Where there's a Will there's a way
A quick glance at the Dragons back three these days reveals a plethora of young talent and it’s easy to see why the Dean Ryan revolution at Rodney Parade is gathering pace.
Across the positions, the young guns are starting to fire with the likes of Taine Basham and Harrison Keddie stepping things up another level since Ryan came on board.
The men of Gwent are clearly on an upward trajectory with fly half Sam Davies’ pinpoint left boot steering them to victory time and again.
Newly-signed centre Nick Tompkins and winger Jonah Holmes will certainly add to that whilst new backs coach Gordon Ross, who has joined forces with Barry Maddocks, will also be licking his lips at the potential already residing in the back three – perhaps none more so than Will Talbot-Davies.
Long road to the top
After a debut all the way back in 2016 in front of 18,750 supporters against Leicester Tigers in the Anglo-Welsh Cup – alongside a certain Leon Brown, who has gone on to full Wales honours – the full-back has had to bide his time to get regular first team game time at the Dragons.
He has been busy though, with full Wales Sevens international honours including World Cup appearances in California in the summer of 2018, and an ongoing law degree at Cardiff Met.
Considering that he was born in Solihull, England and brought up in the West Midlands, and only spotted via the Wales Exiles programme, it has been something of an unlikely journey.
But finally, the 22-year-old appears to be getting his chance to shine under Ryan.
His first of two tries this campaign came in the European Challenge Cup against Russian side Enisei back in November – a well-taken score after Arwel Robson’s initial incision – but it is not just Talbot-Davies’ finishing that stands out.
At 6ft 3in tall, and after adding muscle to what was a wiry teenage frame, he has already proved over the past 12 months that he is ready for the rough and tumble of the senior game.
Of course, the competition for spots in the back three at the Dragons remains fierce as Jordan Williams may well be considered the first-choice 15 now he’s returned from a knee injury, while the likes of Holmes, Jared Rosser, Dafydd Howells, Ashton Hewitt, Own Jenkins, Rio Dyer and even young Carwyn Penny will be in the back-three rotation.
That competition meant Talbot-Davies initially deputised on the wing in the first half of the 2019-20 campaign – as his first Guinness PRO14 start of the season came in the No.14 shirt against Zebre, while that Enisei try also came out wide.
But once Williams hurt his knee, Talbot-Davies got a run in the team at full-back and didn’t look back – improving with every passing game just before and after Christmas, culminating in a second try just before lockdown in the defeat to Benetton Rugby.
He has already made a joint career high 11 appearances for Dragons so far this season and on recent evidence, there is still plenty more to come for a man only just starting to tap into his talent.
The speed from the Sevens circuit remains in good working order, as the man himself admitted last year.
“As long as I am on the pitch I am happy,” said Talbot-Davies. “I have always thought of myself as a 15 but then I went away with the Sevens and have probably got that extra yard of pace.”
Although not short of pace, he is more of a direct runner from 15 than Williams and after signing a new two-year deal at Rodney Parade at the start of May, he is ready to kick on.
The youngster will probably be pleased to hear that he has a back in the form of his director of rugby.
“Will stepped up and did a good job for us,” said Ryan. “He became more settled in the side and you could see with every game he was growing in confidence.”
If he can continue to get game-time once rugby restarts and continue to show progression, then that confidence could yet go through the roof for Talbot-Davies.
Guinness PRO14 Next Gen Series brought to you by Macron..