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."
Pornhub: Cheeky Liverpool fan uploads Philippe Coutinho wonder-goal video to adult website
Diego Costa keeps coin thrown at him during Capital One Cup final
Lukas Podolski corner: Has the Arsenal forward taken the worst corner of all time?
Ireland 19 England 9 player ratings: Jonathan Sexton? Devin Toner? Alex Goode? Who was the star man in Dublin?
Eden Hazard didn't like the champagne on offer in the Chelsea dressing room
- 1 Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut