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International debut just the beginning for fiercely committed Lewis-Hughes

Blues News | 30th October 2020


Shane Lewis-Hughes will fulfil a lifelong dream when he makes his Wales debut on Saturday but it is unlikely to quell his unrelenting desire to be the best.

After being called into the national set-up as a late addition, such has been the impression the 23-year-old has made that he has been handed the number six jersey for the Guinness Six Nations finale against Scotland.

Lewis-Hughes has had a burning ambition to carve a life out of rugby since he first touched a rugby ball as a seven-year-old in Ferndale. 

Having come through the Cardiff Blues academy and enjoyed a breakthrough 2019-20 season and an equally impressive start to the current campaign, regular observers will acutely aware of the former Ysgol Gyfun Cymer pupil’s prowess.

Now, he will step up to the Test arena but the driven flanker hopes it will be just the start of a long international career and there is no danger of him resting on his laurels.

Lewis-Hughes said: “It’s been a whirlwind. I'm just grateful to be here. It's something I've dreamed of since I was a little kid - to be in this environment and I'm just trying to be like a sponge and soak it all up. 

“To get the opportunity now at the weekend is just surreal. I wasn't in the squad originally, but I was just grateful to get the chance to come in and show what I can do. Hopefully I've done that and I can go out there on the weekend now and reward the faith the coaches have put in me to play.

“Hopefully it’s not a one-cap wonder kind of thing! I take it game by game. 

“Of course I have goals and stuff I want to achieve, and playing for Wales is something I’ve always wanted to achieve – I’d be lying if I said any different. 

“I’ve got the opportunity this weekend and I’m solely focused on being the best I can possibly be this weekend. I’m going to do my part to help the team be successful and then we’ll go from there. Hopefully it continues and I get to play for Wales in future and push on.”

When asked about his Twitter bio, which reads “obsessed to be the best”, he continued: “It effectively means trying to be the best version of yourself every single day. That's a mindset I've had for as long as I can remember. 

“Whatever I commit to, I want to be the bloody best at it. It's something I've always had in me and when I started playing rugby, I knew I could bring out the best version of myself in rugby. 

“The ability rugby gives you to improve and do it with your team-mates, I just love it. If you can go to sleep at night knowing you've done everything you can that day to be the best version of yourself, no matter what job you do, you can rest easy.

“I've always had the ability to give my best whatever life throws at you and it's got me to this point in rugby. Hopefully it drags me through to higher levels too.”

As Lewis-Hughes takes his first steps into international rugby, Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones will br writing his own piece of remarkable history as he becomes the world’s most capped player with 149.

Jones has been a vocal advocate of the young Cardiff Blues star in recent weeks and comparisons have been drawn between the two players and their attitudes towards the game.

And Lewis-Hughes sites the Ospreys legend along with former Cardiff Blues, Wales and Lions stars Sam Warburton and Gethin Jenkins as his biggest rugby heroes.

"It's obviously nice to get comments like that but it means nothing unless you perform. I don't really like to pay too much attention to that without being disrespectful. It is brilliant and does mean a lot, but I've got a job to do on Saturday to go out there and perform."

 

“It’s been amazing to see how Alun Wyn Jones operates. In the gym we have been going hammer and tong at each other – we both came out the other day and were exhausted and go into a rugby session. 

“We said ‘I think we pushed each other a bit too hard there butt!’ it’s been great just to be around him, see how he operates, his preparation, his focus. It’s inspiring. 

“There’s no coincidence he is taking the all-time Test record on Saturday. You can only have massive respect for someone like that. The focus he has is absolutely incredible.

“You can never be the best, or get to the level Alun has got to without having that mindset. His mind-set is incredible and he deserves all the accolades he has got and will get.

“When you come in and see the likes of Al and the rest of the boys you pinch yourself and think ‘god, it was only a couple of years ago I was watching him on the telly back in school!’, it’s mental. 

“Without rubbing him up too much, Gethin, who’s here now as our breakdown coach, that’s a guy I’ve got tremendous respect for. 

“Playing that position to have that many caps, the focus he had. I was lucky enough to train with him at Cardiff Blues – again, preparation, focus, everything he put into it was the best it could be. 

“When you look at him and Al, it’s no coincidence they’re the two most capped Welsh players of all time. That’s because of their preparation and the work they put in and their love of the game, and it’s inspiring to be around people like that. 

“When you watch them as a kid, you can’t believe how well they played every single time they put on a Welsh jersey. And then when you’re here in the environment, you can see why. 

“There’s loads of players I used to look up to – Sam, who’s just retired. So it’s those three really who stick in my mind.”

Unlike other international debuts, the Covid-19 pandemic means there will be no proud parents in the stand, no post-match function initiation songs and celebrations.

But it is a sacrifice we are all making and for Lewis-Hughes this will hopefully be the first of many.

He added: “My mother is my biggest motivation, not just in rugby but everything. Not having her there and not having my girlfriend there and my family and friends there will be sad because I wanted to share that moment with them. 

“That is disappointing but I know they’ll be watching on telly and supporting me. I’ll be able to Facetime them afterwards and hopefully I’ll be able to see them when this lockdown is over.”