When the Six Nations kicked off for 2016, pundits were predicting the rising stars in Welsh rugby union. With more than a dozen to choose from, it looked like a bumper year for Wales. Here are just some of the names that were picked out for prominence in the top tournaments to come:
Scarlets players: Jack Condy, Steff Evans, Tom Phillips.
Cardiff Blues players: Tomos Williams (voted best newcomer in the 2014/15 season), Dillon Lewis, Aled Summerhill.
Dragons Players: Leon Brown (Principality Welsh Premiership player of the month in November 2015), Ollie Griffiths (previously the youngest captain ever for Newport, he has also led the U-20s as captain), Harrison Keddie, Rowan Jenkins, Ashton Hewitt, George Gasson.
Ospreys players: Rory Thornton (captained Wales U-20 team), Olly Cracknell, Scott Otten.
As with all sports, the players’ future will only be assured as long as they remain injury free and there isn’t too much competition following hard on their heels.
Simon Thomas of Walesonline.co.uk looked back at the young hopefuls from the previous year who had suffered knockbacks in their careers, despite having been hailed as the rising stars of their time. Ross Jones, Tom Prydie, Cory Allen, Jack Dixon, Eli Walker, Matthew Morgan, Tom Habberfield, Rob Evans, Kirby Myhill, Samson Lee, Rhodri Hughes, Matthew Screech, Luke Hamilton, Ellis Jenkins and Dan Baker were all highlighted as talent to watch for the future.
Some of these have fallen early, either plagued by injury or unable to maintain the standards required to play at national level; however, others have gone on to forge successful careers with professional teams at club level.
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Rugby union is a hard contact sport.
Injuries are inevitable. Sometimes it is possible to come back from these setbacks but, unfortunately, sometimes these young men’s hopes and dreams are crushed. This does not stop youngsters from wanting to be the best they can and striving to play for their country.
No matter which of the up-and-coming players are out on the pitch in the coming weeks, it goes without saying that each one has worked their hardest to be there and will wear their nation’s colours with pride.