Aaron Wainwright is ready to embark on Wales’ final round of World Cup auditions as the tournament in Japan draws ever closer.
England in Cardiff, followed by home and away appointments with Ireland, are also on the pre-World Cup agenda.
And while the overwhelming majority of head coach Warren Gatland’s final 31-man group – due to be announced three weeks before Wales’ September 23 World Cup opener – appears in place, opportunities will still present themselves.
“It would be massive, the pinnacle of anyone’s career,” said Wainwright, when asked about possible World Cup selection.
“As soon as you start playing rugby, that’s what you want to achieve – to play for your country and then play for your country at the World Cup.
“It only comes around every four years, so it would be very special.
“If I can get into the squad, that would be awesome – one of my biggest dreams since I started playing rugby.”
Wainwright, a former midfielder who was on Cardiff City’s books as a teenager, only made his Test debut 14 months ago.
But the 21-year-old has impressed during an eight-cap Wales career that included him featuring in all five games of last season’s Six Nations title-winning and Grand Slam campaign.
“To come through that quickly, I guess it is surprising for myself,” he added.
“I spent the majority of the Six Nations on the bench and would have liked to have had more game time.
“If I can get that in these warm-up games, it will be ideal to showcase what I can do. I will try to take any opportunity I get with both hands.”
While World Cup planning is paramount for Wales, they will also arrive in south-west London on the back of a record 14-match unbeaten run.
Ireland were the last team to beat them, in February last year. Since then, Wales have claimed a fourth Six Nations crown of Gatland’s reign and climbed to number two in the World Rugby rankings.
“On a daily basis, the senior players and some of the younger ones as well are driving the standards in the squad,” Wainwright said.
“There will be an added pressure, but the coaching staff do their jobs really well to make sure we just concentrate on our game, looking forward to each game one at a time.
“Warren said in the Six Nations that we have forgotten how to lose, and that takes a bit of the pressure off. If we can just perform well each game, then hopefully it will be all right.
“We beat them (England) in the Six Nations, so they are going to be fired up. It’s a massive derby and I don’t think they will be taking it lightly. It will be a good game against a fierce team.”
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