After enjoying his first ever taste of life as part of the senior Welsh squad over the last two months, Ospreys teenager Tom Prydie has said that he doesn't want to just be remembered as Wales' youngest ever international.
The former Porthcawl High School was just 18 years and 25 days when he pulled on the Welsh jersey his debut in Saturday's win over Italy at the Millennium Stadium, smashing the record of the previous youngest full cap, Norman Biggs, who was 25 days older when he made his debut over 120 years previous. The landmark occasion was just the latest in a season of firsts for the young wing/fullback, who in his debut season has already become the youngest player to feature in the Heineken Cup and the youngest ever try scorer in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
As he returns to the Ospreys this week, Prydie says that while he's enjoyed what has been a meteoric rise to international rugby, he is well aware of the hard work in front of him if he is to establish himself in the game over the coming seasons:
"This time last year I didn't even expect to be part of the Ospreys squad, never mind achieve everything that I have so far this season" he said.
"It's all been pretty incredible, and the year has flown by for me really, getting better and better as it's gone along. Just being involved with the Ospreys last summer was great. I thought that would be it, so I made sure I enjoyed it as best as I could, and to get some game time out in Viadana and in the LV= Cup was unbelievable. After that, to be selected for the Wales squad in the Six Nations was something else, and to end the competition by being picked for the Italy game really topped it off. If you ask me how I felt when I was told I was picked, I'd have to say I was speechless.
"It was a bit of a home from home in the camp really, there were so many Ospreys players around the place and I've got used to that environment over the last six or eight months. It wasn't too much of a step into the wilderness and I knew a lot of the squad, I didn't feel that I was going into a strange environment. It was a good place to be for me personally, it was the next stage of my development. It was a great experience, if I never get the chance again I'll never forget it and I realise how fortunate I am. To actually be picked to play against Italy was just great. All the boys had said to me that you never forget your first cap, but it just flew by, it felt like it was only 20 minutes long.
"I knew that they would try and target me early on, I'm only 18, but I was able to get a few hits in which was good, and although I didn't have too much of the ball, hopefully I did okay."
Having risen to prominence over the last few months, Prydie could be forgiven for getting carried way with himself, but he insists there is no danger of that happening:
"It's not difficult to keep your feet on the ground, there are plenty of people around me who will stop me getting carried away with myself. The coaches and the players won't allow that to happen, and to be honest, I realise that I've got a long way to go yet before I can say I've achieved anything. Coming back here and joining up with the Ospreys again, that much is clear. I'm part of the squad, but I realise that people like Shane, Tommy and Nikki are in front of me and if I want to be playing then I've got to reach the standards they set week-in, week out. There's still a long way to go yet, definitely, but I'm looking forward to the future.
"Okay, yes, I'm the youngest Welsh cap, but if I don't get my head down and work hard, that's all I'll be and I won't be remembered for anything else. That's not what I want, so I realise that I've still got a lot of hard work in front of me. Between now and the rest of the season I just want to get my head down and play as much rugby as I can, be it for Swansea, the Ospreys or Wales U18's. I'm looking forward to be involved at that level, it's definitely not a step down for me, it's an honour to be selected to represent your country and I'm looking forward to playing with my mates who I've grown up playing rugby with over the last few years."
The latest talent off the Ospreys production line to be handed his full cap, Prydie believes that the environment at the region is designed to produce quality young Welsh players.
"The Ospreys track record in developing players speaks for itself" he added.
"The system here obviously works well, when you look at boys like Dan Biggar, James Hook, Ian Evans and Alun Wyn Jones, who have all been developed here and come through to be capped as full Welsh internationals, and Kristian Phillips was in the squad with me as well. That's not even thinking about the players who make up the bulk of the Ospreys squad and have come through the system. They're a good advert for what the region is trying to do, I don't think there's anywhere better for a young player to come through and learn the game."
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