Owen Lane insists the hard work is only getting started, as he prepares to join up with the Wales senior international squad for the first time in his career.
The wing enjoyed a purple patch since the turn of the year, crossing for nine tries in 11 outings, but limped out of the final day clash against Ospreys with a hamstring injury.
Despite the setback, Lane was awarded for his fine form with a call-up to Warren Gatland’s 42-man training squad ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan and was named the Cardiff Blues Peter Thomas Player of the Season.
Lane is one of two uncapped players named in the extended squad, alongside fellow Cardiff Blues academy graduate, and house-mate, Rhys Carré, who will make the switch to European champions, Saracens, next season.
And the former Wales under-20 star insists he is not in the camp to make up the numbers, as he targets a spot on the plane to Tokyo.
“Some people think the hardest part is over, by getting into the squad in the first place, but the biggest challenge of all is making sure I stay involved with this squad and make a claim for a spot in Japan,” said Lane.
“I suffered a lengthy injury against Lyon back in October, but was lucky to hit the ground running when I returned from that injury, and felt fit and strong when I was coming into the business-end of the campaign.
“I was happy with my form in those games, and thankfully that was enough to get me into the initial camp so hopefully I can recover from my latest injury and take my form into the training camp and summer games.
“There’s a big group of us in the extended training squad and hopefully I can keep my form and reach my ultimate goal of staying at this top level.
“From the outside looking in, you can see the importance of fitting into this squad as a person, and being a good bloke off the field. It’s about keeping your head down, working hard and get on with all the boys.
“The rehab period has been pretty tough, and is probably a step up from the intensity and conditioning that I’m used to.
“But I’m starting to adapt and hopefully I can get back running pretty soon and try to link up with the full training sessions as soon as I can.
“I was elated to see my name amongst the squad, and at the time I was with Rhys [Carré] as he’s my housemate, so it was pretty special for both of us to be called up at the same time and share that moment together.
“You can never be too confident of being called up, especially for the first time, as the international selection are tough, and you have to perform pretty well for a year or two to force yourself into the mix. I was hoping to be involved and I was pretty happy when the call came.”
Lane will be challenging renowned international stars for a place in Gatland’s side, including Liam Williams, George North and future Cardiff Blues team-mate, Josh Adams, who makes the move to Wales’ Capital Region from Worcester Warriors next season.
The wing hopes training and competing alongside these players will be a boost in his development, and believes the experience of being in camp will be beneficial to his game.
The former Whitchurch High School pupil said: “I’ve been lucky to get used to playing with some top class players in my position here at Cardiff Blues, and in a similar way I’ll be looking to pick up a few things from experienced international players during the summer camp.
“I hope my game will improve from the experience, and you can see examples from youngsters like Jarrod [Evans], Dillon [Lewis] and Seb [Davies] who have been part of international camps, and come back to the region as better players and really benefitted from the experience.
“Even if I don’t get selected, hopefully I can bring my experience and learnings back to the region and be a better player for it next season.”