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Rhys Carre . . . And The Cheesy Tale Of His Wales’ World Cup Selection

Rhys Carre is the phantom cheese monster of the Wales squad who intends to give other props a right grilling at the World Cup.

Phantom, because as the 21-year-old is quick to point out, the legend of his cheddar gorging crumbles a bit under the harsh spotlight of truth.

Carre dropped a massive 10kg in weight this summer while training with Wales for the first time before his debut against Ireland in the third of the four pre-tournament warm-up Tests.

The rumour in the Wales squad was a weakness for cheese, but Carre insists the story was crackers.

The cheesy accusation was spread, he says, by his former Cardiff Blues clubmate, Owen Lane – the wing who just missed out on squad selection after he also spent the summer in the extended national squad.

“It’s not actually true,” says Carre. “It was a rumour, put about quite randomly by my house-mate, Owen Lane, but it seems to have stuck, though, for some reason.

“I’m not fussed on cheese, but I was carrying a bit of extra timber when I came into camp.

“I think it actually helps when you come into camp heavier. You start to drop weight and see the effect of the training.

“I worked with the strength and conditioning coaches and the dieticians and they sorted my diet out, plus I’ve been working really hard for a few weeks.

“Training in Switzerland and Turkey was really tough. You never get an easy ride.”

Cheese or otherwise, coach Warren Gatland reckons Carre will leave other props in a pickle which he why he has come from nowhere ahead of the more experienced Rob Evans and Samson Lee.

He admits his inclusion in the final group of 31 who leave for Japan on Wednesday was not something he was expecting or even felt ready for.

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The former Wales U20s star – who controversially chose to leave the Blues earlier this year and join Saracens – always regarded himself as an outsider to make the tournament.

“When I realised I had been named, I was so shocked that I started shaking,” says the forward who first played alongside Lane when the pair represented Cardiff U13s.

“I just couldn’t take it in. I was a big bag of mixed emotions. But Gats has said a few times after sessions that I’ve trained well so that’s always good to hear as a player and a big bonus.”

As well as shifting almost a stone-and-a-half in total – Carre is now a trim 20-stones, compared to his previous 21-and-a-half stones – the former Blues man will soon have to adjust further with his move from Welsh regional rugby to the English club game.

He admits he had to think long and hard before leaving his home town – a decision that provoked plenty of debate.

Had Carre already earned just a single Wales cap, then his switch would have put him out of contention for the World Cup, or any further Wales selections, as he would have fallen foul of the 60-cap rule.

As it was, his non-selection at Test level meant he was able to make the move to the European champions without it affecting his Test prospects.

But after just three starts for the Blues before the Saracens approach, he admits: “It was a big decision for me to move to Saracens.

“But the experience on offer was being with the best club in Europe.

“I knew it would prove a big learning curve, but it just felt like such a fantastic opportunity that I couldn’t turn it down.

“When I signed for Saracens I was never expecting to be in a warm-up squad let alone to be going on the plane. I’m still trying to take it all in day by day and keep my head down.”

The gamble that Carre took when he chose to start the coming domestic season with Sarries, was echoed by that of Gatland in his selection hunch.

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But the New Zealander has viewed a rough diamond that he believes he can polish to a shine over the next few weeks at the tournament.

“I’ve just seen someone who has come in, had his eyes opened and the progress that he has made over 13 weeks is phenomenal, says Gatland.

“I just think that over the next six weeks he will only get better and go from strength to strength.

“It’s about the fact that he has taken part in every training session and we have seen some huge improvement, so that if he is called upon he can do a job for us.

“He is going to make mistakes but if a guy comes in at 138kgs and is really struggling and by the end of Turkey he is beating the other props in terms of fitness then you have to take your hat off to him.

“He’s got some engine on him and he’s explosive when he carries the ball. Sometimes, you take a little bit of a risk because you think someone can do a job for you when they’re called upon.

“He might make a mistake, but sometimes that risk is potentially worth looking at.

“We’re confident that if we continue to work with Rhys he’ll get better from week to week.”


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