Ryan Elias is practically giddy at the prospect of making his first Guinness Six Nations appearance for Wales, but knows that claiming the No.2 jersey during Rugby’s Greatest Championship will be far from easy.
The 24-year-old Scarlets hooker has made six appearances in the famous red shirt, most recently making his home debut in Wales’ crushing 74-24 defeat of Tonga in the Autumn Internationals.
And despite his delight at being given the chance to pack down in front of 75,000 adoring fans, Elias knows that the rugby ramps up another level when it comes to the Guinness Six Nations.
“It would be huge for me to make my first appearance in the Six Nations – certainly the biggest thing for me to date,” he said in his player column for the WRU.
“It’s almost the pinnacle in international rugby. To get to wear the jersey would be brilliant, but there’s a lot of work to be done before that.
“The first week in camp has been intense, but it has to be because international rugby is a different animal.
“The stakes are a lot higher: you might only get one chance, so you need to get it right the first time. You’re under pressure.”
Elias will duke it out with Elliot Dee and Wales stalwart Ken Owens for the starting berth at hooker, with the youngster adamant that competition is healthy for the squad as Wales look to claim their first Championship title since 2013.
But with Owens recently deputising at No.8 for Scarlets as they battled an injury crisis, Elias joked that his compatriot should look to make the move to the back of the pack permanent.
“We’ve got very strong competition for the No.2 shirt in this Wales squad, with Ken Owens, Elliot Dee and myself. We get stuck into each other, but we get on very well too,” he continued.
“When Ken got Man of the Match against Tigers recently playing at No.8, I told him, ‘You’ve finally found your position, and you can stay there now!’ We had a good laugh, but he did a great job there.
“In the Wales environment, we’re very fortunate in that we’ve got two former hookers in the coaching set-up with Warren Gatland and Robin McBryde.
“You learn a lot from them. Getting scrummaging tips from ‘Muccers’ is brilliant, and the same with throwing: he breaks it down a lot for the three of us. It’s the technical side which goes unseen, but it’s invaluable.”