they've done then it will be fantastic. I've got no plans to grow my hair though, I would get lots of abuse!"
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.