This week Bill Carne met up with rugby prop Kemsley Mathias as he was training for the forthcoming Six Nations Championship at under 20 level and could see how hard work has brought him deserved recognition at a second age group with Wales . . .

When the Welsh under 20s rugby squad was announced recently it brought great news for Pembrokeshire’s 18-year-old tight-head prop Kemsley Mathias because he is included for the Six Nations competition due to start in February.

Kemsley received the great news from the WRU by e-mail that he was in the squad coached by Chris Horsman and Geraint Lewis to play Scotland at home. Then it was off to The Vale Headquarters for training every day in the week before the internationals began.

It will be Kemsley’s second age-group cap because at under 18 level he represented Wales in South Africa as they played the host country, France and England.

“We stayed there for two weeks and it was an amazing experience on and off the field,” admitted Kemsley, “as we started out with a win over the host country, beat England but lost to a very powerful French side in our final match.

“I wasn’t picked for the game against South Africa but played the whole game against England and was really chuffed when I also grabbed a try, and then had a half as replacement against the French, who were huge but played at a fast pace.

“The atmosphere in our camp was brilliant and I shared a room with Rhys Davies, our loose-head prop from Milford Haven – and the pre-match team talks, running out on the pitch and singing our national anthem will stay with me forever.”

“We trained every day but still had time to visit the British Embassy and some of the sights – and I will never forget our trips to Cape Town Bay and Table Mountain because the scenery was amazing.”

His selection now is due reward for all his hard work in training as a front rower at Carmarthen Quins and he celebrated this great news by playing for Crymych, as part of a dual qualification, in their surprise win over Penallta to reach the last eight of this season’s National Plate competition.

The opposition, from Ystrad Mynach in the Caerphilly area, were the current Plate holders but The Preseli Men, with Kemsley playing with the assurance of a much more experienced player, helped make sure that they weren’t beaten up front and came through 12-7.

It was the third time this season that the young prop from the Haverfordwest area had played for Crymych, having also turned out against Gowerton and Aberystwyth, as well as four matches for Carmarthen Quins after making his debut on the Welsh Premiership against Swansea and also getting some game time against Llanelli, Bridgend and Aberavon.

“I came on as a replacement at Llanelli and we lost, but we beat Aberavon at home, Bridgend at the Brewery Feld and Swansea at St Helens.

“I was eager to start but I was nervous against Llanelli, although I had played there before, but it is great to gain experience in this way and the coaches have been great in their support. It is certainly more physical than I had been used to, and perhaps played at a faster pace, but you adapt to both after a while.”

Kemsley started out in rugby when he was one of the ‘headless chickens’ who chased after the ball in tag rugby with Llangwm RFC before he joined Narberth a year later and stayed with the Otters through to under 16 level, playing at loose-head prop from the outset.

“We had good players like Ryan Conbeer, Harry Phillips and Jack Broadhurst but usually lost in the county age-group finals against Crymych – but we did manage to beat them at under 15 level in the final at Haverfordwest.

“I also played throughout my time at STP School where Jonathan Dodd and Med Richards were good coaches, and from under 16 level onwards I played for the Scarlets (West) team coached by Johnny Llewhellin and Barry John which trained on the grassy area inside the running track at STP School.

“Then I was chosen for the Scarlets’ junior team coached by Paul Fisher and assigned to play for Llandovery and Carmarthen Quins, which was a big step up in terms of pace and physicality but I soon learned to adapt.”

Kemsley would still be able, age wise, to play youth rugby but his involvement at senior level now precludes that; although he enjoyed his involvement with Pembrokeshire Youth when Graham Richards was coach and they became the first county team to make their way to the A League at that level.

It is good to report that Kemsley is a good trainer and he travels to Quins’ training sessions with Sion Colella (Fishguard) and Morgan Griffiths (St Davids) every Tuesday and Thursday evening.

“We train at Cross Hands on Tuesdays where the emphasis is very much on fitness, with loads of full-contact stuff in preparation for match days.

“It’s hard work but on Thursdays there are different challenges as we have some light weight training in the barn at Parc y Scarlets before working at tactical awareness and a look at our game plans for the weekend.

“I also train at the SAW Gym in Haverfordwest as often as time allows and now that I am studying at Trinity St Davids College in Carmarthen I also have access to the gym there, which is great.”

All this effort is paying dividends as he is now feeling very strong at 17 stone 10 lbs as he also watches his diet carefully and makes sure he eats well. To that end he is quick to praise the support of his parents of his parents Richard (who also played prop for Haverfordwest and Pembrokeshire) and Julie (who feeds him well!)

So what of the future for this talented young rugby player?

“My ambition is to try and get as far as I can in the game and I’m not afraid of the hard work needed to get there. I’ve always been ready to listen to good advice, which has paid off so far, and at the moment it’s a matter of looking forward to the next match, trying my best by always giving 100%”.

Watch Kemsley Mathias play and it is clear to see that he does just that and we wish this modest and likeable young man continued success because he deserves it!