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Lee ready to grasp opportunity

Samson Lee has no doubt what his primary role will be when he makes his first Millennium Stadium start for Wales on Saturday.

The 21-year-old Scarlets tighthead prop packs down in a Wales front-row that does not include two familiar faces - Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones.

The British and Irish Lions props might boast 202 Wales caps between them, but Jenkins provides loosehead bench cover for Bath's Paul James against Australia this weekend and Jones did not even make a 34-man autumn Test squad.

Jones, 12 years Lee's senior, was the major surprise omission from Wales head coach Warren Gatland's group compiled to meet November challenges from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa.

But Lee now has a golden opportunity to showcase his rich potential after four appearances as a Wales replacement and one in the starting line-up when Gatland's team lost 31-30 against South Africa five months ago.

And Lee, whose fellow former pupils at Coedcae School in Llanelli include ex-England cricketer Simon Jones and 2011 world 400m hurdles gold medallist Dai Greene, knows there is considerable expectation on his sizeable shoulders.

"It's a big vote of confidence in me to be selected ahead of Adam in the squad because he has been playing really well this year, so hopefully I will take my chance to become first-choice," he said.

"He has been the player that I've looked up to, and he gave me plenty of tips in previous Wales squads.

"Adam was the best in the world at one stage, and that was because of his unbelievable scrummaging. That is the tighthead's first job, and then they have to work hard around the field.

"I am hoping to improve around the park, but that's just a bonus. I need the scrum to keep going well.

"Australia aren't known for their scrums, but I am sure they will come at us there and it will be physical.

"I am ready for that, and we have a really good scrummaging front-row because both (hooker) Richard Hibbard and Paul James are world-class forwards.

"I've played some big games over the past season or so, and I am looking forward to the challenge.

"It was tough to go up against one of the best in the 'Beast' (Tendai Mtawarira) in South Africa, and I don't think that it will be any different against Australia. I expect a tough test against (Wallabies loosehead) James Slipper.

"It's going to be really tough at the set-piece, and we have to grit our teeth and get stuck into them. The forwards need to put in a big performance."

Gatland has put his players through a punishing training programme during the autumn build-up, a regime that has often included players making three visits a day to the cryotherapy recovery chamber.

And Lee added: "It is the toughest training I've ever experienced.

"It has been hard work with really early starts and long days, but I am sure it will pay off and all the boys look ready for the game.

"You need that, because internationals are another step up from regional rugby with it being a faster and more physical game."

Wales' use of GPS data during training gives them an accurate assessment of the exacting standards players are needed to reach in the international game.

Gatland said: "The advantage the southern hemisphere teams have is the metres run per minute in Super Rugby is a lot higher.

"So when they transfer over to international rugby there is not a big jump. Sometimes it's the same. For us, the jump from regional rugby here is massive.

"In international rugby, you are looking at an average of about 75 metres per minute covered, which is about the same as Super Rugby, and the average we are looking at in regional rugby is about 55-60 per minute.

"That doesn't seem a lot, but over 80 minutes it does take a bit of time to get used to it. That's why our training is geared to that high-speed tempo so we don't get the shock on Saturday that we have experienced in the past."


From Belfast Telegraph