Navidi looking to make his mark
Published 14/06/2013 | 13:24
Josh Navidi believes growing up in the shadows of current and former British and Irish Lions pair Sam Warburton and Martyn Williams has finally paid dividends having been primed for his Wales debut.
Uncapped Navidi is among four new faces in the Wales team to face Japan in the second Test of their tour in Tokyo tomorrow as the tourists look to build on a hard-fought 22-18 win in Osaka last week.
The 22-year-old is just the latest product off the openside flanker assembly line at Cardiff Arms Park to gain international honours.
Previously Warburton and Williams followed the likes of Richie Collins and 1980 Lion Stuart Lane to graduate from the club.
Navidi said: "I've spent the last seven years training and playing with Martyn and Sam and I've learned so much from them both.
"We're always competitive in training and we have the nitty-gritty stuff but we get along well off the pitch. If I'm not sure about something he (Sam) will fill me in.
"Opensides are always living on the edge and it's about knowing how far to push things and when to stop. Those are the sort of tricks you learn from guys like Martyn and Sam, who have played at the highest level."
When Navidi, instantly recognisable for his distinctive dreadlocks, runs out at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium it will cap a remarkable turnaround in fortunes having initially been left out of the squad to travel to the Far East despite training with Wales during the RBS 6 Nations and before the tour.
However, he was drafted in at the 11th hour following an injury to Aaron Shingler and having spent the first Test ferrying water bottles while the Welsh back-row was being largely outplayed, Navidi now finds himself as a man in demand.
He said: "It has been a bit of a rollercoaster and there have been mixed emotions, but I'm glad I'm here now and I've got my chance to show what I can do at international level.
"It was hard last week watching the boys playing. It's harder to be on the touchline than on the pitch. You see stuff that the boys don't, but you can't do anything about it. It's more of a frustrating thing than anything.
"It's quite tough as the water carrier because you don't know when to go on. That's probably the quickest I've ever moved on the pitch."
Navidi becomes the eighth player to make his international debut on this tour with Ospreys hooker Scott Baldwin likely to be the ninth off the bench as Wales continue to fast-track young talent with so many players with the Lions.
Meanwhile Japan have arguably a stronger team than that which outscored Wales by two tries to one in Osaka last week with the return of captain Toshiaki Hirose as well as Shinya Makabe and Justin Ives to the bench.
Hirose said: "Our attitude was good last week but we know we had the opportunities to score more points against Wales, which would have won the game so we have worked hard to improve that area.
"It was a big lesson for us but one that we must experience to get better."