John Hill is held in huge regard by his coaches in the Pembrokeshire under 15 rugby team and so this week Bill Carne spoke to the talented young flanker/centre after a Pembrokeshire training session in Haverfordwest . . .

John Hill is a very talented young rugby player from the Crymych area who is a regular flanker or centre with the Pembrokeshire under 15s team coached by Johnny Llewellin and is following in the family footsteps because, like his father Matthew before him he also plays in the latter position for a very successful team from Ysgol y Preseli and Crymych RFC in their talented junior section which has won the county final in the special play-off day for all age groups from under 12 to the present day.

As county winners with Crymych they have also won the special tournament between all the West Wales areas, held at Parc y Scarlets, every year except one, and with Ysgol y Preseli reached the semi-finals of the Welsh Schools’ Cup for their age group before losing out narrowly to Cowbridge High School at the Gnoll Ground in Neath.

There was also a memorable rugby tour to France with school, where teachers Gethin Vobe and Marc Lloyd looked after them well and the standard of the opposition was high.

“It was great,” admitted John, “and we learnt a lot about playing rugby as well as having an enjoyable time.”

He has also earned the plaudits from coach Llewellin in the sense that he told us,

“John is easily one of the best players I have ever coached in terms of being involved totally and always being ready to listen to good advice and put it into practice. He is 100% committed and a great example for other players to follow.”

High praise indeed from someone who knows his stuff and it is small wonder then that John plays a key role in the ‘Pembrokeshire Pathways’ scheme run by coach Llewellin in his role with the WRU.

“I got involved in Year Nine in a series of rugby festivals and then was in the first squad of 60 players going in to Year Ten. This meant going to a series of trials last May and June where that group was cut down to the final squad of 30.

“We train every Monday evening on the grass pitch inside the running track at STP School and we got into the top eight-ranked teams for the Dewar Shield competition where I played in the back row alongside Lewis Davies (Fishguard) and Gethin Davies (Crymych) against Newport at Heywood Lane in Tenby, which we won.

“I also started the three warm-up matches against Llanelli, Carmarthen and Mynydd Mawr, which we won, and also more recently against a very physical Rhondda side at Neyland, which we were a bit unlucky to lose but still have other chances to move on in the competition.

Outside of his rugby, John is a keen all-round sportsman who plays football for Penparc Juniors in the Ceredigion League as a strong central midfielder and in the summer switches to cricket at Glandy Cross as he plays for Crymych in Pembrokeshire Cricket, sometimes in the first team, with a top score of 30+. It goes without saying that John is also a more than useful fielder with his speed and eye for a ball!

John has also represented his school at cross country and tries to run every day as well as swimming twice a week as part of his fitness regime, enjoys tennis and squash, as well as the odd game of squash when time allows.

Then there are his studies to fit in because John is involved in PE as part of his academic courses and hopes to take the subject at A Level and hopefully go on to university to read Sports Science somewhere like Loughborough or Cardiff Metropolitan.

In all of this he is very lucky to have total support from his family, with dad Matthew still playing the odd game of rugby and regular five a side football, whilst mum Rhian goes to the gym on a regular basis after playing rugby, hockey and netball in her younger days.

Then there’s brother Osian (12) who enjoys rugby, football, cricket and swimming plus sister Elen (9), who is already involved in hockey and swimming.

John started out in the oval ball game when he was seven, alongside Gareth Wilson and Hedd Davies, taking to the tag section of rugby straight away and developing through the age groups from ten until the present day for school, club and county alongside other players of the calibre of Gethin Davies, Alex Varney, Morgan Davies, Hedd James, Jack Davies and Llywelyn Bevan.

He could safely say that he hasn’t played in many defeats throughout his time at Crymych and Ysgol y Preseli but just enjoys being involved in the game, with the ability to mix physical aspect with a tactical reading of the game and high skill levels.

John is modestly reluctant to talk about his own strengths, preferring to say that he knows he has weaknesses to work upon with his coaches, but it seems that the coaches like Johnny Llewellin have already pin-pointed him as one to watch for the future.

Johnny added to his earlier comment by saying,

“John has been the county captain because he shows maturity beyond his years in leading the team and is excellent at organising the team throughout the games after we have had our pre-match input and half time talks.

“His ability to read the game and his natural speed ensures he is regularly first to the break down so that he secures excellent possession,

“He is a natural ball handler from his play in the centre and powerful tackler as a back rower who is always involved in the action.”

That piece of in-depth analysis shows the respect in which John Hill is held by his head coach at Pembrokeshire under 15s and we can only add that we have also been highly impressed watching him playing and working really hard on Monday evening training sessions.

At 15 there is clearly a long way to go but if he can maintain his current rate of progress then we are confident that we are going to hear a great deal more about this modest young feller from the Crymych area in the years to come!