It was Ospreys who unearthed a gem during last year’s Under-20 Six Nations, with Keelan Giles coming to the fore and making a name for himself in a historic first-ever Welsh Grand Slam at that level.
And it looks like Jason Strange’s Wales Under-20 have done it again, this time with Scarlets flyer Ryan Conbeer finishing in acrobatic fashion during a 27-5 win away to their Italian counterparts.
Cardiff Blues’ Rhys Carre and Ospreys Kieran Williams both crossed in a mature performance from Strange’s men, while No. 10 Ben Jones knocked over two penalties and three conversions for the Welsh youngsters.
But it was Conbeer who stole the show and earned himself a development contract with the Scarlets, moving up from the academy in the summer.
A precocious talent:
Pembrokeshire winger Conbeer only turned 18 on Sunday, but has already made his fair share of headlines this year.
First, with a searing try for Scarlets under-18s that had people comparing the young Scarlet to Leinster and Ireland great Brian O’Driscoll – mimicking the centre’s magnificent step on Wallabies full-back Chris Latham for The British & Irish Lions back in 2001.
@WalesRugby only 40 yards longer!!!!!
— Brian O’Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) January 8, 2016
And secondly, by becoming one of the youngest-ever Scarlets first-XV players, starting on the wing at 17-years-old in a 44-21 victory over Premiership side Bath in the Anglo-Welsh Cup in November.
That’s not to mention the four tries that he’s scored for Llanelli RFC in the Welsh Principality Premiership this year, with Jon Daniels, Scarlets general manager of rugby, revealing that it was becoming hard to ignore the youngster’s talent at a regional level.
“His talent has been clear to see from a very young age and his time within the Scarlets’ academy has given Ryan an opportunity to concentrate on his holistic development alongside progressing his rugby career.
“We may not have the player numbers of other nations but Ryan is another example of the talented players that exist within our rugby community here in Wales.
“Ryan has taken a big step forward this year but he knows as well as anybody that there’s a long journey ahead, however if he keeps working hard and progressing the way he has been he could be entertaining the Scarlets crowd for years to come.”
With Wales leading 13-5 up in an attritional clash at the Stadio Giovanni Mari, Conbeer received the ball in heavy traffic and with the Italian cover defence rapidly covering in attempt to push him into touch.
And from a spectator’s perspective, that looked a likely destination for Conbeer, but he obviously had different ideas.
The youngster shrugged off Massimo Cioffi’s attempted tackle, and then somehow eluded flanker Lorenzo Masselli’s clutches, touching down in the corner just before any part of his body landed in touch.
Though Wales would win the game handsomely, it was a crucial try and broke the back of Italy’s resistance, showing that the youngster has a heart for the big occasion and in the soggy conditions it’s a surprise he could get off the mark at all.
Ospreys also saw young flanker and captain Will Jones seal man of the match following a dogged shift on the openside that lay the foundations for an eighth consecutive Under-20s Six Nations win for Wales.
A proud tradition:
Wales seem to have always been blessed out wide, with George North, Alex Cuthbert, Conbeer’s fellow scarlet Steff Evans, Giles and Hallam Amos all starring on a regular basis, and the likes of Ospreys great Shane Williams, Lions stars Gerald Davies and JJ Williams flummoxing defences over the years.
— Scarlets (@scarlets_rugby) February 8, 2017
Osprey Giles has continued his rapid trajectory, scoring seven tries in his first four European Rugby Challenge Cup games and earning a call-up to the senior Wales squad less than a year after wowing for the Under-20 side.
After former Tenby RFC youngster Conbeer earned his reward for a fine season to date with a Scarlets development contract that ensures he will move into the senior squad this summer, he admitted breaking into Wayne Pivac’s first XV remained top of his to do list.
“This season has been a great learning curve for me from training with the senior squad, making my senior debut for the Scarlets, being named in the Under 20s squad and making my Six Nations debut on Friday night,” he said.
“I have already learned a lot in the time that I have been a part of the Scarlets and I look forward to having the opportunity next season to continue my development with the senior squad.
“Having grown up in West Wales playing for the Scarlets is something that I’ve always aspired to and hopefully I’ll have more opportunities in the future.”
And if Conbeer’s showings so far this season are anything to go by then more opportunities are sure to crop up sooner rather than later.
What’s more, in Evans and Johnny McNicholl, Conbeer can count on some superb role models at Scarlets to aid what looks to be a rapid and exciting development.
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017, 27th May, Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Ticket Information: Fans can still avail of an exclusive number of €30 tickets. Book via www.ticketmaster.ie. Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final