Dewi Lake insists he is far from the finished article ahead of making his first Wales start against Italy.
The hooker has long believed that his chances of a successful career were best placed in the front row, despite regularly playing as a flanker until the age of 18.
Now aged 22, Lake reflects fondly on his positional change and the progress he continues to make at his club, Ospreys, and with Wales.
“I always had spoken with my father that if there was any opportunity in rugby that we would pursue that avenue,” said the Bridgend-born star.
“From a young age we always thought hooker would eventually be an outcome with the crop of back-rowers that the Ospreys had at the time, and Wales have always been strong in the back-row – that would be a tough nut to crack.
“I hadn’t grown at the time and was standing at about five feet six, five feet seven, so it would have been a tough job.
“But look it’s hard work, around set-pieces there are still struggles there.
“The improvements are coming slowly but it’s not an overnight job. It’s just nice that it’s finally falling into place.”
Lake has been a substitute in each of Wales’ four games so far this campaign but is now gearing up for his first start as Italy visit the Principality Stadium.
With Wales out of the title picture, celebrations will centre on Alun Wyn Jones’ 150th and Dan Biggar’s 100th Wales caps and Lake lauded the example set by the experienced pair.
He said: “First of all it was a big step up from coming out of the under-20s where you’re sort of a version of a big fish in a small pond to stepping into that environment where you’re a very small fish.
“The welcoming you get from the group of boys just puts you at ease. In terms of development for me as a player, just being able to work under the coaches here and with players like Dan Biggar and Al.
“Training with those calibre of players brings a better player out of you.”
Even the most experienced hookers have been forced to adapt during this edition of the Guinness Six Nations as the 2022 Championship has trialled the use of a new ‘break foot’ scrum law, which asks hookers to use their front foot as a break to reduce the possibility of injury.
“I think it’s been a good rule,” said Lake.
“There have been less scrum resets and that in the past has obviously been slowing the game down and taking away from what people want to get to, which is that attack-defence battle.
“So I think it’s taking a lot of pressure off front-rowers.
“I think it’s creating a scrum that’s more controlled and that we as players can be in charge of more rather than it just being a battle of who is heavier and who can put all their weight through quicker.
“So I think it’s been a good trial run and we’ll see what comes of it.”
Lake is one of seven changes to Wayne Pivac’s team for the final round of the tournament and is targeting a strong finish to a frustrating campaign.
“Our goal was to go all the way. Sometimes those things don’t happen,” added Lake.
“We still have a chance of ending in the top three this weekend, if we get the win over Italy, so that’s something that we’re pushing for.
“We’re giving them the respect that they deserve under their new coaching and we’re looking forward to a physical battle.”