The Scarlets head coach is the first to admit that when he was at former club London Irish, the Premiership outfit used to target the Scarlets academy for potential new recruits. Steve Shingler was one success for the Exiles, while more senior pros Andrew Fenby and Rob McCusker also joined them.
These days Delaney is amazed at the quality of the young players who are on the verge of breaking into his senior squad. The former Canterbury and Highlanders coach believes there is some serious talent coming through the ranks at Parc Y Scarlets as part of an exciting new generation of Scarlets.
“The one thing we used to do in England was take players from the Scarlets because they were so good. We were constantly grabbing guys because they always had wonderful talent,” said Delaney.
“They are a little bit similar to Kiwi kids in that they grow up with a ball in their hands because football is not as prevalent here. The further east you go there is more football, so there are kids kicking the ball around rather than passing one.
“The skillset of the players here has always been really good. When you’ve got players who have got talent and skill who want to play for the club, that’s a pretty powerful combination.”
One young man who is already making a name for himself is Wales U20 second row Morgan Jones, whose last-gasp tackle on Ben Spencer in their recent Champions Cup victory at Bath won them the game. With the great Alun Wyn Jones coming towards the end of his career, Wales are in need of powerful second rows and Delaney believes the future is bright for the former Leicester Tigers academy member.
“We are really proud of what he’s done to date, but we know there’s a long way to go so we hope he keeps improving,” said Delaney when asked about Jones’ potential.
“He’s got a pretty good mentor in Richard Kelly, who is working with him on line-outs, and Ben Franks on the defensive stuff and the scrummaging aspect. I would say people are more aware of him now so it gets tougher.
“You come out of that cloak of anonymity and announce yourself to the game. It makes people go ‘Who is that?’
“I remember the great English lock Martin Johnson talking about the day he had against Dave Baldwin up at Sale. He wasn’t someone he thought would give it to him, but it was the hardest game of his career up until that point.
“Those lessons are going to come along for Morgan all the time. I’m really delighted with how he’s performing and coming on to run the line-out for 70 odd minutes against some seasoned England players against Bath was a massive step forward.”
Jones isn’t the only player Delaney is excited about with Wales age grade stars Jac Morgan, Jac Price, Harri O’Connor, Sam Costelow, Joe Roberts and Osian Knott all coming through the Scarlets ranks. Delaney is also getting ready to unleash 19 stone Carwyn Tuipulotu into professional rugby.
“Athletically Carwyn is phenomenal and we feel a real responsibility to him and his compatriots in that age bracket that they all have the best opportunity to progress,” he said.
“He’s not far off. One of the plans we had with Sione Kalamafoni coming to the club was to provide a bit of mentorship from a man who understands how to train and how to be an ultimate professional.
“He’s a young man in a big man’s body. It’s about making sure we do the right thing by him so he can become the player that we all hope he will be.
“We don’t want that element of potential to be the enemy of his development. There is a huge amount of optimism surrounding these players.”