Having conquered his life-long ambition of playing for the Scarlets at the start of the season, young Jac Price isn’t letting an ankle injury side-track him from returning to the heart of the engine room in Glenn Delaney’s side.
The 20-year-old lock from Carmarthen has already had to overcome adversity more than once in his fledgling career, two ankle injuries and an enforced return from concussion are just blips on the radar as he plots his return to Parc y Scarlets via Nottingham in the Greene King IPA Championship.
Along with team-mates Shaun Evans and Harri O’Connor, Price linked up with the East Midlands outfit at the beginning of last month on loan to gain some valuable game time.
The results may not have been anything to write home about, with Nottingham yet to record a victory after three games, but Price is confident a change of fortunes isn’t too far away as they prepare to travel to Hartpury this weekend for what is expected to be another tough battle up front.
“There were a lot of new faces in the first couple of weeks and week by week we have been getting better but against Hartpury this weekend I think we will be flying.
“It’s been good here, it’s been nice to get some minutes under the belt – there is a massive difference between normal fitness and match fitness.
“When I first came up here I was looking forward to playing some regular rugby. It’s a good standard and there are a lot of good players in it. It’s been a good couple of weeks. Moving into a new place and meeting new people has also been good and it’s great to have the boys there as well.”
Price was part of a large swathe of young Scarlets who claimed the rare scalp of New Zealand in Argentina in the U20 World Rugby Championship while representing Wales. Kemsley Mathias, Ryan Conbeer, Jac Morgan and second row partner Morgan Jones are just some of that group who have all gone on to play for the Scarlets over the past season.
Leaving age-grade rugby and heading into the unchartered waters of full-time senior regional rugby can be difficult to navigate but Price was determined to make his mark even if the odds were stacked against him.
“There are a lot of players with a lot of appearances for the Scarlets and international honours like Jake Ball, Sam Lousi and Lewis Rawlins so you just try and learn from them – just little things around the set-piece and around the park where you can have one or two tips from them a week and then you try and build your own game from that,” he said.
His diligence paid off with Price earning two appearances in friendlies against the Ospreys and Dragons to earn his spurs before making his Guinness PRO14 debut as a replacement against Edinburgh to ensure his boyhood dream came true. His rapid trajectory after two starts against Zebre and Ulster was then cruelly halted due to an ankle injury but he is delighted his partner in crime Morgan Jones has kicked on to earn headlines for his performances in the Scarlets second row.
“The family has always supported the Scarlets, we’ve always gone down there to support them, so it’s always been a dream to play for them, so it was a dream come true to actually play for them. Going down to watch the Scarlets when you’re younger and then having a chance to play for the club was a massive honour,” he added.
“At the start of the season Morgan and I every week would do the opposition line-outs to run against the team and then all of a sudden we were both playing together for the actual team – obviously he has kicked on and it’s nice to see boys from the U20s going on and doing very well.
“I’m chuffed for Morgan’s progress, we both get on well and help each other out, for instance if I do something wrong he will tell me and vice versa. I think he is taller than me – just about – I’ll give him that. I’m about 6ft 6in and a half on a good day and he is 6ft 7in.”
Price says long term the Scarlets should benefit greatly from giving so many graduates from the Wales U20s a shot at regional rugby so early in their careers.
“We’re all good mates having come through the age grades together and we all sort of made the step up within the year, we’ve all kicked on together really. The Scarlets have given a few boys chances and I think all the boys have taken them and really kicked on, like Jac Morgan, Morgan Jones, Tom Rogers has just come back from injury and has played really well – as long as the boys keep taking their chances it will be good for the future.”