Josh Navidi admits it’s been a rollercoaster ride over the last couple of years, as he prepares to take on Fiji in a crucial Rugby World Cup encounter on Wednesday.
The dreadlocked back rowhas enjoyed a meteoric rise on the international stage. After a four year wait between his first and second caps, Navidi has worked his way to become one of the first names on Warren Gatland’s team-sheet.
The Cardiff Blues player will start in his third successive Rugby World Cup game on Wednesday, having starred in the number eight jersey against Georgia and Australia, as Wales look to take a step closer to securing top spot in Pool D.
The talisman, who has 170 appearances for Wales’ Capital Region, is embracing the experience in Japan and knows the personal challenges ahead for him to retain the jersey.
“It's been crazy. A couple of months ago I did take a step back and think about it,” admits the Welsh international.
“If you had said to me four years ago that I would be playing in this World Cup, I probably wouldn't have believed you.
“It is nice to be here embracing it and taking the opportunity. Hopefully, I can just keep the jersey and keep on playing.
“It has gone well. I know the jersey can be taken off you so quickly, so I just have to embrace it. You have to take it when you can and hold on to it for as long as you can.”
Gatland has made two changes to the side for the showdown against Fiji at Oitu, as Navidi moves to the blindside, with Ross Moriarty and James Davies returning to the back row.
The Cardiff Blues academy product insists Wales will focus on their own game on Wednesday, while giving an insight into his new back row partner.
“They (Fiji) like a frantic and open game. We have just got to concentrate on ourselves and make sure our set-piece and everything is right, and all our patterns are there,” added the former Brynteg Comprehensive pupil.
“A lot of people know him (Davies), and he is a massive threat over the ball and in attack as well.
“He is a bit of a character, he does tuck a few of the boys up. He had me. He is a good boy to tour with. It is good to have him here.
“Liam (Williams), him and Brad (Davies) are on tour entertainment. They did a thing where we had to guess whose tweet it was, and it was about the 2015 World Cup. It came up, and I thought it couldn't be me, but it was, so I had to do a forfeit.”
Head coach Gatland was also full of praise for the Cardiff Blues back row, and revealed he’s also got admirers from other world class international coaches.
"He's just unassuming and tough," said Gatland. "He runs hard, tackles hard, does the basics well, doesn't make many mistakes and is good in the contact area.
"He is a quality player and I know in the past a lot of people had been pushing for him.
"Unfortunately he has had a few injuries over a few periods, but when he has been fit he has been an integral part of that loose-forward trio.
"He is underrated. I remember speaking to John Mitchell [England defence coach] after we played at home and he said that the England boys have a lot of respect for him as a player. That to me is recognition of quality.
"And a few years ago, I think it was one of Josh's first games when we played the All Blacks, [New Zealand coach] Steve Hansen said, 'Where did you get that number seven from?’
"We are lucky in that department, some real quality loose forwards who are all capable of doing a job and there is some competition there."