Scrum-half Rhys Webb relishing chance to prove World Cup worth with Wales
Wales star Rhys Webb will shortly complete his rise from World Cup armchair viewer four years ago to performing on rugby union's global stage - and he is relishing the prospect.
Webb is a pivotal part of Wales coach Warren Gatland's World Cup plans, having made the scrum-half berth his own during a sparkling 10-month period.
The 26-year-old has started nine of Wales' 11 Tests during that time, with his five tries including touchdowns against New Zealand, Australia and England.
A repeat performance at the Wallabies' expense and that of World Cup host nation England could go some way towards helping Wales emerge from a so-called 'pool of death' that will claim at least one notable casualty before the quarter-finals.
"I've got ambitions and goals," said Webb, whose displays for Wales and the Ospreys last season were recognised this week when he received the Welsh Rugby Writers' Association player of the year award.
"You want to be the best player in the world, but there is a lot of hard work to try to achieve that.
"I want to keep pushing and testing myself against the best nines in the world, and the World Cup is the biggest stage to do it on."
Webb might have been a certainty for Wales' World Cup squad that was announced on Monday by Welsh Rugby Union chairman Gareth Davies, but he still had to play a waiting game - especially as the 31 names were revealed in alphabetical order.
"I tried not to let it play on my mind too much and get on with my life, but it was pretty hard," he added.
"I went out walking the dogs with the family, then it was back to my parents' house. We all had it (THE squad announcement) on our phones.
"It was read out in alphabetical order so I had a long wait until the Ws. I was almost last - it was a long wait - but I am honoured and privileged to be in a World Cup.
"I was over the moon, and there were tears in the eyes of my family. Now, I can't wait to start."
Wales' World Cup hopes will unquestionably hinge on the outcome of games at Twickenham against England on September 26 and Australia two weeks later, and they will go into the tournament unbeaten on the road since suffering an agonising 31-30 loss to South Africa in Nelspruit almost 15 months ago.
Away-day successes during that period include victories in Dublin, Paris, Edinburgh and Rome, which suggests they will not be deterred by the Twickenham double-header.
"I love the challenge of going away from home," Webb said.
"We are all there to win - we are competitors - and it's just about emptying the tank and giving everything.
"Winning in places like Dublin has given us confidence. We know if get the game-plan right and cut our errors, we can go anywhere and win.
"It's about believing, and this group does believe. It's a pretty special place to be right now."