Adam Beard has been told to prime himself for huge pressure at the Ospreys from the 200-cap Wales duo of Alun Wyn Jones and Bradley Davies over the rest of the season.
Beard returns to the starting line-up after his exertions during the World Cup for Saturday’s away Heineken Champions Cup game with Saracens (1pm).
And his regional coach Allen Clarke, while seeing the 6ft 8in, 18st 7lb youngster as a big prospect, has gone out of his way to remind the former Aberavon RFC player that the battle for lock places at the Ospreys in the coming months is going to be intense.
“You have to remember Adam is still quite a young man,” said Clarke.
“He’s going to be under pressure in this club because of Bradley Davies and Alun Wyn Jones, both of whom are still ambitious.
“He knows that he has to deliver on a daily basis as he has tremendous players in his position to compete against but also to learn from.
“They’re all ultra-competitive but very supportive of each other.
“He’s in a great environment.”
Jones and Davies share exactly a double century of Wales caps between them, with the pair having seen pretty much all there is to see in rugby.
Beard had to be content with a role among the support cast at the World Cup after undergoing appendix surgery in the run-up to the tournament.
But his promise remains limitless.
Not only does he boast commanding height, he is also a resolute defender who made 32 tackles without a single miss in last year’s autumn series and has soft hands not typical of a player of his physical dimensions. His maul defence is also outstanding.
“I thought the autumn internationals last year were the making of him,” said Clarke.
“He brought that physical edge to his game and you can see he’s complementing the gifts he has as a footballer.
“He’s bringing that much-needed physicality which is required as a second row.”
The challenge for Beard will be to keep developing rather than assume he’s cracked it because he’s won a Grand Slam and played at a World Cup. If he responds to the challenge thrown down by Clarke, Wales and the Ospreys could have a top-class second row on their hands for the next decade.
For how it’s done, he need only look at Jones, his national captain, who has improved with age, never content to rest on his laurels.
Injuries have hampered Davies over the years, but he is fit now and looking ahead. “I have always said I play better after a run of games,” he reckoned this week.
“It’s when there’s an injury or layoffs that it can be hard going.
“But I’m looking forward to the season. My big goal is to play well for the Ospreys. Do that for your region and things tend to look after themselves.”
Owen Watkin joins Beard in returning after the World Cup, while Saracens welcome back Elliot Daly, Mako Vunipola and George Kruis, with Jamie George on the bench.
Billy Vunipola, Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje continue to recover, while the Ospreys are without 15 players, including Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and George North.
Saracens: E. Daly; R. Segun, D. Taylor, B. Barritt, A. Lewington; Manu Vunipola, T. Whiteley; Mako Vunipola, J. Singleton, T. Lamositele, W. Skelton, G. Kruis, N. Isiekwe, B. Earl, J. Wray.
Replacements: J. George, R. Barrington, J. Ibuanokpe, J. Kpoku, A. Christie, R. Wigglesworth, A. Lozowski, M. Gallagher.
Ospreys: C. Evans; H. Dirksen, O. Watkin, K. Williams, T. Williams; J. Hook, A. Davies; N. Smith, S. Otten, M. Fia, A. Beard, B. Davies, M. Orie, O. Cracknell, M. Morris.
Replacements: I. Phillips, G. Thomas, T. Botha, L. Ashley, S. Cross, S. Venter, L. Price, T. Thomas-Wheeler.