Wales new boy Shane Lewis-Hughes cannot wait to start grappling on the Test stage after pushing world record-breaker Alun Wyn Jones to the limit in training.
Lewis-Hughes and Jones are at the opposite ends of the international spectrum, with the rookie flanker set to win his first cap in Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations finale against Scotland at Llanelli and the Wales captain making a record 149th Test appearance.
But that has not stopped the pair striking up a bond with Cardiff Blues blindside flanker Lewis-Hughes, nicknamed ‘Crazy’ because of his strong work ethic, saying he has relished going “hammer and tongs” with Jones at training.
“It’s been amazing to see how he operates,” said Lewis-Hughes. “In the gym we have been going hammer and tongs at each other.
“We both came out the other day and were exhausted going into a rugby session.
“We said ‘I think we pushed each other a bit too hard there’. But it’s been great just to be around him, see how he operates, his preparation, his focus. It’s inspiring.
“There’s no coincidence he is taking the all-time Test record on Saturday. You can never be the best, or get to the level Alun has got to, without having that incredible mindset.”
Lewis-Hughes’ rugby journey started in his Rhondda home village of Ferndale before he moved to nearby Ystrad.
He developed in the Rhondda age-grade system under Chris Jones, a renowned hard man of the game in Wales who was twice banned for life during his own playing days, and says the former front-rower gave him the “fire to play rugby”.
Lewis-Hughes subsequently joined the Blues but had made only 36 senior appearances for the region before being promoted into Wayne Pivac’s national squad as training cover.
He benefited from injuries to Ross Moriarty, Josh Macleod and Josh Navidi but has been preferred to Scarlets flanker James Davies as Wales seek to end a run of four successive defeats.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Lewis-Hughes said. “I’ve dreamed of being in this environment since I was a little kid, and I’m just trying to be like a sponge and soak it all up.
“To get the opportunity now and show what I can do is just surreal.
“Hopefully I can go out there on the weekend and reward the faith the coaches have put in me to play.”
Sam Warburton, the former Wales and British and Irish Lions captain, was among the first to congratulate Lewis-Hughes on social media after his Six Nations selection.
But the 23-year-old is staying grounded, saying: “It’s obviously nice to get comments like that off those people, but it means nothing unless you perform.
“It does mean a lot, but I’ve got a job to do on Saturday to go out there and perform. Unless I do that it means nothing.”
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