Josh Navidi believes growing up in the shadows of current and former British and Irish Lions pair Sam Warburton and Martyn Williams has finally paid dividends, having been primed for his Wales debut.
Uncapped Navidi is among four new faces in the Wales team to face Japan in the second Test of their tour in Tokyo tomorrow as the tourists look to build on a hard-fought 22-18 win in Osaka last week. Andries Pretorius in at No 8, prop Rhys Gill and wing Tom Prydie are the other changes.
Navidi is just the latest product off the openside flanker assembly line at Cardiff Arms Park to gain international honours.
“I’ve spent the last seven years training and playing with Martyn and Sam and I’ve learned so much from them both,” said Navidi, 22. “We’re always competitive in training and we have the nitty-gritty stuff but we get along well off the pitch. If I’m not sure about something, Sam will fill me in. Opensides are always living on the edge and it’s about knowing how far to push things and when to stop. Those are the sorts of tricks you learn from guys like Martyn and Sam, who have played at the highest level.”
When Navidi, instantly recognisable for his dreadlocks, runs out at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium it will cap a big turnaround in fortunes having initially been left out of the squad to travel to the Far East, despite training with Wales during the Six Nations and before the tour.
However, he was drafted in at the 11th hour following an injury to Aaron Shingler and, having spent the first Test ferrying water bottles while the Welsh back-row was being largely outplayed, Navidi now finds himself to be the man in demand.
He said: “It has been a bit of a roller-coaster and there have been mixed emotions, but I’m glad I’m here now and I’ve got my chance to show what I can do at international level.”