Owen Lane hopes to reap the rewards of his labour, following a gruelling training camp in the Swiss mountains.
Warren Gatland’s Wales side continued their preparations for the Rugby World Cup in Japan by visiting the village of Fiesch for a 10-day altitude conditioning programme, which has been described by the players as one of the most physically demanding experiences of their careers.
After making the trip to Switzerland ahead of the 2015 World Cup, Wales re-visited the Rhone valley and the Cardiff Blues youngster is confident the squad will feel the benefit when the global spectacle gets underway later in the year.
Lane said: “I had heard stories about how tough Switzerland is, and now I’ve experienced it for myself. It’s hard to describe how tough it’s been. I was expecting it to be physically demanding and I would definitely say it’s been the toughest physical training experience I’ve had in my career to date.
“The last World Cup really showed the benefit of these camps, though. The boys were extremely fit and match-ready and hopefully the boys will be ready once again this time around and the training will do the same job as last time.
“It’s been a way of seeing how much the boys can dig in and everyone has been feeling out on their feet. In those situations, you have to look at the boys around you. They’re going to start running and you have to make sure you run with them and try to keep up.
“I think the boys have dug in well, and weirdly I think I’ve enjoyed those sessions because after finishing you really feel you’ve earned something.
“It’s my first flavour of an international camp, and obviously the standard is high and the competition is high between positions and players. But I don’t think that’s a negative.
“It brings on your game and I’ve realised aspects of my game that I need to work on, having looked at the other boys in training, especially those in my position and who have more experience. Hopefully I can learn from that and emulate that.
“There’s not much you wanted to do after finishing training, to be fair. I did stroll to the top of the mountain, and ate quite a lot of food, and tried to chill out as much as I can.
“The landscape, as you’ve seen from the videos and photos, was remarkable and I definitely felt the difference in the altitude, especially when I first arrived. I wouldn’t usually be out of breath on my way up the stairs at home and it took some getting used to.
“When you’re training hard, you sometimes forgot how picturesque the surroundings were and realise it’s a pretty cool place to be.”
Lane had a fine season with his home region and was named Peter Thomas Player of the Season and voted Wales’ most promising youngster by the Welsh Rugby Writers Association.
His reward came in the form of his first-ever call up to Wales’ senior squad, and was one of only two uncapped players in the 42-man training squad - the other being former house-mate, regional team-mate and long-time friend, Rhys Carre, who departs the Arms Park for Saracens this summer.
The wing admits the call-up came as a surprise and believes his development on both regional and international stages has led him to this stage in his career.
“I was ecstatic when I saw my name amongst the World Cup training squad, and obviously rung my parents and I was with Rhys Carre, so it was quite a nice moment to share with him as we’re house-mates and the two new caps involved, which was cool,” added the youngster.
“I was pretty overwhelmed when I realised I’ve got to put a shift in and the hard work starts now. I was apprehensive of what’s to come because I haven’t been involved in a training camp before.
“I’ve known Rhys for a long time, and we’ve played from under-15 upwards together. We came through the age grade together, but he didn’t come with me to play in the Sevens, as I don’t think he’s built for that!
“I lived with him last year, and I think he’ll be happy to see the back of me when he moves on to Sarries and lives in London.
“The pathway has certainly helped me along the way. You come into the Centre of Excellence at such a young age, at 16, it gives you a flavour of what life in rugby is all about.
“I was lucky to play for Wales at under-18 and under-20, which definitely helped my development, and I’ve been quite vocal about how good the Sevens circuit was for me.
“I probably went into it quite unfit, on the back of an injury, but it helped with my match sharpness and certainly helped me with skill-set for the 15-a-side game, and I’m grateful for that experience.
“I was 16 coming into the Cardiff Blues environment, and I played a few times in the Singha Sevens tournament, and was lucky enough to be involved in a pre-season friendly against Bristol, which I got yellow carded in, so it probably wasn’t the best start to my senior rugby career.
“But it was the first stepping stone for myself and it went on from there.”