Cardiff Blues have tied Wales age grade international prop, Theo Bevacqua, to an academy deal with the region.
The Wales under-19 international featured for Cardiff Blues A in this season’s Celtic Cup campaign, making an instant impact at loosehead, and has now committed his future to Wales’ Capital Region.
The 18-year-old, who had offers to continue his rugby career in the English Premiership, will move to the Welsh capital next season, combining rugby with his studies at Cardiff University, where he will be studying Economic and Philosophy.
London-born Bevacqua played for local club Heathfield in Sussex and captained Eastbourne College before being placed in the Harlequins Academy’s Elite Player Development Group, and qualifies for Wales through his mother's side of the family.
The prop was identified by the Wales Exiles programme and was called up to represent the under-18 side during last year’s tour to South Africa.
Bevacqua also featured for Wales under-19 in the recent international win over Scotland, playing alongside future regional team-mates such as Teddy Williams, Ethan Lloyd and Jake Thomas.
The youngster made two appearances for Cardiff Blues A earlier this season, featuring against Ospreys A and Munster A, holding his own in the scrum and impressing in the loose.
Bevacqua is excited to link up with the region next year, and says he’s been impressed with the set-up on his recent visits to the Arms Park.
The prop said: “It all started when I got asked to play in a few Cardiff Blues A games in the Celtic Cup this season.
“When I first arrived at the set-up, I really enjoyed the ethos and culture they had around the club and how the place was ran.
“Just walking into the changing rooms, you’d have senior boys who were really helpful and keen to speak to me as a youngster. If I had questions, they’d be really proactive with me and that really stuck with me.
“There’s also really good coaches here. As a loosehead prop, having Gethin Jenkins as one of the academy coaches was a big factor in deciding to sign. He was someone I looked up to when I was growing up, so that’s really exciting.
“I wanted to fully commit to Wales. Having been in school in England while involved with the Wales under-18 side, I had seen the challenges, so I wanted to fully immerse myself into the system, by being with Cardiff Blues and going to university in the city as well.
“Cardiff Blues really encouraged the education side, and manage your time-table to be able to fit in my course around my rugby training, and that was really important in my decision. I wanted to combine both, because I’ve been really keen to continue my studies as well as concentrate on my rugby.
“Cardiff University is a great university, and the course that I want to do is up there with the best, so it’s the perfect match-up.
“I’m really excited to get started, but I’ve got to take it as it comes. I’ll be coming into train when I can this year, but will get properly stuck in next year.
“I’m looking forward to progressing my game in a full time environment and push on with any opportunities I get with Cardiff Blues, as well as with the international age grade rugby.
“I’m excited to get my head down and get learning.”
Cardiff Blues academy coach, Gethin Jenkins, added: “We watched a lot of footage of Theo playing for Wales under-18 last year and wanted to give him an opportunity to play for our A team in the Celtic Cup this season.
“He really impressed us across the two games he played. What was impressive was his ability to problem solve in the scrum, and he gave a good account of himself against more experienced players.
“He’s a bright boy and a good character who brings a lot of energy into the group, and we’re confident he’ll be a good addition to the academy squad. The challenge for us as coaches is to bring him through to the next level of his game.
“There’s no abundance of looseheads at the moment, but Theo fits the bill for us. He’s already well-conditioned and the access we will have to him through Cardiff University will be great, and will benefit both Cardiff Blues and Theo.
“We’ve built a good relationship with him over the last couple of months, and are really pleased that we’ve signed him up.
“He’s a young player with a lot of potential, and we’re delighted to link up with the Welsh Exiles programme to bring him into the Welsh pathway, despite having good offers to continue his rugby career in England.”