Spratt hoping to prosper
Wales' Jonathan Spratt is hoping to capitalise once again on a British and Irish Lions tour by kick-starting his international career during this summer's tour of Japan.
Ospreys centre Spratt won the first of what he hoped would be many caps the last time Wales toured at the same time as the Lions. Instead he has been forced to watch on while others have prospered. Then aged 23, Spratt made his debut in a North American tour alongside little known prospects Sam Warburton and Jonathan Davies.
Four years on those team-mates are now Lions having also won back-to-back Six Nations titles, while Spratt is still waiting to pull on the Three Feathers again. "It has been great to watch those guys go on, progress and win the Six Nations a couple of times," he said. "As a Welshman, I'm proud of what they have achieved but for me, it has been a tough time."
In June 2009, with Jamie Roberts and James Hook in South Africa, Spratt replaced Davies in the 32-23 win over Canada in Toronto and then added a second run-out in the 48-15 victory against USA. It all looked so promising before injuries struck.
He said: "I had to have a discectomy on my back where they shaved one of the disks, which kept me out for four months. Then I underwent anterior-cruciate ligament reconstruction, which involved a couple of operations on my knee. In the end I was out for 18 months.
"It has been tough. I known it's all part and parcel of being a professional rugby player and unfortunately you have to take the lows as well as the highs. But all that kept me going was trying to get back playing, even though it took longer than expected."
Desperate to play, Spratt spent a season with Taranaki in New Zealand before taking up an offer to join London Irish and then a return to the Liberty Stadium.
He said: "New Zealand was a great experience and London Irish was another chance to play in a different league and learn new things, but most of all, it was simply a chance to play regular games. I've tried to learn as much as possible over the last four years but playing a good run of games has been the biggest factor."
Now, 2013 could prove a turning point for the Swansea University law graduate, who shared a lecture theatre with Alun Wyn Jones, having played his way onto the Wales tour.
"It's strange to be one of the senior guys at my age (27) but I have to help bring some experience to the younger guys while getting back to international rugby myself," Spratt said. "The conditions are pretty tough here in Japan with the heat and humidity but we'll just have to deal with that and try to impose our style of game."