A former team-mate once described him as phenomenal, while another called him a freak athlete, but Ollie Griffiths still has only one Wales cap in his locker and the years are ticking by.
Injuries have checked him whenever he seems poised to make a breakthrough.
But 27-year-old has the remarkable ability to engage top form immediately after returning from time on the sidelines and he did so for the Dragons against the Ospreys in Swansea last Sunday, with a whale of a performance that saw him make 19 tackles without a single miss, pass the ball 15 times and contribute nine carries for 34 metres. Griffiths was also strong over the ball.
It was an eye-popping effort from a player who’d been out since late March with a groin problem resulting from a collision against the Bulls in Pretoria which Dragons director of rugby Dean Ryan described as a truck smash.
Really, a player who’d been inactive for seven weeks shouldn’t be able to perform like Griffiths did on his return.
But the former Newport RFC captain breezed it, and Ryan believes the versatile forward who can play the back row is someone whose name will figure in Wales discussions across for the summer tour of South Africa, with the squad announced next Tuesday.
Asked if he was pleased with Griffiths’ effort against the Ospreys, the team boss said: “I’m always pleased with Ollie Griffiths — his ability to come back and perform immediately. He’s had a lot of practice at it, sadly.
“I certainly think he’s somebody who’d be forcing his name into discussions for the summer.
“In any discussion I’ve ever had, everybody’s a great advocate of Ollie’s.
“What we have to do is keep him on the field week-in, week-out more often.
“I think he’s done that this year.
“He’s returned very quickly and he’s returned straight in form.”
Ahead of the Dragons hosting Cardiff in Friday’s United Rugby Championship derby at Rodney Parade, Ryan added: “If he puts in a performance like he did last week in another derby, then I see it as hard for him not to be discussed at the top level.”
It was Richard Hibbard who once classed Griffiths as phenomenal, while Ed Jackson described him as a freak athlete. Ex-Dragons coach Lyn Jones is also a fan, previously going on record to WalesOnline to sing the Newbridge-born player’s praises. “Ollie was as hard-working and fit as any player I’ve had the privilege to coach,” said Jones, who guided the Dragons between 2013 and 2016.
“His standards were equal to anyone in Wales at the time. He did things in the contact area that were special for his size, he could bump tackles and get over the ball to either slow possession or simply take it from opponents.
“When he came into the side at the age of 19, he raised our standard of play. Wales are blessed with significant competition at seven but Ollie will add to it and better it when given his chance.”
Griffiths’ problem on the Wales front is the abundance of back-row options available to Wayne Pivac, despite multiple injuries. Morgan Morris and James Botham have also been playing well, offering Pivac options at No. 8 and on the flanks, while Jac Morgan has been outstanding and Tommy Reffell not far behind. Pivac is an admirer of Josh Macleod , with Josh Navidi and Taulupe Faletau sure to travel. You can read more about Griffiths here.
Taine Basham is also still in the hunt to make the trip, having shown his quality during the autumn series and against Ireland in the Six Nations, but the Dragons opt to leave him on the bench for the game with Cardiff, with Ben Fry starting. They are led by the ultra-consistent Harri Keddie, a largely unsung player outside the region but one who has been performing consistently well.
Ryan is close to being head of the Harri Keddie Appreciation Society, and feels, as with Griffiths, the hard-working blindside or No. 8 should be in contention for the South Africa tour.
“If you want to look at numbers around work, he’s the highest performer in our squad week-in, week-out,” said Ryan.
“He’s clearly resilient, he’s hit consistent form and is really physical.
“There are lots of back-rowers in Wales, but Harrison Keddie’s name would definitely be part of their (the national selectors) discussions.”
The derby in Newport could be revealing, with Cardiff boasting a back-row made up of Botham, Navidi and Ratti, all in Wales contention themselves.
Pivac will be watching the audit closely.