Tyler Morgan relishing chance to prove worth on international stage
Tyler Morgan will line up alongside George North in a World Cup quarter-final on Saturday - less than four years after shaking his hand following a schoolboy cup match.
When Wales reached the 2011 World Cup semi-finals in New Zealand, a 16-year-old Morgan watched on television at home. It was the start of his GCSE school year at Caerleon Comprehensive near Newport.
One World Cup later, though, and Morgan features at outside centre for Wales against South Africa at Twickenham.
"I am buzzing, really," he said. "I have put a lot of hard work into this, and it's just a relief that you get that place and you get that opportunity.
"If someone had said then (in 2011) what would be happening now, I would have bitten their hand off, really.
"I was playing schoolboy rugby - the teacher told me I was at quite a high level, but I didn't really believe him - and I remember playing in a Welsh Schools Cup final.
"I was 16, we won the game (Morgan scored a try), and then I met George North after the game, who was shaking some of the boys' hands.
"Now I am playing with him on the weekend. It is pretty unreal."
It has proved to be an eventful few months for Morgan, who was taken out of the Wales Under-20 World Cup squad after Jonathan Davies was injured in May, then made his Test debut against warm-up opponents Ireland before failing to make Wales head coach Warren Gatland's initial 31-man World Cup squad.
But an injury suffered by Cory Allen during Wales' opening Pool A appointment with Uruguay resulted in 20-year-old Morgan being called up, and he started against Fiji 11 days later.
"It has been really up and down," he added. "There were some really good highs, like my debut, and then I didn't make the (World Cup) squad, which wasn't the greatest feeling
"But the experiences this summer have been unforgettable, really. The travelling, the things we've seen and the training we've done is going to stick with me."
His coach at Newport Gwent Dragons, Lyn Jones, recently highlighted Morgan's ability not to be fazed by anything, and Morgan said: "I think I get over things pretty easily. I think the first time is always the hardest time for me.
"I always seem to get chucked in the deep end. My first game in the (Welsh) Premiership (for Newport) was a Cross Keys derby, and my first PRO12 was (Welsh derby) Judgement Day, and my first international was Ireland, who were second in the world at the time.
"They have all been great opportunities, then after that first time, I think I am then a lot more composed."
Unlike many in the Wales squad, Morgan has experience of Springboks centres Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende from under-20 level, and he said: "They are a really good pairing. They have got good variety in their game.
"Defensively, they are pretty strong, but I think there are some places we can attack because they still have a bit of inexperience.
"It's a massive stage. It is going to be some (Wales) boys' last World Cup. The desire to get out there and actually win this World Cup is more than it has ever been for some of them."
As Wales' youngest World Cup squad member, Morgan has the task of looking after a giant traditional Welsh love-spoon, but he revealed: "We went to Thorpe Park on Wednesday. I didn't take it with me, but I should keep that quiet.
"It has been hidden away in my room and no-one's been able to steal it. I took it to Twickenham for the England game."