Thomas Young set to complete journey from mascot to Wales starter in Cardiff

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Thomas Young will play his first game at the Principality Stadium on Sunday – 20 years after running out in Cardiff as a mascot.

The Wasps flanker helped celebrate his father Dai’s 50th Wales cap in 2001 by accompanying him on to the pitch against Ireland as a nine-year-old alongside brothers Owen and Lewis.

On Sunday against Fiji, though, it will be the real deal for Young, whose three previous Wales appearances were in Auckland, Apia and Rome.

Italy v Wales – Guinness Six Nations – Stadio Olimpico
Thomas Young in action for Wales against Italy in 2019 (Steve Paston/PA)

“I have obviously been there to watch games, but I’ve never played there,” he said. “I think I trained on the pitch once, maybe.

“I have never played there, not even at club level. My cousin has played there more than me, and he doesn’t let me live that down, so hopefully this weekend he can stop talking about it!

“I remember the noise of running out – that sticks in the memory, for sure.”

Young’s appearance in the Wales back-row this weekend would have been considered highly improbable only a few weeks ago.

As a Wales player plying his trade in England who has not won 60 caps or more, Young could not be considered for selection under Welsh Rugby Union selection policy.

But a move to Cardiff was then announced for next season, and Wales head coach Wayne Pivac gained dispensation to select him in his Autumn Nations Series squad.

“A month ago, I probably thought it wasn’t on the cards,” added Young, of his Wales selection.

“I obviously knew the situation I would be in when I re-signed at Wasps. But, as frustrating as it was, I had to get my head around it and get on with it.

Wales v Argentina – Summer Series 2021 – Principality Stadium
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac (Ashley Western/PA)

“Everyone says it that everyone wants to play for their country, growing up. I knew staying in England that I couldn’t do that.

“It is up to me now to try and take my opportunity. I am over the moon, if I am honest.

“Like I say, a month ago I wouldn’t have expected this to happen. I am really excited about it, and I just want to make sure that I take the opportunity as best I can.”

Young’s last Wales game was in the 2019 Six Nations against Italy, but consistently outstanding displays for Wasps meant he did not disappear from Pivac’s radar.

And the 29-year-old now has a clear road ahead to challenge for 2023 World Cup recognition, albeit in a hotly-contested area of the back-row, where Pivac has numerous options when everyone is fit.

“I have been there (Wasps) for eight years and kind of grown up there, so I’ve got a lot of friends and a lot of respect for everyone at the club,” Young said.

“I have been there that long now, I have developed there. It will be tough to leave, but it is something I had to do.

“Over the last eight or nine years where I have been at Wasps, I’ve been constantly learning, with that league and how tough it is.

“I have been fortunate to play with players from all around the world and pick up bits and bobs from them. It has definitely benefited me.

“I am at a stage where if I didn’t decide to come back (to Wales) it would be a missed opportunity, I think.”

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