Almost a year ago, I chronicled the journey of two young scrumhalves and their attempts to further their careers. At that point, Rhodri Williams was a few short months out from starting in Wales's Junior World Cup march to the final, had started two Heineken Cup games for Scarlets scoring two tries in their impressive unbeaten start to European rugby, and was justly rewarded with a place in Warren Gatland's international squad. Conversely, Kieran Marmion, despite an extra year out from U20 level, had started a full year for Connacht in the Heineken Cup and Pro 12 was not part of Joe Schmidt's 41 man squad announced for 2013's end of year tests.
What a difference a year makes eh?
Since that time, Marmion participated in every game for Connacht, eventually forcing his way into Ireland squads and finally being capped against Argentina this summer. There is no doubting that the Marmion of October 2014 is a better player than the October 2013 version. His slow rise has come about through the benefit of playing consistently against top level players in the Heineken Cup and Pro 12, and getting better coaching, both from increased resources at Connacht, and the meticulous attention to detail of Joe Schmidt, and his own dedication and extra training that he undergoes on a weekly basis.
Marmion is fully deserving of a place in Ireland's squad, and will be pushing for a matchday spot. But what of Rhodri Williams? Williams made his Welsh debut against Tonga that November, coming on as a replacement. That is where the rise finished however. Williams lost his Scarlets place to first, Gareth Davies, and then Aled Davies being relegated to 3rd choice Scarlet's scrumhalf. Gareth Davies was in fantastic form, finishing as the league's top try scorer. Rhodri Williams however, only made a handful of Pro12 starts from then on, with all of his remaining Heineken Cup appearances coming as a sub, much like the majority of his Pro 12 caps last season. He did manage to make Wales's 6 Nations squad, and has a grand total of 3 replacement caps for Wales.
Despite Williams's fall in Scarlets, Gatland curiously continues to pick him, although he may now get his chance given that both of the Davies's in Scarlet's ranks are now injured.
So I ask the question again? Is is better to throw young players in the deep end, or is their development better suited to easing them into it?
To read the original article click here, and note that other players mentioned have also had interesting years. Tom Prydie is back in the Wales squad, James Coughlan is now in Pro D2, Aaron Cruden has had recent disciplinary problems, Victor Vito is now back in the New Zealand squad ahead of Steven Luatua while Scotland's Mark Bennett had a dreadful season, but is now shining after another year's experience. Danny Cipriani was denied his place in the England squad today, although he has been included in the previous year, while Kurtley Beale is in even more trouble with the ARU.
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