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Wales' lock Jake playing a very different ball game

It is not stretching the boundaries of sporting fantasy to suggest that Wales lock Jake Ball might have played cricket for Australia had he not loathed fielding so much. But Ball will run out against the Wallabies on Saturday for a rugby union Test match that he admits "means a lot to me."

During a previous sporting life, the bearded Scarlets forward struck fear into opposition batsmen on wickets renowned for their pace and bounce in Western Australia.

A teenage cricketing peer of Shaun and Mitchell Marsh and tutored by their father - former Australia Test opening batsman Geoff Marsh - seamer Ball's bowling was once clocked at 82mph.

Ascot-born Ball, whose father Dave is a North Walian who played number eight for London Welsh and Harlequins, emigrated to Australia with his family at the age of 16. And cricket was the sporting plan.

"I went out there to play cricket, and I did it for two years," Ball said.

"I was a fast bowler and I played alongside the Marsh boys. I miss the competitive edge of the bowling, but I hated standing in the field and I was a tail-end batsman as well, so I ended up spending a lot of time sitting around.

"I was probably a bit over the top when I played cricket.

"If I got nicked through slips and that, it would be a case of trying to keep my cool. I wouldn't say it was sledging - I was more of a quiet angry man, I think!"

Ball captained Surrey Under-15s rugby team before heading Down Under, and was training with the Perth-based Western Force Super Rugby squad when the Scarlets spotted him before quickly offering him a three-year contract in 2012.

Less than two years later, he broke into the Wales squad, making his Test debut as a replacement against Ireland during last season's RBS 6 Nations Championship.

"I am just happy to get this opportunity, to be honest," he added. "I think it is going to be a brutal contest, and we will get stuck into it."

Belfast Telegraph