Six Nations 2014: England v Wales - Jake Ball happy living the dream as he continues to feature in the absence of Luke Charteris
Charteris was ruled out of Sunday's encounter with a neck injury meaning Ball will partner Alun Wyn Jones in the second-row
Saturday 08 March 2014
Berkshire-born Jake Ball will continue living the dream at Twickenham on Sunday when he attempts to plot England's RBS Six Nations downfall.
The former Western Australia Under-19s cricketer, whose Welsh-speaking father from Pwllheli played rugby for Harlequins, has been handed his second Wales start after lock Luke Charteris suffered a neck injury in training.
It is the latest chapter in a remarkable story of a player whose rise to the top has proved far from conventional.
Ball kept going with his rugby aspirations, despite being told at Perth-based Western Force that he was not heavy enough, and then joining the Scarlets on trial while he also battled to overcome a serious knee injury.
The now-considerable beard that Ball has been growing for charity since last summer guarantees he will be easy to spot at Twickenham this weekend, and the 22-year-old Scarlets forward is seemingly comfortable with life in the limelight.
"I will be shaving it off at the end of the season for the Make A Wish Foundation. I grew it for charity, and I said I would grow it for a season," he said.
"I last shaved in July, so it's been a while. It has brought me some luck, so I might grow a beard a year, but I am not sure the fiancee will be happy with that!"
Ball's happy-go-lucky exterior belies an inner belief and strength that helped enable him cope comfortably with a first Test match start against France two weeks ago as a late replacement for star lock Alun Wyn Jones, who had a foot infection.
He excelled during Wales' title-reviving 27-6 success, and it would be no surprise if he delivered the goods again, despite a considerable twin threat posed by England's dynamic second-row combination of Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes.
"I am just going to get out there and do what I do best," Ball added.
"I just get stuck in and play my natural game. I like to hit my breakdowns and do the basics well.
"Luke copped the knock quite early in the week, so I was training in that starting role anyway. I think even when you are on the bench, you approach it as if you are going to start.
"Against France, it was quite a last-minute thing, which was quite nice to be honest. It didn't give me a lot of time to think about it - I could just get out there and play.
"I didn't know what I was running out into (at the Millennium Stadium). I didn't expect the lights to be off, the fireworks and everything else. It all just flashed by really quickly.
"It was a case of controlling the emotions through the anthems. It's a dream, isn't it, to play international rugby."
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