As pre-season preparations step up a gear with the new campaign now just weeks away, one young Osprey has been handed the chance to step up and train with the senior squad throughout the summer.
17 year-old fullback Tom Prydie has spent the last few weeks working hard alongside the core group at the region's Llandarcy HQ, under the watchful eye of Director of Coaching Scott Johnson and his coaches, where he has made a positive impression on observers during his first real taste of life as a full Osprey.
With another year at Porthcawl High School still ahead of him, Prydie is definitely making the most of his school holidays, as he embarks on a career that will hopefully see him graduate into a fully-fledged Osprey over the coming seasons.
Speaking about the decision to invite the youngster to train with the core group over the summer, and the impact he has made, Scott Johnson said: "I'd heard a lot about him, so with it being the school holidays it seemed like a good time to invite him in for a few weeks to see what he's about, and I've been pleasantly surprised. As coaches, you can't put in what God left out, and it's fair to say that he stood at the front of the queue when physical attributes were being given out. He's got incredible pace and is a great athlete who looks to have a bright future ahead of him.
"He has really settled well in with the senior group and hasn't been overawed in any way, which is a very positive indication of his maturity. Without wanting to put any undue pressure on him at a young age, although his birth certificate says he's 17, physically, he has shown that he's able to compete with men and that is a great start. If you're good enough, you're old enough, and the kid has got a head start. We just need to make sure that we give him the tools to make the most of it. His development pathway has been mapped out, and to support his development he will play initially for Bridgend RFC. He'll be heading back to school in the new term, but I'm sure, on what we've seen of him so far, that we'll see a lot more of him throughout the season."
He rose to attention as a member of the junior section at Bridgend Athletic, and he also represented Bridgend at Schools and District levels. Named in the Welsh Under-16 squad during 2007/08 only for injury to rule him out, he was then called into last season's Under-18 Wales team, earning five caps and scoring 62 points. Away from rugby, he has also shone in athletics, competing regularly as a sprinter in the Welsh Schools Athletics competition. Having represented the Ospreys at age-grade level, Prydie was handed a full-time Academy contract in summer 2008, and has now been training as part of the Academy programme for over a year, where he has benefited from one-to-one technical work, specialised conditioning programmes as well as lifestyle, educational, psychological and nutritional support.
Reflecting on the experience gained with the senior squad, Prydie commented: "It's going really well, I'm really enjoying it, it's been a good experience for me. In the first week of pre-season, Scott Johnson spoke to me and told me he wanted me to move up to the senior squad for one or two weeks so that he could see what I could do.
"I've been told that there are no expectations on me for the season, just to keep doing what I'm doing and to make sure I learn from the experiences I'm getting. Being part of the pre-season with the senior side is fantastic for me and it's given me a real taste of what I want to achieve, but I realise there's a lot of hard work ahead of me. I'm playing for Bridgend this season so I'm going to get some experience under my belt at the next level. Beyond that, the target is to maybe get some game time in the Magners League or the Anglo-Welsh Cup towards the end of the season once I've shown what I can do.
"I know there's a long way to go, so all I'm concentrating on is enjoying this experience for what it is. The senior boys have been brilliant with me, they welcomed me in and made sure that I settled in, and now, they treat me as one of them. There's no special treatment or easing off with me because I'm young, it's full on, I have to play a full part in training and I'm loving it.
"It's a very different way of training to what I've used to in the Academy, where you don't really train as one team working towards playing together, as you train all week and then go and play for different sides at the end of it, age grade, Premiership or whatever. You are training as individuals, looking to improve your skills and understanding of the game and move up to the senior side, but here thereis a different focus and it makes it that much harder, but it's definitely helping me to improve."
Gruff Rees, Ospreys Skills Coach, has worked closely with Prydie over the last few seasons, and he added:"Tom is really single minded in his approach to his training and playing, like most players who succeed he knows that hard work must complement the talent he so clearly possesses. However, he is also a very level-headed individual who has managed to balance his rugby and school commitments really well with fantastic support from his parents. As a fullback he is in the modern mould with a strong running ability, high level of all round kicking skills and a growing understanding of his positional requirements; He has showed up well in Osprey sessions but, to his credit, knows that he needs to strive for continuous improvement as he makes the transition to senior rugby."
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.