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Last Updated: Friday, 17 August 2007, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Talent at Liberty to grow
Kris Jones
By Kris Jones
Rookie reporter, BBC News and Sport On Tour, Swansea

Martin Roberts
Martin Roberts is happy to bide his time at Ospreys
Two young home-grown talents are making their mark in Wales, wearing the shirts of the two teams who call the Liberty Stadium home.

Ospreys scrum-half Martin Roberts, 21, is making people sit up and take notice in rugby, while 17-year-old attacking midfielder Joe Allen is doing the same in football.

Roberts is down the scrum-half pecking order at the Ospreys, with former New Zealand number nine Justin Marshall and Wales' Mike Phillips - a summer recruit from Cardiff Blues - ahead of him.

But Roberts is prepared to bide his time, learn from the best and make his own mark.

"With Mike Phillips and Justin Marshall now in the team, it has made me more determined to train harder and to prove myself," Roberts said.

"Both of them are world-class players and I am learning a lot."

But with the World Cup about to start, Test calls on the Ospreys squad should see head coach Lyn Jones call on his junior players.

Hopefully all the hard work that has been put in will pay off
Martin Roberts

"With Mike away at the World Cup with Wales, I now have 10 games to prove myself (worthy of a starting spot) to Lyn," Roberts added.

"Pre-season has gone well, we have done nine weeks of training so far.

"We've got a game at the weekend against Newbury. I got the nod to start in that and we are fielding a young team.

"Hopefully all the hard work that has been put in will pay off. The kind of work we have been doing is putting the ball through the hands and doing the weights more."

The Ospreys have invested heavily this summer with world-class signings such as Phillips, Wales lock Ian Gough and All Blacks flanker Marty Holah

With the new players coming into an already strong squad, Roberts admits that expectations of winning the Heineken Cup this season are even higher.

Rookie Reporter Kris Jones talks to Joe Allen
Rookie Reporter Kris Jones talks to Joe Allen

But with senior playing resources possibly being targeted at Europe once the World Cup ends in October, Roberts knows more opportunities may come his way in the Magners League.

"There could be chances for me with league games just before the European matches and for a player at my age I will need the experience."

Although the Test stars grab the headlines, Roberts says it is the core of local Welsh talent that makes this regional rugby side - one of four in Wales - successful.

The Resolven RFC product points to the likes of Wales stars James Hook, Shane Williams and Gavin Henson who have come up through the local ranks.

"I grew up playing rugby in the area and I think there is no better place that I could be."

That story of local talent being nurtured into the professional ranks is echoed at Swansea City, with Allen swelling a growing number of Welsh players given their chance in football.

But I've got to remember that there's still many improvements I have to make to my game before I can consider myself a full first-team player
Jo Allen

"I am from Pembrokeshire down in West Wales and I was playing for my local team, Tenby, and a scout from Swansea spotted me and asked me to come for a trial, I got signed and the rest is history," Allen said.

"This is my first full pre-season with the first-team squad, which has been fantastic for me - but there's a bit too much training if you ask me!"

Last week Allen signed a new three-year contract and responded with a man-of-the-match display in Tuesday night's Carling Cup home win against Walsall.

"Hopefully I have shown what I am capable of," said Allen, a fluent speaker in both English and Welsh.

"But I've got to remember that there's still many improvements I have to make to my game before I can consider myself a full first-team player."

The youngster realises he may have to bide his time once again when Swansea get back to the serious business of chasing promotion from League One.

But Allen says the whole squad is confident of success this season, like the Ospreys helped by a Welsh core that underpins their whole team spirit.

"It's definitely important, you look at the last few years and there hasn't been that many Welsh youngsters coming through," Allen said.

"It's good to have that and it shows on the pitch, with players having the determination to wear the Swansea shirt."

Allen's next challenge is his ongoing progression through the Wales international ranks, with his first Under-21 call-up to face Sweden in Halmstad on 21 August.

The odds are that Wales manager John Toshack will eventually summon Allen for the senior squad, and the Liberty Stadium will be home to yet another Wales star.

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