Receiving a first call-up to a national side is a moment that no rugby player is likely to forget, and it was a similar tale for Cardiff’s Mason Grady and Teddy Williams, who were included in Wales’ squad for the upcoming 2023 Guinness Six Nations Championship.
The homegrown duo have enjoyed breakthrough campaigns with Cardiff this season, as returning head coach Warren Gatland rewarded the pair for their performances in the blue and black jerseys.
Grady, who bounced back from a serious knee injury suffered in 2021 to establish himself in Dai Young’s squad, admits the call-up came as a surprise but was proud to see the hard work pay off.
“I’m buzzing, it’s come as a real surprise. I didn’t expect to get the call-up to be honest,” said the centre.
“When the boys told me, I thought they were taking the mick, so I’m absolutely buzzing.
“I didn’t even know Teddy made it. That’s class.
“I’ve played with Teddy since Year 12, so to go into that squad with him is unbelievable.
“Growing up as a kid in Wales, this is all you want. I’m super proud, hopefully I’ve done my family proud and hopefully I can get a cap soon.
“I had the right people around me, and I’m thankful to them - the physios, my family and friends. My brother Cory helped me a lot to get through it as well.
“I’d like to thank everyone who helped me to get through that, and hopefully I’ve done them proud.”
Grady and Williams have been team-mates since their teenage years, playing alongside each other for Cardiff’s age grade sides and for Ysgol Glantaf.
Lock Williams was shocked to be named in the squad but was pleased that his hard work for the club has been rewarded.
“I’m just shocked to be honest. It’s come as a surprise for me, but obviously I’m really chuffed
“I was a team meeting at the time, when one of the boys showed me my name in the squad. So yes, as I say it was definitely a shock, but a nice one.
“It was really nice that all the boys came up to me to congratulate me, and a lot of them would’ve experienced this moment in their own careers.
“For me, I’ve been working as hard as I can to get as much game time as possible for Cardiff. That’s been the aim for me this year.
“I’m also really chuffed for Mason. He’s someone who has worked extremely hard after suffering his injury but has bounced back to play extremely well for Cardiff.
“For me, it’s just about keep doing what I’m doing at the moment.”
Both players caught the eye during Sunday’s bonus point win over Newcastle Falcons, which booked Cardiff’s place in the Challenge Cup knockout stages.
Discussing the potential of centre Grady, director of rugby Dai Young said: “If you think back to the last game of last season, when we had our dinner fed to us out in Italy, the starting centres were Max Llewellyn and Mason Grady.
“It’s important that we haven’t chucked all the youngsters in at the same time - unless you have to - and we’ve done a pretty good job this season of drip-feeding them into first team rugby.
“We can then chuck them in when they’re more comfortable, and we’ve done a pretty good job of that with Mason. He looked really comfortable out there on Sunday.
“He’s certainly got the attributes to kick on and be a future international, and anyone who has worked with him in the pathway and with the 20s believes he’s an international in the making.
“He’s obviously got size, but he’s got top end gas as well. He’s also got footwork, and an attitude about him. He’s quite happy to run around somebody as well as run over them, which is a nice attitude to have.
“He works very hard at his game, which is important. He’s always working the little bits like his catch-and-pass skills and decision making.
“We’re really pleased with what he’s showing us. These are the first few starts of many that he’ll have for us in big games.
“He’s also got a great teacher in Rey Lee-Lo, who is more than happy to take him under his wing and help him as much as he can.”
Adding his views on lock Williams, who made his first start for Cardiff on Sunday, Young explained: “Sunday was definitely his best game for us to date. Over the past 12 months, he’s worked very hard.
“We’ve always known he’s got quality and he’s a very good rugby player, but we needed him to develop a bit more physicality for this game.
“He’s not the biggest of second rows, and what we’ve got to remember is that we’re not judging against what we’ve got here, but who we’re playing against.
“When you play the South Africans and Irish sides, they’re really big boys and the first things you’ve got to win are the collisions and physicality.
“The last six months, the work that Teddy has put in to increase his physicality has been outstanding. No one has ever doubted his qualities as a rugby player.
“On Sunday he threw himself about, made a lot of good tackles, a lot of good carries and ran the line-out really well. We were really pleased with his performance and he’s certainly really maturing.
“He’s got the rugby genes, and he’s another that we’ve dripped fed into the team gradually. Sunday was a big start for him and he played really well.”