In a new series for the Cardiff Rugby Life I will be having a look at some of the next generation ready to rise through the ranks and grace Cardiff Arms Park, starting with Rhys Carre.
Recently turned 20, the loosehead prop is already a physical specimen of a man, standing at 6ft3 and weighing over 20 stone. That size has seen him selected to play for Cardiff Blues U16s and U18s, as well as Wales U18s, while completing his education at Cowbridge Comprehensive.
Now full-time in the transitional squad at Cardiff Blues, Carre has made five Anglo-Welsh Cup appearances thus far in his career, mainly playing for Cardiff RFC at club level to further his development. It has been in 14 Wales U20 caps that the Cardiff-born player has really turned heads though.
Nailing down the loosehead jersey in the national age grade team a year early, his scrummaging was his most notable asset, but there is a more rounded side to his game that will no doubt make Carre a key asset for both the Blues and Wales as the years go on.
Despite being a man of significant bulk, Carre still retains mobility that most prop forwards would kill for, and as such is a key carrying weapon in midfield.
The first clip is just sheer power, as Carre bumps off the Leicester player in the Anglo-Welsh Cup back in January, but the second and third clips from the U20s advertise is blend of strength and mobility perfectly.
Jumping off the floor and gaining crucial extra metres, and rolling out of one tackle to get over the gainline, both carries set up good attacking opportunities, turning fairly slow phases into high tempo attacks. Having that option from a front rower as well as the usual back rowers is an asset for any rugby side.
It also means Carre is an option at set piece time, taking the workload off the back row and giving defences another carrier to think about.
Both the second and third clips are almost identical moves off the top of the lineout, with Carre coming round the corner and beating the first man on both occasions, taking the attack into the opposition 22. Good front foot ball to play from, and another example of the prop’s mobility as he rolls away from the first tackle in the final clip.
His utilisation as part of an exit strategy in the first clip is particularly useful, with the three Irish defenders having to watch two runners, and then Carre using his power to pretty much life the fly-half off his feet. An easy clearance for the scrum-half then.
That example of Carre on the shoulder of the ball carrier also links in with the fact that he’s a weapon in attack even without touching the ball.
Running a crash ball line off a flat standing fly-half, Carre is a huge carrying threat, as he busts through the Irish defensive line here. The line and pace that he runs means defenders have to be set early on to even get close to making a tackle on the prop.
As a result of this, Rhys Carre is a superb option as the dummy runner for a screen pass out the back. On both occasions in the Leicester game he comes at pace off a flat fly-half, fixing defenders and creating space for the playmaker and out wide.
Although Cardiff Blues don’t make any real headway on either occasion, the space created out wide is his work through a committed dummy line, and in the fact that the defenders know what a dangerous ball carrier he is.
The dummy running is not the only way Carre has an impact on the offensive game without putting his hands on the ball though, as he does some excellent work on the ground.
The first clip is particularly effective as he moves the Exeter player, who has had time to set himself up over the ball, with a textbook clearout.
On the other hand the second clip is smarter in that Carre realises he won’t be able to push the Leicester player off the ball, so shifts his body weight to roll him away. Latching onto the jackal under the arms avoids any risk of a neck roll, and the ball is free to be played.
Of course, that strength serves Carre well in defence, as he provides a formidable tackling force through his power, coupled with a solid tackling technique.
Three successful tackles, all of which prevent the ball carrier making it over the gainline, and in the case of the second clip, actually bring the attacker down behind the line. A solo blitz that will work very well with the defensive system that Shaun Edwards has devised for Cardiff Blues and Wales.
Although the first two clips are impressive in their success of stopping strong ball carriers, the third clip is the example to focus on, with Carre again combining his power and mobility to shift back to the blindside and, for want of a better word, fling the fly-half back behind the gainline.
Carre is also a smart operator defensively, around the breakdown and set piece, disrupting play on three occasions.
The first clip is just a good old fashioned show of brute force, as he bides his time with Exeter forming the maul, before the first man is turned and the prop can bind on and drive the maul over legally.
However, the second and third clip are more subtle in their approach. In the second clip he makes a nuisance of himself as the referee calls a tackle before scooping the ball back with his foot on the way through. Totally legal, as you are still allowed to use your feet in the ruck, but only to hook the ball back on to your side, and not to boot it away.
Then the third clip is a perfectly timed hit on the scrum-half as he tries to get the ball away from the breakdown. Admittedly the rip is somewhat illegal as the players are on the floor, but even without it the play is still a good one to put England on the back foot, and as it happens he gets away with the rip.
Although there is more to Rhys Carre’s game than the scrummaging, it would be remiss of me not to include some clips of him destroying opposition forward packs when putting together a piece on what sort of player we can expect the prop to be.
All of the clips come from last season’s Wales U20 games against England in the U20 Six Nations and Junior World Championship, where he really announced himself as a future star in the scrum.
Warming up in the U20 Six Nations, Carre puts the England scrum under pressure on their own put-in, before driving through the English tighthead twice on Wales’ ball to secure two penalties.
Then, after toying with England in the JWC to win a kickable penalty, he absolutely destroys the England tighthead from five metres out and ends up over the try line with just the number eight in front of him.
It’s not just sheer power though, the technique is what gives him the platform to drive through a scrum like this. Using his 6ft3 frame, he has quite a long scrummaging style, which holds the scrum steady initially, before the leg drive pins the tighthead’s right shoulder back and forces him up.
With people like Chris Horsman, Duane Goodfield and Gethin Jenkins in and around Rhys Carre, he has the ability to learn from the best and turn his undoubted potential into a top class loosehead prop.
This season will likely still see him learning his trade at Cardiff RFC, and the Junior World Championship this summer will be his last tournament in a Wales U20 jersey, before next season the hard work starts to get into the Cardiff Blues first team.
The likes of Gethin, Rhys Gill, Corey Domachowski and Brad Thyer will provide stern competition, but Rhys Carre has more than enough ability to win the number one jersey. Whatever happens though, the loosehead future at Cardiff Blues is looking very bright.