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But both since crossed the Irish sea to join Leinster and Rhys’ star has barely stopped rising since.
Captaining the Ireland Under-20s to the 2010 RBS 6 Nations title was topped by his full international debut later that summer against Australia.
And the 20-year-old – who now has Mike as Ireland Under-20 coach – maintains there were never any split loyalties.
He said: “It was never a weird feeling for me putting on the green jersey of Ireland.
“I have got used to playing against Wales from an early age as through the age-groups they were always a constant opponent for the Irish sides I was involved in.
“Due to Dad’s involvement with Wales, I presume most people thought I would don the red shirt but I was brought up in Ireland and Mum’s Irish so it was a no-brainer.
“To me captaining that side was a real honour and a privilege. We played the year before where we had strong side but ultimately we lost out on point’s difference to France.
“A lot of the lads felt we deserved to win but to have another go at it in the second year was great.
“There were eight or nine lads who played the year before and we were all determined to go one better and win the tournament.”
The following summer Rhys was in Argentina focussed on trying to lead his side to Under-20 World Cup glory.
After an injury to John Muldoon and the unavailability of the suspended Jamie Heaslip, Rhys Ruddock was called into head-coach Allen Clarke’s officer and informed that he was off to New Zealand to join up with the senior side.
He said: “I originally thought the chat would be a usual head-coach captain talk about injuries or the boys in general,” he added.
“I never thought it would be anything to do with the national side.
“I was completely shocked and delighted, as were my parents, and it did take time to sink in.
“However, the moment I got on the plane it became a job and I was focussed on doing as well as possible.”
Rhys started against the New Zealand Maoris and came off the bench to win his full-cap against Australia.
This experience has put him in good stead for this season with his province Leinster. Recent international obligations and injuries to the side have given him a run-out and he hopes this will prove important when the Heineken Cup rounds come about.
“I would love to be starting week in week out for Leinster but there is some absolutely class back-rowers ahead of me.
“The likes of Shane Jennings don’t even get in the national side and he is world-class.
“I appreciate I need to mature and put in more training for me to be a regular in the side, but I have really enjoyed my run out.
“It was great to get a game against Treviso and hopefully if I keep on working on my game I will get the opportunity again in the near future.”