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‘He can definitely be an international rugby player!’ Gifted Welsh youngster backed for big things after tough summer

Sonny Bill Williams once pronounced that a skilled sailor was not made in smooth waters.

It might be a line for Welsh youngster Tom Rogers to be encouraged by after a summer when the 22-year-old would surely have learned a lot.

His opening two Tests for Wales were not easy.

The first saw him have to contend with Canada wing Kainoa Lloyd, comfortably the Canucks’ best player on the day, who fairly hurtled about the Principality Stadium pitch, leaving opponents in his vapour stream.

In his second outing, against Argentina, Wales were smashed up front, Rogers conceded three turnovers and a pass went to ground.

His inexperience showed, especially in defence.

That said, his new coach at the Scarlets, Dwayne Peel, is in no doubt that the rapid back-three man from Camarthen, who has previously been compared with a young Liam Williams, can put the challenging events of June down to experience.

“Definitely,” agreed Peel.

“With Tom, you have to consider that he hasn’t played that much rugby for us.

“Last term was his breakthrough season.

“We’re delighted that he had the opportunity to play for Wales, but he’s a young man who’s still learning the game.

“But athletically he’s very, very gifted.

“It’s about learning the detail and learning his craft around both the attacking and defensive sides of the game. We’ve had those conversations and he fully acknowledges that as well.

“There’s a long way to go, but he definitely has the attributes to be an international rugby player.”

Peel is right about it all happening in a blur for Rogers.

In 2017 the Cefneithin RFC product was playing for Tumble against Fishguard and Goodwick. A Scarlets debut followed, then time on the sevens circuit, before an eye-catching 2020-21 ended in his Wales summons.

In between all that, Rogers endured rejection when he was left out of the Wales U20s squad for the Junior World Championship in 2018.

He could easily have allowed the setback to plunge him into a world of self-doubt.

Instead, he simply tried harder.

And that is the way it has been since.

Scarlets coach Dai Flanagan is on record as saying that during lockdown, Rogers invested in himself by building a gym in his garage, spending his own money.

Physically, he improved dramatically, becoming stronger, faster and fitter.

The results were evident in the way he scored a superb try against Connacht in March, leaving opposition full-back John Porch for dead with one of the most devastating steps of the season. Just maybe Porch is still looking for Rogers.

And the west Walian isn’t short of courage.

Like Liam Williams, he is adept at achieving turnovers and he doesn’t shirk tackles.



Tom Rogers of Wales is tackled by Bautista Delguy of Argentina

The summer Tests showed, though, that his concentration can waver along with his on-pitch awareness. Those are areas he needs to put right. But he’s still new to that level of rugby.

Facing Argentina after just 18 regional appearances is a challenge that would daunt most.

But those who know Rogers insist he is made of the right stuff. A year ago, a Wales international told this writer about him: “My guess is he’ll be an international over the next couple of years.

“He’s young and every time he’s hit a bump in the road in his career so far he’s come back stronger.

“He reminds me a bit of Liam Williams in that he’s tall, fit, strong and has great skills.

“If he gets a chance with the Scarlets, he’ll take it.”

He did take his chance with the Scarlets.

The Test call came sooner than the chap in question suggested.

But if he’s right about Rogers’ resilience, there’s every chance more caps will follow.

Patience. That’s all that’s needed.

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