Exciting talent Kristian Phillips has secured his first professional contract with the Ospreys.
The Ospreys have moved to secure the futures of two of the brightest young talents in the Welsh game, signing Academy players Ashley Beck and Kristian Phillips on their first professional contracts.
Beck, a centre, has signed a three-year deal that ties him to the region until the end of the 2011-12 season, while winger Phillips has committed himself to the Ospreys until 2013. Both players have risen through the age-grade ranks at the region, and were initially handed their first Academy contracts in January 2007.
The homegrown duo, both aged 19, are regulars in the Wales Under-20 squad, and have already gained Magners League experience with the Ospreys.
Phillips holds the record for the youngest ever play to start a Magners League match, aged 17 years and 250 days when he faced Connacht for the Ospreys in May 2008, a game in which he also became the youngest ever Magners League try scorer.
For his part, Beck is the youngest ever player to feature in a Magners League game having come off the bench at the Liberty Stadium against Leinster in November 2007, aged just 17 years and 222 days.
Phillips has so far made six appearances in an Ospreys shirt, scoring two tries, while Beck has played seven times, with his first start coming as a replacement in Munster at the end of last season. The pair have also caught the eye in the Welsh Premiership over the last 18 months with Aberavon (Beck) and Neath (Phillips).
Phillips commented: "I'm delighted that the Ospreys have given me the opportunity to further my career here for the next four years. I'm still young, still gaining in experience and learning the game, and hopefully, I'll get some game time in the coming months to show what I can do for the Ospreys.
"Things are going pretty well for me at the moment and it's a real positive boost for me that the Ospreys want to keep me here for the next four years. I had an injury last season (dislocated shoulder) that halted my progress but I've been playing regularly in the Premiership and I'm enjoying my rugby. The next challenge for me will be to be selected for the Anglo Welsh games that are coming up and hopefully I can build on that. There are some great wingers here, working with international players and British Lions can only help me with my development in the long run.
"It's a great place to learn the game, the system that is in place here is second to none and is geared towards developing local young players for both the Ospreys and the international set-up. I know I'm in the right place as a youngster coming through as the Ospreys have a good record for developing players, so with my new contract, I'm pretty excited about the future."
Beck added: "I'm landed to have a new contract, to be a part of something like the Ospreys is fantastic and I'm just really pleased that they want me here for the next three years. People seem to think that I'm older than I am because I played my first game so young and I've been playing in the Premiership with Aberavon, but with this contract it means that I've got some time to make the step up and make an impact.
"The set-up at the Ospreys is brilliant, with the number of players that have come through the ranks to play for the senior side there's no better place for a young Welsh player to be if they want to achieve their full potential, and obviously, I want to work with the coaches here to achieve that.
"There are some great players here in my position, that's the best thing about being at the Ospreys, I can learn from people like James Hook, Andrew Bishop, Sonny Parker and Tommy Bowe, and then there are younger players like Jonathan Spratt and Gareth Owen, I can only be a better player for working with them. In a few years, I'd like to be able to think that I could follow in their footsteps and become a regular with the Ospreys."
Speaking about Beck and Phillips, Ospreys Head Coach, Sean Holley, said: "Having monitored the pair of them since they were just 13 or 14, I'm delighted that they have progressed with their careers to this stage, and have been rewarded with their first professional contracts. They have shown their potential in the Welsh Premiership over recent seasons where they have adapted well to the step-up from the age-grade game and consistently been two of the best performers in the competition, and have already had good exposure to next level of the game with the Ospreys.
"We are extremely proud of our outstanding record for identifying and developing young local talent here at the Ospreys, and Ashley and Kristian are the latest example of us providing opportunities to youngsters to represent their home region. This is just the first step on the ladder to a career in professional rugby for the two of them, who are two of a crop of talented backline players that we hope will become the next generation of Ospreys."
The Half a Game initiative is currently sweeping across Wales and proving a major success. The scheme aims to give every young player at least half a game every weekend. WRU TV recently visited a festival in Narberth where clubs have fully embraced the initiative.
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