Matthew Rees’s injury and Ken Owens’s World Cup call-up meant teenage hooker Kirby Myhill was fast-tracked into first-team rugby at the Scarlets this autumn, sharing the No 2 jersey with Emyr Phillips. And the Wales U20 player has risen magnificently to the challenge.
Picked out by national U20 coach Richard Webster as a “hard-working, talented player”, Myhill has impressed Scarlets boss Nigel Davies too: “He needs to work on his technical aspects but his all-round rugby ability is exciting.”
It’s hardly surprising that parts of Myhill’s game need work. At just 19, he’s only been playing hooker for a couple of years, having switched from the back row at U18 level at the suggestion of Scarlets Academy manager Kevin George.
Myhill’s uncle, Mark Perego, won nine caps at flanker for Wales in the early 1990s and his younger brother Torin played for Wales U16 last season. Kirby learned his rugby at Burry Port and Coleg Sir Gâr, then turned out for the Scarlets and Wales at U16 and U18 level.
Last season he made his Scarlets debut off the bench and played half-a-dozen games for Llanelli, but this season he has been with the region’s first team full-time.
Senior team-mates like the injured Rees have been a big help and Davies hopes he will make the most of it. “Players need role models and he’s got a Lion in Matthew Rees. You don’t become a Lion by chance. It’s talent but a lot of hard work too and he can learn that from Matthew.”
Rugby World Verdict: A good attitude will ensure Myhill makes the most of his talent. Katie Field
Naming a 30-man squad to take to the World Cup is no mean feat. Deciding how many players to take to cover each position is an exact science, and inevitably some players will feel unlucky to miss the cut. Versatility is a great asset when numbers are tight, and 20-year-old Joe Launchbury is showing he has that quality at Wasps this season.
The sports science student made a handful of second-row appearances for the English club last season, and signed a three-year deal in May. But due to injuries to Joe Worsley and Tom Rees, his services this season have been required in the back row and he has become a regular on coach Dai Young’s team sheet.
Launchbury was also part of the England U20 team that got to the final of the Junior World Championship in June, where he formed a terrific lock pairing with Quins’ Charlie Matthews. Such was Launchbury’s dogged durability that his team-mates voted him England’s Player of the Tournament.
Rob Hoadley, Wasps assistant coach, says the club took a punt on the former Christ’s Hospital pupil that has paid off. “Joe didn’t come through our academy system, he was an unknown sent to us by (ex-Wasp) Will Green from Worthing,” he says. “Joe’s stood up to every challenge he’s been given. He’s got a great work-rate, good skills, and he carries hard, a real class operator. Joe also has massive ambitions.”
Learning from the likes of Richard Birkett and Ross Filipo will help Launchbury to move up the ranks.
Rugby World Verdict: With such talent and ambition Launchbury has 2015 on his radar. Bea Asprey
This article appeared in the December 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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