Josh Navidi will captain Wales for the first time this weekend as they face Ireland in a warm-up game in Cardiff having taken one of the more unusual paths to the top.
The 28-year-old has claimed 17 caps for his national side including starting every match in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.
The back-rower is the son of an Iranian wrestler who came to Wales to study civil engineering before settling in Bridgend with Navidi’s mother.
The youngster began his rugby career at Bridgend Athletic, he attended Brynteg Comprehensive and also played while at school.
Then at the age of 16, Navidi went to Christchurch in New Zealand to study accountancy and PE at St Bede’s College.
So impressive was Navidi in his time in New Zealand that he was offered a place in the Canterbury academy, an offer which he turned down to return to Wales.
There he was picked up by the Cardiff Blues Academy and began playing at openside flanker having already had experience at blindside and playing at No.8.
During the 2009 Under-20 Six Nations, Navidi was part of the squad and played against England with Justin Tipuric on the bench.
Later that year, the Welsh forward made his senior debut for Cardiff Blues before playing every game for Wales at the 2010 Under-20 Six Nations.
In that tournament, Navidi took on the captaincy, including leading the team to a comprehensive win over France.
In Cardiff he faced huge competition at openside from Martyn Williams and Sam Warburton, not to mention the emergence of Ellis Jenkins.
Still, Navidi showed he could play across the back row and made his debut for Wales against Japan in 2013.
That came during the British & Irish Lions Tour to Australia, and he had to wait four years for the next Lions Tour to get another opportunity.
After impressing that summer, he truly emerged in the autumn for Wales and made his Championship bow the following year.
He started in Wales’ 34-7 victory against Scotland and their 14-13 win over France, as well as losses against England and Ireland.
Then in this year’s Guinness Six Nations, Navidi played at blindside flanker for the majority of the matches, with the exception being against Italy where he donned the No.8 jersey.
He was one of the crucial components in Wales’ Grand Slam campaign making 83 tackles, gaining 45 metres and winning four turnovers.
Now he will have the opportunity to take a new leap in his international journey as he captains Wales for the very first time. It is a mark of the esteem in which he is held by Warren Gatland three weeks out from the start of the World Cup.