Rhys Davies will be on a mission to prove a point when he goes straight back into the Ospreys team after being unused by Wales during the autumn Tests.
The 6ft 6in forward features at lock against Connacht in the United Rugby Championship clash in Galway on Friday (7.35pm).
The Swansea-born player will have an extra incentive to deliver after being passed over for a place in a matchday 23 by Wales during their recent internationals. Called up as a squad replacement for the injured Alun Wyn Jones, Davies saw others picked instead as he watched on from the sidelines.
But the hard worker and solid defender has a chance to show what he can do at The Sportsground.
This week he was one of the young players singled out for praise by Ospreys hooker Elvis Taione, who at 38 has seen a lot of talented youngsters come through over the years.
Speaking over Zoom, the 29-cap Tonga international, who played in the 2015 World Cup, was asked about the emerging talent at the Ospreys.
“The first name that comes to mind is Jac Morgan,” he said.
“He’s a key player for us and I’ve been impressed with how he handles and carries himself.
“We have two young locks as well, Will Griffiths and Rhys Davies, who are very good. They always do what’s asked of them by the coach. Whatever role they play, they do it, and do it really well.”
Taione himself is worth a positive mention.
He has been starting for the Ospreys at hooker but he’s a squad man who looks to help out younger players, as well. Filo Tiatia once did the same at the region, putting the team above himself and setting the right example.
Of Taione, Ospreys head Toby Booth said: “He’s contributed as much off the field as he has on. He’s delivered on what he said he would do and he’s a good human being who’s been proactive around the youngsters and proactive around the place in relation to standards.”
Nor is the end remotely in sight for Taione on the pitch. “Physically I feel great,” he said. “Mentally, I still have that fire burning. I’ll be going until I wake up one day and say I can’t do it any more. I’m still enjoying it.”
Asked if he’d still be playing at 40, he laughed: “Never say never, mate. (American football quarterback) Tom Brady is still playing — he’s 44 now. I’m trying to catch him.”
The last line may have been said in jest, but with his strong carrying, cool head and relish for the game, Taione is proving an asset to the Ospreys.
Ospreys’ Elvis Taione is tackled by Dylan Richardson of Sharks
(Image: Ben Evans/Huw Evans Agency)
He packs down alongside Nicky Smith and Tom Botha in the front row, with Bradley Davies partnering Rhys Davies at lock.
There is also a place in midfield for teenager Joe Hawkins alongside Owen Watkin.
Rhys Webb captains the side from scrum-half, with the vastly experienced Stephen Myler at fly-half.
Booth added: “We know it’s all about benchmarking ourselves against the Irish provinces and this is an opportunity to do that.
“Connacht are especially tough at home, play with a passionate crowd and the ground can be quite an intimidating place to go due to its location.
“We know we need to be very good at the basics because that gets you into the game. When you are playing away, that’s the entry point to try to apply some pressure.”
Ospreys : Dan Evans; Max Nagy, Owen Watkin, Joe Hawkins, Luke Morgan; Stephen Myler, Rhys Webb (capt); Nicky Smith, Elvis Taione, Tom Botha, Bradley Davies, Rhys Davies, Sam Cross, Jac Morgan, Ethan Roots.
Replacements: Sam Parry, Gareth Thomas, Rhys Henry, Will Griffiths, Morgan Morris, Reuben Morgan-Williams, Josh Thomas, Cai Evans.