There were a few intrigued eyebrows raised when Rob Page named his squad for Wales’ training camp out in Portugal this week.
Perhaps the name which most caught the eye was young Rubin Colwill, the 19-year-old Cardiff City forward.
Colwill’s season went from strength to strength for the Bluebirds’ under-23s and it culminated in him grabbing his chance with both hands during one of Mick McCarthy’s first few training sessions in January.
“I watched him with the residual from the squad on Wednesday when he trained on Thursday and wow,” McCarthy said of Colwill back in February. “He stood out like a sore thumb.”
He was rewarded when McCarthy handed him his Bluebirds debut against Coventry back in February, before substitute appearances against Derby County and Nottingham Forest followed. But it was in the final three games of the season, all of which he started, when he really began to show what he could do.
He ran confidently with the ball, made smart runs in behind, set up chances and showed a robustness befitting of his 6ft-plus frame, which is certainly a desirable quality at Championship level.
McCarthy’s feeling about the Bluebirds academy product was proved right in those final three fixtures and the youngster is reaping the rewards.
Colwill’s ability to stand out and immediately grab the attention of those around him appeared to translate into Wales’ mini training camp at The Vale last week.
With Premier League players and those involved in the EFL play-offs unavailable, Page and his coaching staff drafted in a few new faces to offer them a chance of showing exactly what they could do.
Once again, Colwill stepped up, snatched his opportunity and booked his place on the plane to Portugal.
Paul Bodin, the Wales under-21 manager, on Tuesday named his squad for their opening under-21 Euro 2023 qualifier against Moldova on Friday, 4 June.
Although Page’s senior camp finishes on May 29, there is still no place for Colwill in Bodin’s squad, which prompted many to question whether the Neath-born forward is in contention for senior side’s clash with France next Wednesday, June 2.
That would represent a massive leap for the talented playmaker, especially with the likes of established internationals Gareth Bale, Harry Wilson, Aaron Ramsey, Jonny Williams, Tyler Roberts and the like also in contention.
And while at this stage it appears unlikely, under-21s boss Bodin did not rule out the possibility of Colwill being involved against the French next week.
“Rubin is a great talent and got great potential, and he’s had a rapid rise in the past few months,” said Bodin. “He’s gone up to the senior squad, which is fully deserved, so he’s in that squad at the moment.
“If things go well, he may stay with them but if he makes the 26 it would be a massive surprise because of the quality that’s there. It’s a fantastic experience for him.
“He could come back into my squad, we could increase the size slightly.
“He’s away at the moment, having a great time and long may that continue. If he’s ready and available for us and he’s not going to be involved with the first team, then he’ll step back in with us.”
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As Bodin says, Colwill’s chances of being included in Page’s final squad for the Euros are slim, especially given Dan James, Brennan Johnson and Josh Sheehan are all unavailable for the current camp.
But there is certainly an outside chance he is emerging as something of a bolter for a spot in the squad, certainly if, touch wood, an injury problem or two occurs ahead of Page’s final announcement.
Cardiff are well represented on this Portugal training camp. Although Will Vaulks missed out once again, Kieffer Moore, Jonny Williams, Mark Harris, Harry Wilson, who has just finished his season-long loan in the Welsh capital, and Colwill are all vying to steer the coaches’ attention in their direction.
All Colwill can do, though, is continue to impress, as he has done at club level and seemingly with the national squad.
Bodin aptly branded Colwill’s rise as rapid, because this season he has shot from nowhere right into the forefront of the collective consciousness of Cardiff City fans.
With Wilson’s loan spell at the club having now ended, Colwill could well have a clear run at that playmaker berth come the start of next season.
Lee Tomlin and Jonny Williams have been plagued by injury demons in recent years. Tomlin is yet to feature under McCarthy while Williams, whose contract is up but is expected to be extended, is yet to set the world alight in a Cardiff City shirt.
Should the Bluebirds fail to land a No.10, which we understand they are indeed trying to do, then it is wholly conceivable that Colwill could begin the season as first choice, given the impressive manner in which he finished the last campaign.
And this recognition with the national side will do his chances no harm whatsoever.