Owen Lane is ready to challenge himself against some of the globe’s finest rugby players, as he prepares to make his Rugby World Cup debut against New Zealand on Friday.
The Cardiff Blues star was a late addition to Warren Gatland’s squad in Japan, replacing regional team-mate Josh Navidi after the back row suffered an injury against France in the quarter final.
Lane lines-up in a Cardiff Blues back three for the bronze final, alongside summer signing Hallam Amos and Josh Adams, who is looking to secure his place as the tournament’s top try scorer.
The wing, who will test himself against the likes of Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane, has reflected on a whirlwind couple of weeks and insists he travelled to Japan to put his marker down on the international stage.
Lane said: “New Zealand are great opposition to play against and it’s definitely going to be a challenge so hopefully I’ll make the most of it.
“It’s a big challenge [to face Smith and Ioane] and they’ve obviously been in the international game for a while, especially Ben, while Rieko had an outstanding year in the Lions year in 2017.
“The World Cup gives you an opportunity to play against players you might normally face.
“Those are two players I’ve never faced but I’m looking forward to challenging myself against some of the best players in the world, and that’s what the World Cup is about. I’ll give it my all.
“I came here because I wanted to play and I wanted to push for a place in the team.
“I had the same aim whether that would’ve been a World Cup final, because that’s what we were looking at, or in the bronze match.
“I wanted to put my hand up and I’m now lucky enough to have the opportunity.
“I’ll go out there to try my best and hopefully I’ll enjoy it.
“I’m still relatively young in terms of my age and my position in the squad. I’ve only been involved in one sort of campaign over the last five months.
“I know I have to prove myself and hopefully I can do that on the weekend.
“To get the call, while I was in Blues training, to say I was coming out, I was obviously excited but I came out because I wanted to play.
“I’m looking forward to getting an opportunity on the weekend.
“I was pretty lucky to get my World Cup cap presented by Prince Charles. It wasn’t something I was expecting and it got sprung on me in training.”
The bronze final will signal the end of an era for Wales, with Gatland’s final match in charge following a successful 11-year stint.
Lane paid testament to the Chiefs-bound coach and believes he’s left Wales in a promising position for the future.
The wing added: “He’s contributed massively to the game, and especially for me growing up watching rugby in Wales, Warren was a big part of that.
“He’s done a great job and put us in the position we are now, where we have a lot of youngster who have come through and there’s more to come.
“That adds another thing to the game on Friday.
“We want to give him a good send off, we want to give him the respect he deserves and hopefully we can give a good account of ourselves, make it a good game and get a win.”