Sam Parry is about to start a new stage in his rugby career so Bill Carne popped out to chat to the Welsh under 20s hooker who has just signed a new four year contract with the Ospreys . . .

OVER the past few years Sam Parry has become one of Pembrokeshire’s better known rugby exports because the tough as teak hooker has been making a name for himself with the Gwent Dragons and now faces the excitement of a new challenge since he has signed a new four-year contract with another Welsh region in the Ospreys.

Sam was a special guest at the Pembrokeshire Junior Finals day and presented some of the trophies to the county’s current crop of aspiring players, happy to help out after he had been in exactly the same place a few seasons before.

Sam is now 22 and hails from Haverfordwest, where he set out in rugby, and has since played for Wales at under 16 and under 20 level – and has been called up for pre-tour training with the Welsh senior squad at their special training centre in the Vale of Glamorgan to show that he has since attracted attention at the highest level.

He received a call up by e-mail prior to the Welsh tour to Japan and spent almost two weeks at the superb WRU facilities in the Vale of Glamorgan

“It was great just to be involved,” said Sam, and the senior players and coaching staff were brilliant. Robin McBride was in charge for the sessions because Warren Gatland was with the Lions, and I learned loads during my stay there.”

Sam was also called up again before the Six Nations competition, this time with Messrs Gatland and Sean Edwards back in the fold.”I had a smashing week,” Sam told us, “and although Sean Edwards is quiet he has a real rugby brain and gave me good advice – and I can tell you that Warren Gatland really knows his stuff, too!”

It all seems a long time since Sam started out his rugby at Merlins Bridge when he was only seven under the watchful eye of Jeff Thomas and carried on there until he played No 8 for Haverfordwest under 14s when they beat their counterparts from Whitland by 14-10 in the Junior Finals day of that era.

“I played county rugby from under 11 to 15 with Ken Davies as a very good coach, playing alongside quality players like James Davies, Rob Evans and Luke Hamilton, as another part of my learning curve.”

As he continued to gain in experience Sam played for the Welsh under 16s after attending trials, and they took on Rumania, Scotland and England in a round-robin competition at Millfield School, beating the first two but losing out to a strong England team.

Sam joined the likes of Rob Evans and David O’Leary with Haverfordwest for one season, coached by Tim Parry, but then attended Coleg Si Gar to pursue his studies and his rugby career.

“Luke Hamilton (ex-Blues) was in the side there with me, plus Aled Davies and Samson Lee from the Scarlets, and in the two years I was there we won the Welsh and British Colleges Cup Finals, and just missed out on the Rosslyn Park Sevens for our age group.”

It was whilst at Coleg Sir Gar that Sam was converted to hooker when he played for Llandovery – and hasn’t looked back since. He scored 16 tries for Llandovery in the Welsh Premiership and says it was very physical but no faster than college rugby.

From there it was off to the Dragons and he soon settled in well under coaches Darren Edwards and Rob Appleyard, another Pembrokeshire man doing well ‘up the line’.

“I joined the Dragons at the same time as Nathan Williams (Milford Haven) and I made my first team debut against Bath at Rodney Parade LV Cup.

“They were a very good team and we lost, “Sam told us, “and I knew it was another step up in terms of playing quality rugby.

I played four matches that season and the highlight was our home win over the Blues.”

Sam had 24 games last season and without doubt the biggest occasion was playing on the so-called ‘Judgement Day’.

“There was a big crowd at the Millennium Stadium and with the Blues playing the Ospreys we took on the Scarlets in the other match.

“We lost to the Scarlets and we were naturally disappointed – but I had big consolation from the fact that it was at that time I was called into the Welsh squad!”

Throughout his time in rugby, Sam has been very lucky to have total family support.

“My dad Stephen and mum Julie have been brilliant,” he said, “and I’m very grateful for all that they have done – both have been the best taxi drivers in the world!”

Sam’s brother Thomas also plays rugby, for Haverfordwest, and the family is completed by younger brother Lewis and sister Grace.

His rugby education continued when he was selected for the Welsh under 20s, playing against England at Parc y Scarlets but losing; winning away in Scotland, drawing with Ireland back in Llanelli – and then losing in France towards the end of the campaign.

“It was a thrill to walk out in my Welsh jersey and for me it would be perfect if I could complete my collection with a senior cup to go with the others.”

In the season just completed Sam played another 20 matches for the Dragons and he celebrated his 50th match against Zebre in Italy in an exciting 25-all draw.

And now it is off to the Ospreys for next season with a four-year contract and a fresh challenge in the front row. He will be vying with Scott Baldwin for the No 2 shirt but is ready for what lies ahead because he enjoys training and will be pushing to move up another step in Welsh Rugby at the Liberty Stadium.

“It is a great place to play rugby and I can’t wait for training to begin again.”

Rugby lovers in Pembrokeshire share that view and they will be keeping a close eye on how Sam goes with his new club. We at the Western Telegraph are looking forward to seeing Sam Parry play a few games with the Ospreys, firm in the conviction that we are going to hear a great deal more about this talented young hooker from our county in the next few years!