Wales Under-18s Coach Chris Horsman has spoken about his excitement about the next crop of youngsters coming through – as five young Dragons look to impress in South Africa.
Academy aces Ben Carter, Jake Morgan, Carrick McDonough, Ollie Howard and Morgan Richards have all jetted out to represent Dragons.
Wales Under-18s face matches with South African Schools and France Under-18s over the next two weeks and Horsman knows performance and development are everything.
“The trip to Stellenbosch is not just about playing against South Africa and France, but the block of time it affords us with the players. It’s all about forging those high performance behaviours,” said Horsman.
“Yes we want to go out to perform and win, but ultimately this trip will give us the opportunity to work with the players and embed behavioural changes in a bid to get them to understand what it’s like to be a professional rugby player.”
The annual summer visit to South Africa has given a number of senior internationals the chance to test themselves against aspiring young professionals from some of the biggest rugby playing nations in the world.
No fewer than 15 players who have been to South Africa since 2012 have graduated into Warren Gatland’s senior team.
This year’s team kick-off against the South African Schools team on Friday (August 9) and four days later will meet South African Schools A. They complete their trip with a game against France on August 17.
“The exciting part of the job is when you turn a player who hasn’t got a professional contract into somebody who has,” admitted Horsman.
“There are only two differences from playing age grade and international rugby and that is time and space. It’s a development pathway, not a cul de sac, and all the players are made very clear about what is needed to become an international player.
“This year I’ve made a big play on personal as well as rugby development with this group so they can understand high performance behaviours.
“There are lots of tactical and technical requirements to becoming an international player, but that’s all underpinned by high performance behaviours.
“When you look at any international player or athlete, the way they carry themselves or behave is the thing that separates them from the rest.”
Wales U18 Squad:
Full Backs: Dan John (Exiles), Jake Morgan (Dragons)
Wings: Carrick McDonough (Dragons), Jake Thomas (Cardiff Blues)
Centres: Morgan Richards (Dragons), Mason Grady (Cardiff Blues), Joe Hawkins (Ospreys), Bradley Roderick (Ospreys)
Outside halves: Ben Burnell (Cardiff Blues), Tom Matthews (Northampton)
Scrum halves: Luke Davies (Scarlets), Ethan Lloyd (Cardiff Blues)
Props: Theo Bevacqua (Harlequins), Archie Griffin (Bath), Lewys Jones (Ospreys), Kieran Stevens (Ospreys)
Hookers: Oliver Burrows (Ospreys), Rhodri King (Scarlets)
Second rows: Ben Carter (Dragons), James Fender (Ospreys), Rhys Thomas (Ospreys), Christ Tshiunza (Exeter Chiefs)
Back rows: Ollie Howard (Dragons), Travis Huntley (Ospreys), Alex Mann (Cardiff Blues), Peter Vickers (Wasps)
There are only two differences from playing age grade and international rugby and that is time and space...