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Welsh rugby’s form giant justifies Gatland’s shock decision three years on from the hype

Some three years after being fast-tracked into the Wales set-up, Rhys Carre is now really repaying the faith shown in him. That’s the verdict of his Cardiff boss Dai Young, who feels the size of the 6ft 3ins, 20st 4lbs prop sets him apart from the crowd.

It was in April 2019 that Carre was included in Warren Gatland’s World Cup training squad after just a handful of regional outings. Making his Test debut against Ireland in the August of that year, he ended up going to Japan and playing in five games during the global tournament, ahead of linking up with European champions Saracens in a high-profile move.

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He has remained a regular fixture in the Welsh squad, taking his tally of caps to 16 amid a return to the Arms Park. But he didn’t feature at all during this season’s Six Nations, with Osprey Gareth Thomas leaping over him in the pecking order to share the loosehead duties with Wyn Jones.

Yet, to his credit, Carre’s response to that demotion has been very impressive. Over the past month, he has been one of the form players in Wales, with the ball carrying power which initially marked him out as such a raw talent really coming to the fore, backed up by some silky offloading skills, while his scrummaging has also caught the eye. He is playing the best rugby of his young life right now.

It all means the 24-year-old is firmly back in the frame for a starting spot on Wales’ summer tour of South Africa, especially with the injury doubt over Wyn Jones following knee surgery. Cardiff director of rugby Young knows a thing or two about propping, so is well placed to give the lowdown on Carre’s recent resurgence.

“To be fair to him, he’s worked hard on his conditioning and on parts of his game,” said the former Lions tighthead. “I felt he was starting to show glimpses before he went to the Six Nations. Obviously he didn’t get any game-time there, which happens. That’s not a criticism, that’s just how it fell really.

“In an ideal world, to carry on playing would have probably been the best thing for Rhys at that time. But, at the end of the day, nobody is going to turn down an opportunity to be part of the Welsh set-up. But when he came back here, he was really keen to get a run of games. He’s had that now and I think he’s starting to repay some of the faith that a lot of people have got in him and I do think there is more to come in him.

“We talk in Wales about not having big men, but he is a genuine big man. Obviously he needs to be conditioned well enough that he can carry that weight and be effective and I think he is starting to show that he can do that. I thought he scrummaged really well against Tomas Francis in the Ospreys game and he is one of the best about. Rhys is progressing and showing maturity in his preparation on and off the field, so I’m really pleased how he is developing.”

Cowbridge product Carre, who signed a contract extension earlier this year, will make his sixth start since the Six Nations and his fourth on the trot when he packs down against the Dragons at Rodney Parade on Friday night.

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