‘Rising Stars’ has recently been delighted to highlight the success of the talented young rugby players who are making a name for themselves as members of the Scarlets (West) rugby squad and this week Bill Carne has met up with Dan Rawlings, who hails from Hook and plays at inside centre for this team, which has Jonathan Llewhellin as coaching director...

‘Rising Stars’ has recently been delighted to highlight the success of the talented young rugby players who are making a name for themselves as members of the Scarlets (West) rugby squad and there is no doubt that Dan Rawlings is doing very nicely indeed in that squad, which hails from all over West Wales but mainly in our county.

Dan, who lives with his family in Hook, plays at inside centre for this team, which has Jonathan Llewellin as coaching director, and is totally focussed on doing well as he also plays for Haverfordwest Rugby Club at under 16 level and for Tasker Milward School.

He has been involved with the Blues’ Junior Section since he was about eight years old and with encouragement from Mr John Roach, the head teacher of Hook CP School, joined school pals Jonathan Clout and Jordan Frank at the club’s Merlins Bridge headquarters.

All three of them took to it straight away under the watchful eye of Jonathan’s father Jeff, who looked after the team for a while until its running was taken over by coaches Peter Williams and Dai Braithwaite and they stayed together right through until under 16s.

Dan played for Haverfordwest in two losing county finals for his age group against Pembroke Dock Quins, at Neyland, and Crymych on the opposition’s own patch at Parc Lloyd Thomas.

“I also played a year up for the club when we reached the final at Haverfordwest,” Dan told us, “but although we won I missed the final through injury.”

“It was very disappointing but I got picked for the Regional Finals at Parc y Scarlets, where although we lost we played really well and we all learned a lot from it.”

Jeff Clout, who still keeps a careful eye on his protégées, told us,

“Dan represents all that is good in that year group because he is a great credit to his family, his club and county, and as well as being a smashing lad he shows great commitment, rarely misses a game or training session, high skill levels and a willingness to take on board all he is asked.”

High praise indeed from someone who has coached young players for many years and perhaps that is why Dan has also played for the county squad for every age group from under 11 to the present day, alongside other quality players like Hywel Baker (Pembroke Dock Quins), Osian Edwards (Crymych), George Evans and Tom Hughes (Neyland).

Last season saw them play for Pembrokeshire in the Dewar Shield team coached by Jonathan Llewellin and Jonathan Evans and it proved a steep learning curve as they beat sides like Swansea but lost to physically powerful teams like Pontypridd, Rhondda and Cardiff.

“We played Cardiff at the Arms Park, “Dan told us “and although we lost we learned from every one of them and this has held us in good shape for this year’s Scarlets (West) squad.

Dan was particularly pleased to be chosen for that squad after attending trials in Haverfordwest where there were about 50 triallists cut down to the final squad of 28.

The squad is run by Jonathan Llewellin, ably assisted by Jonathan Evans and Barry John, and they form part of the ‘Pembrokeshire Pathways’ scheme where the ultimate aim is to give talented players from our county the chance to achieve their potential, hopefully with the best going on to represent the Scarlets or one of the top Premiership sides like Llanelli or Llandovery, or Championship teams like Narberth.

Dan and Co train at Haverfordwest every Monday evening, with skills and tactical awareness polished on the grass area in the middle of the floodlit athletics track, followed by conditioning work in the Strength Academy Wales gymnasium where they can also benefit from the experience of Simon Roach and Owain Rowlands.

As proof of their commitment to the cause, there is more physical work undertaken on Saturday mornings and luckily Dan enjoys the hard work done there.

“He never gives less than 100%,” said Jonathan Llewellin, “and the effort is paying off because Dan is part of a squad which has already done well.

“He is a good reader of the game, has pace and distributes the ball well so he is on the way. We beat Scarlets (East) by 8-0 in Narberth thanks to a George Evans’ try and penalty by Scott Lloyd – and there will be further chances for Dan to show what he can do.”

Ask Dan about highlights and one of them would undoubtedly be a kicking master class at the Millennium Stadium where he joined Dion Jones (Crymych), Danny Wainwright (Narberth) and Aaron Cookson (Quins), as guests of Blas y Tir in receiving tuition from Lee Halfpenny, Dan Biggar, Rhys Priestland, Rhys Patchell and James Hook.

“My father Dean took me there and I was nervous before we started, Dan admitted, “but it was an amazing day which started with us watching the Welsh squad train and then Ryan Jones called us on to the pitch to meet those great kickers and have them giving us tuition. Unbelievable!”

Dean and mum Julie are Dan’s greatest supporters, along with younger brother Matthew, who played rugby for Llangwm until they couldn’t get a team at his age group – so he now plays football for Haverfordwest Cricket Club.

Dan also enjoys playing in the heart of midfield for Prendergast Villa’s under 16 team coached by Matt Hughes, enjoys cricket at Hook, where he is looked after by Stu Blaxland, Brennan Lay and David Petrie. He’s also represented Taskers at 100 metres and 100 metres relay in the county sports and enjoyed skiing trips – and for his work experience had a great time at Sport Pembrokeshire, where Ben Field and his team looked after him really well.

Ask Dan about his future and it is a fair bet that sport will be involved because he studies the subject at GCSE level and aims to pursue it at ‘A’ Level. He would also like to be chosen for the county at under 18 level for the next two seasons and then see how things go.

There’s one thing for sure – if level headedness, modesty and hard work are the prime factors alongside total commitment and a little luck to stay injury-free then Dan will achieve his aims in the world of rugby union!