Scarlets stepper Ryan Conbeer takes inspiration from his idol Shane Williams
When Ryan Conbeer reveals his role model is Shane Williams, it all starts to make sense in terms of the way he plays the game.
The young Scarlets winger has been lighting up the BKT United Rugby Championship this season and there have been definite shades of the Great Entertainer in his exploits.
Like Wales’ all-time record try-scorer, Conbeer knows his way to the whitewash, as he showed again last weekend with a well-taken double against the DHL Stormers in Cape Town. He also has Williams’ ability to leave opponents grasping at thin air with his dazzling feet.
The 23-year-old is joint top in the BKT URC for clean breaks (12), level with Edinburgh’s Darcy Graham and the Bulls’ David Kriel, while he is second in terms of defenders beaten (21), just one behind fellow wing Graham. He’s also fourth overall when it comes to metres run (400).
So he’s certainly making his mark in Shane-style, with people increasingly talking about him as a Wales squad contender, which would see him following in the twinkling footsteps of his rugby hero.
“Shane Williams was my idol when I was growing up,” says the 5ft 10ins Conbeer.
“I was always watching him. He obviously wasn’t the biggest of players and neither am I. With his ability to beat people and his speed, I just picked things up off him when I was growing up.”
Born in Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, Conbeer started out with Tenby RFC at around eight years old and then switched to Narberth RFC before linking up with the Scarlets Academy as a teenager.
He made his regional debut against Bath in the Anglo-Welsh Cup in November 2016, aged just 17, going on to mark his PRO14 debut with a stunning solo try against Ulster at the start of the following season. He played in three successive World Championships for Wales U20s and is increasingly fulfilling the potential that saw him win all those age-grade caps.
Over the last year or so, he has established himself as a regular in the Scarlets side, consistently demonstrating that priceless ability to breach the defensive line. He is the classic case of someone who could step you in a phone box.
“As a winger, a lot of the time you get one v ones, so you obviously have to try and beat the defender and deliver go-forward ball on the edge. We do a lot of work on that in training, with attacking drills,” he said.
“It’s amazing having people like Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams playing inside me. They are always happy to help us young boys with anything we can improve on. It is good, especially with their experience.”
Conbeer’s head coach Dwayne Peel is a big admirer. Outlining the winger’s strengths, the former Wales and Lions scrum-half said: “He can beat people, that’s his biggest plus for me.
“My conversation with him before every game is just get the ball in your hands and try and beat people. That’s what he is good at, while he’s obviously got good wheels.
“He’s working hard on his aerial game and defensively he’s improved as well. He comes alive when there is contact and collisions. He’s really explosive, with a low centre of gravity.
“He’s a good professional and applies himself really well. In the last year, he’s got himself really fit and lean. When he first came on the scene, he was a bit heavier and his repeatability probably suffered as a result of that.
“But he’s worked hard on his conditioning and now every time he’s got the ball in his hands I am expecting him to beat people and make breaks. I am a big fan of his. He is getting better and better.”
Next up for Conbeer and the Scarlets is Sunday’s BKT URC clash with the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg, as they look to bounce back from last weekend’s 36-19 defeat at the hands of the DHL Stormers.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.