Thu, Mar 18, 2010 - Page 18 News List

Teenager Tom Prydie poised to be new pride of Wales

AFP , CARDIFF

Teenager Tom Prydie may have been “shaking with shock” when he found out he would be making Welsh rugby history, but fellow wing Shane Williams reckons a new “superstar” has been discovered.

Prydie, at the age of 18 years and 15 days, will become Wales’ youngest Test player when he faces Italy at the Millennium Stadium in the Six Nations in Cardiff on Saturday.

Now Prydie is set to eclipse England’s Mathew Tait as the Six Nations’ youngest participant and break a Welsh record that has stood since 1888, when Cardiff wing Norman Biggs made his debut aged 18 years and 50 days.

It was widely expected that coach Warren Gatland would make changes for the final match of what has been a disappointing Six Nations for Wales following last weekend’s 27-12 defeat by defending champions Ireland in Dublin.

Few foresaw Prydie’s call-up, least of all the Ospreys back himself.

“We had training this [Tuesday] morning, Warren called all the boys in just as they do at every session and normally I’m just at the back, not really taking any notice,” Prydie recalled. “My name was called out, but I didn’t really hear properly. Byrnie [Lee Byrne] was stamping on my foot and nudging me and I didn’t really know what he was doing and he told me I was playing on the right wing.”

“I couldn’t really believe it, I was shaking it was such a shock,” Prydie said.

“It’s gone a bit quick this year, from my 17th to 18th birthday I’m flying. I signed a contract with the Ospreys, selected in the Welsh squad and now playing on the weekend it’s flown by, I’d have thought the next step was the Under-20s after this,” he said.

But Prydie, now in the senior team in place of the dropped Leigh Halfpenny, is relishing the prospect of his first cap after just two appearances for the Ospreys.

“Since I was a kid I always wanted to play for Wales as any kid does,” he said. “I’ve grown up watching players like Shane Williams, Stephen Jones and James Hook.”

“I’ll try and keep my head down until the end of the week and focus on the game and knowing my roles and get used to it, get myself up to scratch with everything and hope it goes well, but it’s only my first cap,” he said.

Williams, the star of the current Wales side, said: “He’s a young lad who has got all the talent to be a great player, a superstar even.

“He is an athlete and he works hard, not only in training, but off the field learning moves and calls. He’s very professional,” Williams said. “You have only got to watch him — he is so full of confidence, it’s scary. I wish I was half as confident as him at that age.”

“If I was 17 or 18 and just been told I was going to play for Wales, I would be doing cartwheels all day long, but he seems to take it in his stride. He’s very chilled and relaxed,” he said. “I hope he takes his chance and has plenty more chances in the future.”

Meanwhile Gatland said he was looking forward to seeing how Prydie, one of five changes from last weekend, fared in a Wales team that can now finish no higher than fourth in this Six Nations.

“We are not sure if Leigh Halfpenny is going to be able to tour [New Zealand] this summer [he may need an operation], and we also need to look at our options for the future and find someone to push the incumbents for the World Cup next year,” Gatland said. “Tom is the fastest player in the squad, he can play at full-back as well as on the wing and he is not afraid to tackle, so we will see how he goes.”

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