Will Rowlands says Wales will relish the “toe-to-toe” challenge that awaits them across two Test matches against Argentina.
The Pumas arrive in Cardiff on Saturday for a mini series that promises to ask questions of a Wales squad minus more than a dozen front-line players.
But while British and Irish Lions duties in South Africa and injuries have meant a much-changed selection for head coach Wayne Pivac, there were promising signs shown during a 68-12 victory over Canada last Saturday.
Pivac blooded five Test newcomers in that game, led by two-try Dragons flanker Taine Basham, while Rowlands’ second-row partnership with debutant Ben Carter proved a dominant influence.
Wales have beaten Argentina four times in succession, but the Pumas showed their quality by recording a first win against New Zealand and drawing twice with Australia last year.
“Canada was a perfect first game for us as a slightly different group,” said former Wasps lock Rowlands, who will join the Dragons later this summer.
“It was great as a warm-up, but I was always looking at these fixtures and was glad that we are playing Argentina twice.
“These are the Tests that I want to play in to challenge myself and also prove what I am capable of.
“It will be a very good test for us, and we are very excited about going toe-to-toe with them.
“It is definitely going to be a step up – first and foremost, physically.
“Argentina are big, physical and always have a good scrum and maul. That is the area I am focused on, and if we get our basics right there and tear into them, then that will give us a good footing for the rest of the game.
“That physicality is going to be required in every single aspect of the game to give us go-forward in attack and defence.”
Rowlands scored a first international try as Wales ran Canada ragged, while alongside official man-of-the-match Carter, he ensured a quality supply of line-out possession.
“It was great playing with Ben,” Rowlands added. “He has a very mature head for a 20-year-old.
“He dealt with the occasion really well and played great, so I am looking forward to playing with him a few more times for Wales and the Dragons.
“He has done very well and is an example that when you get an opportunity in sport for whatever reason, then you just need to take it. Full credit to Ben, he did that at the weekend.
“He has all the attributes to go pretty far in the game.”
Rowlands has moved to Bristol with his partner ahead of playing for the Dragons, having juggled Gallagher Premiership business at Coventry-based Wasps with Wales for the first year of his Test career.
“Trying to do those Six Nations campaigns when dragged between two places was pretty difficult, particularly when trying to call a line-out or establish yourself in a team and you are missing days of training,” he said.
In the last couple of months, I have found a bit more energy and have been much more myself on a rugby pitchWales lock Will Rowlands
“It’s a tough ask, so I am excited about hopefully being here the whole time, getting picked to play for Wales and playing well for the Dragons.
“I struggled around Six Nations-time when it was after the previous Premiership season rolled into the autumn, then back into the Premiership.
“It does wear you down when playing week in, week out, and also as a result of injuries at Wasps, I was playing 80 minutes and it can be attritional.
“In the last couple of months, I have found a bit more energy and have been much more myself on a rugby pitch and a training pitch.”