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'International rugby is a lot quicker, but I felt my lungs and legs were there'

By PA
Josh Navidi /PA

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Josh Navidi admits that playing a part in Wales’ Guinness Six Nations campaign was beyond his expectations.

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But after a year away from the international game, Navidi underlined his continued importance to Wales head coach Wayne Pivac with an outstanding display in an agonising 13-9 defeat against Guinness Six Nations title favourites France.

The Cardiff flanker hit his straps immediately – as Pivac predicted he would – following just one comeback appearance for his club following five months out due to a shoulder injury.

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“It was beyond my expectations, really. I didn’t realise I was going to get called into the squad,” Navidi said.

“I was looking for Cardiff first, and I knew being out for that length of time that I needed to just put in the work, make sure my shoulder was right and strong.

“I got a hit-out against Ulster, and then I received a surprise phone call the next day. You grab it with both hands.

“I didn’t realise I was going to play (against France). I thought I was just going to come in to train. It was nice to get back out there.

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“International rugby is a lot quicker, but I felt my lungs and legs were there.

“Still maybe, to me personally, I am probably five per cent off, but I always say that my third game is when I come into my stride.

“I am not too sure what team selection will be (against Italy on Saturday), but fingers crossed I will get the nod again.

“I haven’t missed that much rugby for Cardiff – we’ve still got 12 games left – but obviously missing the autumn Tests and start of the Six Nations is always disappointing.

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“There is a still a lot of rugby to be played, the shoulder is feeling strong. I’ve had the test and bangs on it now, and it is feeling good.”

Pivac will name his team to face Italy on Tuesday – two days earlier than normal – with changes expected.

Ospreys forwards Dewi Lake and Jac Morgan could be among those included, with a possible recall for Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit and Kieran Hardy starting at scrum-half.

Fly-half Dan Biggar will captain the team and win his 100th cap, but there might also be a place in the match-day 23 for fit-again Alun Wyn Jones.

For the second time in less than a year, 36-year-old lock Jones has defied medical predictions in terms of returning to action.

He did it last summer and captained the British and Irish Lions in their Test series against South Africa after overcoming a shoulder injury in rapid time.

Josh Navidi
Josh Navidi /PA

And after suffering another shoulder problem in Wales’ autumn Test against New Zealand four months ago – he required two operations – many forecasts suggested that Jones might struggle to play again this season.

But has been recalled to the squad by Pivac, and if he does feature on Saturday, then his 150th Wales cap awaits.

Wales should have way too much for an Italian side already resigned to the Six Nations wooden spoon, and a bonus-point victory could even mean them finishing third.

Navidi added: “Against England, we left it to the last minute to try and claw it back, and then a narrow defeat at home against France.

“We played a lot better and played a lot of rugby in their half, but credit to France with their defence and (coach) Shaun Edwards, which is hard to break down.

“It’s massive to put an 80-minute performance in on Saturday and get that win.”

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