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Davies learning new tricks from old heads at Ospreys

Rhys Davies on the charge for the Ospreys

Davies learning new tricks from old heads at Ospreys

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Rhys Davies followed in the footsteps of Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams in going to Millfield and now he’s looking to fill the boots of another Welsh rugby legend, Alun Wyn Jones.

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The Ospreys second row has enjoyed an excellent first season ‘back home’ after switching from Bath last year. If he can help his side complete the double over the Dragons at the Brewery Field then it could well be enough to clinch a return to the Heineken Champions Cup next season.

Yet even though the 22-year-old Davies is being tipped as a possible long-term successor to the great Alun Wyn Jones for both Ospreys and Wales, he has revealed that only a few years ago he struggled to get into his school XV.

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Having gone to Millfield on a rugby scholarship at the age of 16 the Three Crosses teenager quickly found he needed to work on his game. He took the advice, made the Bath academy, and has since earned rave reviews.

“In my first year at Millfield, I struggled to get into the first team. It’s quite hard to get into that first team,” explained the former Wales U20 cap.

“John Mallett, the head of rugby, told me I had to learn to become resilient and if I didn’t, I’d never get anywhere. I think when I first got there I was taking things a bit too easy. John told me to get my head down and work hard.

“He basically grabbed hold of me and said I needed to take my chance more seriously and that definitely got me on the right track. That’s the thing about Millfield, the ethos is about self-improvement. The facilities and the environment are incredible, but it’s you who has to put in the work to make yourself better. No-one else is going to do it for you.

“The gym there is always open, but no-one books you a slot. You have to organise it yourself and learn to take responsibility. It was a good lesson to learn.”

Having been pointed in the right direction by Mallett, the former Bath and England prop, Davies was ready to respond to other influencers. When he came though Bath’s academy, he was taken under the long protective arm of Luke Charteris, the former Wales second row who was coming towards the end of his playing days before moving into coaching while Davies was in his final year at the West Country club.

Then, since opting to move back home to the Ospreys a year ago, the 6ft 6in former Wales U20 forward has benefitted from the wisdom of three more international second rows – Jones, Bradley Davies and Adam Beard.

In his nine games so far this season in the Guinness Pro14, and two more in the European Challenge Cup, Davies has proved he’s a quick learner.

“Charts (Charteris) pretty much mentored me at Bath. He was brilliant in terms of on and off the field stuff and he pushed for me to get some first team starts. He was just a brilliant role model and when he became a coach, everyone knew their roles and felt 100 per cent clear in what was expected.

“Watching Alun Wyn now at the Ospreys, I’ve learnt that it’s not just about working hard, it’s about working smart – picking up on those little details about what the opposition do.

“Brad works hard on a lot of our line-out preparation and his general outlook is great. You have to have fun and enjoy yourself. That’s crucial and he makes sure we don’t always take things too seriously all the time.”

The Ospreys may have lost last week away to Ulster, but before that they were on a four-match winning streak, which included a 28-20 victory over the Dragons when the teams last met in January.

Davies linked up with Beard in the Ospreys second row that day, while 20-year-old Ben Carter came off the bench for the Gwent region and the two youngsters could again be in opposition at the Brewery Field in Bridgend on Saturday.

“He’s actually a couple of years younger than me, but he’s going really well,” adds Davies of his young Welsh regional rival.

“The Dragons always get themselves up for playing us and this will be just the same. But it’s a good chance for us to cement European rugby for next season, so it’s an important game. We think we should be in Europe’s top competition next season, so this, in a way, is a must win game for us.

“We have a massive amount of respect for the Dragons, though. They have had some good results this season and we know we’ve got to be right on top of our game if we’re going to win.”

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