By his own admission, Rhys Carre was a touch naive when he first burst on the scene, but now he is older and wiser and delivering the goods week-in, week-out.
The powerful Cardiff prop has continued where he left off at the end of last season in terms of his fine form in the United Rugby Championship.
He paved the way for Tomos Williams’ try in the win over the Scarlets with a defence-splitting surge and scoring offload. Then, in Saturday evening’s 31-14 victory over the Dragons, the roles were reversed as he took a pass off scrum-half Williams from a lineout and bulldozed his way to the line, holding off four defenders.
It’s been a timely reminder of just how effective the 17-times capped loosehead can be with ball in hand, with the Wales squad for the autumn internationals to be named on Tuesday.
When Carre was first called up by his country, in the summer of 2019, aged 21, he had started just three regional games. Now, having returned to the Arms Park after a season with Saracens, he has more than 50 appearances for Cardiff under his belt and feels he is in a different place.
“When I was younger, I was a bit naive and thought it would all come on a platter really,” said the 24-year-old Cowbridge product. “There is an adaption period where stepping up from age-grade to seniors is massive. You come up against blokes who are 10, 15 years older than you, who have got a lot more experience.
“For me, it was just learning as quick as I can. It’s taken a few years, but I’m feeling comfortable on the pitch now. I am working hard and learning from my mistakes week-in, week-out. I speak to the coaches and try and see what they want from me and try and apply that on the pitch. I think I am just getting older and playing more games, getting a bit more experience. I think that all helps.”
The 6ft 3ins, 20st 4lbs Carre is in a competitive position when it comes to Wales selection, with Ospreys duo Gareth Thomas and Nicky Smith in the mix along with the Scarlets’ Lions Test starter Wyn Jones. “We have got four international looseheads playing week-in, week-out for the regions. It’s the strongest it’s been for a long time,” he said.
“That decision is out of my hands. I can’t really stress on that. What will happen will happen. I just work hard for Cardiff, work hard for the boys and the coaches here. If the opportunity comes again, I will just hopefully rely on the experience I have gained over the last few years. It is what it is and it will be what it will be. My aim is playing for Cardiff week-in, week out and what comes will come. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
“I am just working hard and trying my best for this club. That’s my main priority. It’s the club that brought me through the pathway and introduced me to the game, so I am just trying to give 100 per cent back to them and see if we can progress further in the league this year.
“Week-in, week-out, I try and play my best for Cardiff, that’s my job. They are my employers, that’s what we are here to do.”
Reflecting on back-to-back derby wins over the Scarlets and Dragons, Carre added: “It was a monumental effort from all the boys last week down in Llanelli and our aim was to back that up. We didn’t want to have a drop off, we wanted to step it up and I think we did that.
“We are working hard for each other and becoming one solid unit. Luckily, I scored and it’s what we work on out on the training park. Winning is what we are here to do and if we keep doing that, that’s the way to go. We have got the Stormers next now at home. We have got to focus on us and apply our game on them. It will be a big week for us.”
Cardiff’s director of rugby Dai Young knows all about propping having packed down at tighthead for Wales and the Lions. Giving his assessment of Carre, he said: “There’s not many better carriers than him, if you are looking for that prop that can carry. We try and get his hands on the ball as much as possible because it’s very rare that he doesn’t break that gainline. I thought he scrummaged well too. He’s put a marker up.”