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James relishing chance to shine

It was a long time - six years to be exact - before Wales prop Paul James could exit international rugby's one-cap club.

But the fact he is now closing in on 50 Test match appearances and is a strong contender for this summer's British and Irish Lions tour to Australia underlines how important a part he has become of Wales' set-up.

A successful move to Aviva Premiership club Bath - James is approaching the halfway point of a two-year contract - can also be credited with keeping him firmly in the Test match spotlight. The ex-Ospreys forward said: "I am enjoying my rugby."

He will win his 44th cap in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash against Scotland at Murrayfield, taking over from an injured Gethin Jenkins as Wales target a victory that would keep alive their title hopes.

Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley admitted this week that it would have been a close call between Jenkins and James even had the Toulon loosehead not been laid low by a calf muscle injury.

And it comes as no surprise that 30-year-old James is thirsting for his opportunity after three successive Six Nations appearances off the bench this season.

James added: "I feel like I have made a good impact every time I've come on in games, and I am just looking forward to having a start. I think playing in the Premiership is a bit closer to international rugby in its intensity. I think that has improved my game, and it is starting to show a bit.

"I wouldn't say it is just playing in the Premiership. It was also the fact I played for the Ospreys for 10 years, you are at one club for so long and maybe you get a little stale. I suppose going to Bath I was new there, but so were all the coaching staff. The slate was clean and it was just about training hard and waiting for your opportunity.

"Touch wood, it's gone well so far. I've settled in nicely, got on with the boys and formed a nice partnership with Davey Wilson and Rob Webber, and Mearsy (Lee Mears) before he called it a day.

"It's just a more physical league to play in the Premiership. Then when you move to international rugby again the standards step up, the physicality steps up, but Premiership rugby is just that one stop closer."


From Belfast Telegraph