<
>

'Forgotten man of Welsh rugby' Tom James ready to take chance

play
Taylor: Welsh front line must step up (3:55)

Rav Wilding is joined by John Taylor and Conor O'Shea to discuss Wales' chances ahead of the Six Nations. (3:55)

Tom James says that he needed to become "the forgotten man of Welsh rugby" during a rebuilding spell in his rugby career.

The Cardiff Blues wing will make his first Test match appearance for more than five years when Wales launch their RBS 6 Nations campaign against Ireland in Dublin on Sunday. Wales have played 65 Tests since James won the last of his 10 caps against New Zealand in November 2010.

But two seasons spent with Aviva Premiership club Exeter helped his renaissance before rejoining the Blues last summer and maintaining prodigious try-scoring form. Earlier in 2010, James briefly withdrew himself from Wales squad activity ahead of a Six Nations finale against Italy after being overlooked for selection, while he had also reportedly voiced displeasure over selection during Wales' two-Test South Africa tour two years previously.

"I was in the goldfish bowl and needed to get away," James said. "I needed to get away and become the forgotten man of Welsh rugby. But you always want to play for your country, and in my second season at Exeter, after a few good games, I was hopeful the call would come. It didn't, but I carried on working and it has paid off.

"Moving away to Exeter and working with different coaches, I improved my all-round game. I've come back and everyone has seen a difference. When I was younger, you make mistakes. I've gone away, grown up and matured as a person.

"Even at the time I made those mistakes, I spoke to them (coaches) afterwards, and there were no hard feelings. I wasn't playing well at the time, so I didn't get selected. I was lucky enough to move away, and I've secured myself recognition again."

James has claimed eight tries in 12 games for the Blues this season, while he is their all-time top try scorer with 47 touchdowns, and such consistent electrifying form has earned him a Wales recall.

"As soon as I have the ball in my hands, I have the confidence that I can beat anyone," he added. "Hopefully, I can show that in a way that I didn't show when I played for Wales in the past. It (facing Ireland on Sunday) is going to be the same as winning my first cap. Every time you play for Wales you get the same adrenalin and the same buzz."

James' recall, meanwhile, has been welcomed by his Blues colleague and Wales captain Sam Warburton.

"Back in 2009 and 2010, Tom was awesome for the Blues in the European runs that they had. He has matured massively after going to Exeter and coming back," Warburton said. "He is an extremely good pro now, very diligent. He has moved to Cardiff and has a young kid on the way, which puts things into perspective.

"He has been outstanding for the Blues, and not just on the field, the way he is with the younger guys. He is an experienced player now, he has played a lot of regional rugby and club rugby in England and has international experience. At 28, he is probably in his prime physically, and you see that when he is training in the gym or on the field - he is an absolutely brilliant athlete.

"You see New Zealand with Maori wingers who are explosive and unpredictable. Tom is our equivalent with his power, and he is a very exciting player to watch."