Richard Hodges reckons the rise of Seb Davies is the perfect example of perseverance with young talent in academy structures.
The second-row has enjoyed a memorable few days at Cardiff Blues – playing a part in an historic European victory over Toulouse, signing his first senior contract and earning selection to Wales’ autumn squad.
But it has not always been plain sailing for the 21-year-old, who by his own admission required a kick up the backside to fulfil his potential.
On several occasions last season Davies was subjected to some tough talking from his coaches but it had the desired effect and since the light switched, he has not looked back.
Hodges has played a pivotal role in the development of Davies and he has been delighted with his transformation in the last six months.
He said: “It’s been a bit of a rocky road at times during his development and at times last year we questioned whether or not he would make that final step.
“We have had some fraught meetings at, a few home truths laid out on the table. His first year post Under-20s was probably the most difficult and we were pushing hard to get him selected in the Premiership.
“But I remember then going to watch him play for Cardiff RFC versus Cross Keys and the following week he got the chance with the Blues and he has flown from there.
“He’s a very laid back individual and that probably carried over into our program for too long but his diligence as a professional has just gone through the roof since the back end of last season.
We set him some targets around February/March, which he had to meet otherwise we may have had to reassess things but he more than hit those targets and has just pushed on and on.
“Previously he didn’t understand his athletic ability and how big, quick and powerful he can become but he is realising that now.
“It’s a great example of how academy programs have highs and lows for individuals. It is about understanding there will be some trauma on the way and it’s about supporting the player through that.”
Davies is just one of several academy products currently taking the step into senior rugby and impressing at Cardiff Blues.
More than half of the current squad have come through the region’s pathway and the Cardiff-born powerhouse has followed in the footsteps of Rhun Williams and Corey Domachowski in putting pen to paper on a senior contract.
Hodges continued: “It is a huge boost that we’ve managed to keep hold of him because there was interest inside and outside of Wales, with some top European clubs. We had to fight off some interest and it’s a great statement that he’s here.
“You look at the likes of Rhun, Corey Dom and a few more we hope to get sorted in the next couple of weeks, there is a very bright future if we can keep bringing them through and retaining them.”
Davies displayed that potential off the bench as Cardiff Blues triumphed at the Stade Ernest Wallon for the first time.
Once again, Davies’ physicality, athleticism and ball-handling ability came to the fore and Hodges believes his earlier days of playing outside centre set him apart as a second-row.
He added: “The impact he had off the bench against Toulouse was fantastic. He has those stand out moments in games because he has a skill set over that of a typical lock yet he is also able to do all the dark arts – the scrummaging, the lifting, the aerial ability.
“He was an outside centre when we first got our hands on him but in conjunction with Coleg y Cymoedd he was moved to second-row.
“The art of being a lock is not that of a centre so he’s had to learn that as well. It’s been a tough learning curve at times.
“It’s all really progressing and he has a long future for the region and also Wales if he continues as he is.”