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TRT takes positives from opening day defeat to defending champions

Pathway | 27th August 2019

T Rhys Thomas believes his side can take positives from the opening Celtic Cup defeat to Leinster A, as they prepare to take on Ulster A on Saturday in Belfast.

The defending champions from Dublin travelled to the Welsh capital last weekend, and produced a ruthless attacking display to seal a 47-28 victory at the Arms Park.

Wales’ Capital Region responded in the second half to cross for four tries of their own, with Edd Howley and Barney Nightingale adding to Cam Lewis’ brace, but it wasn’t enough for the hosts.

Thomas, who is joint head coach of Cardiff Blues A alongside Gethin Jenkins, says the opening 40 minutes proved the difference but believes he learnt a lot about his group of players on Saturday.

The former Wales hooker said: “Their under-20s have been together a long time, and that was the spine of their A team, and Leinster manage to keep churning the talent out of their system.

“The first half was really frustrating to watch, with the way they carried, their physicality, getting over the gain-line and their speed of ball, and they just kept on coming.

“But as the game went on, we grew into it and we got the answers regarding certain players in certain positions that we wanted, and we can use the game as a positive.

“What I want to come out of this is seeing the positives from Leinster’s point-of-view and being able to learn from their model.

“From a coaching point-of-view, we’re given an opportunity to work with senior players who drop down, as well as the promising youngsters we work with day-in, day-out.

“It all comes together, and it’s an added pressure, which I enjoy. I enjoy being at my home region, and it’s a great tool for coaches, as well as the players, to develop on a personal level.”

With a number of Cardiff Blues stars on international duty ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan next month, a number of the region’s top youngsters have stepped into the senior set-up on a full time basis.

The 27-times capped international, who is also a coach with the Cardiff Blues academy, admits this is a challenge for his Celtic Cup squad, but believes it is a successful example of the region’s  policy of developing from within.

Thomas added: “During the week we play against Dragons A [Saturday, September 7], which is the third game of the campaign, we’ll probably see the seniors having more of a say in who plays, hopefully. 

“We’re very much aware of the senior side having the priority, which as they should do.

“Last year, we had a few more higher-end academy boys involved like Ben Thomas, Max Llewellyn and Rhys Carre.

“But since then they’ve progressed up, they’ve done well which is what you want from this competition, and that’s the model you want.

“You’ve got the likes of Alun Lawrence, who has had a very good pre season, and Ben Thomas who are on the cusp of the first team, while Will Davies King went ok against Leinster on the weekend. 

“But those boys, because of the nature of the beast during a World Cup year, have gone up rather than drop down.

“In Wales it’s nice to see that, but maybe it means we need to look further from within and also on the Premiership level.

“Evan [Yardley] has been stand-out in the Premiership for four years with RGC, and he needed his chance but fitness is another thing, and these boys might not have been used to the intensity that Leinster played out there.”