9:32am Thursday 29th May 2014
HIS Cross Keys coaches liken him to Toulon ace Steffon Armitage but Wales Under-20s openside Scott Matthews' idol comes from closer to home, writes Chris Kirwan.
The 20-year-old flanker has caught the eye in this season with a series of dynamic displays for the Principality Premiership and Swalec Cup runners-up and was named as the league's newcomer of the year.
Powerful with ball in hand and hard to shift at the breakdown, Matthews is a wrecking ball back row forward.
It's no surprise that Keys coaches Greg Woods and Jonathan Westwood to comment on similarities to England back row forward Armitage because of his frame and appetite for collisions.
But Matthews' idol is a slightly more polished, crafty performer that won 100 caps for Wales and toured Australia, New Zealand and South Africa with the Lions.
"I grew up watching Martyn Williams and he was a brilliant openside," said Matthews. "He wasn't the biggest of players but he was so smart and made things happen for those around him. That's the way I'd like to be."
Matthews, who is from New Tredegar and came through the ranks with Penallta, will be a key figure for the Under-20s as they bid to maintain their fine record at the Junior World Championship.
The Welsh youngsters finished third in 2012 and second last year and the flanker, who is one of 12 Dragons in the 28-strong squad, is bullish about their chances of another fine showing.
"We have a lot to live up to after the last two years but we have great coaches and are a tight squad, so we believe we can do well," he said.
"Everyone plays for each other in this squad and that will be important in New Zealand because we are in a tough group.
"It's going to be hard with three group games in nine days; Fiji won't be easy and we know how hard Ireland will be after the Six Nations while France are Grand Slam champions.
"But we know that we can beat them all if we get our heads down, work as a team and play to our potential.
"We are excited by the challenge and there's no better place to go and play rugby than New Zealand."
Wales kick off their campaign against Fiji in the early hours of Monday morning.
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