Promising Wales backrower Gareth Delve is back in training and itching to show them what he can do.
The 21-year-old Bath man has been earmarked as a Wales international virtually since he could walk, but a series of crippling injuries have limited him to only one appearance in the senior Wales jersey - in last year's loss to the Barbarians at the Millennium Stadium.
Delve - who fought back from a cruciate ligament injury to catch the attention of former Wales coach Steve Hansen before he'd even started a senior game of rugby - dislocated his shoulder against the BaaBaas and missed the summer tour of Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup. He started pre-season training with Bath yesterday and can't wait to get a few games under his belt after three years of pain and frustration.
"I'm just looking forward to getting out there and getting a run of games going," said the former Wales age-group star. "I'm not thinking of Wales selection yet because I'm just concentrating on playing. I don't want to get a reputation as being injury-prone - although maybe I'm too late!
"The injuries have been frustrating, but the rest has done me a lot of good. I've been able to spend a lot of time in the gym, and if anything I'm stronger and faster than I was," said the 6ft 3in, 17st 7lb Delve, who is widely regarded as one of the fastest No 8's in the game.
"When I came back from the cruciate injury, my running wasn't the best, but the time off because of the shoulder has allowed me to improve my acceleration and balance and I feel great at the moment.
"I've had an extended pre-season and for the first time in my career I will be fully fit when squad training resumes," said Delve, who was so desperate to get back playing that he travelled to Australia for specialist treatment with former Queensland Reds fitness guru Ian King.
Delve is confident he has what it takes to play Test rugby, but admits just making Bath's starting lineup will be tough, let alone the Wales squad for the autumn internationals.
"We've got Zac Feaunati here and he had an awesome season last year. Michael Lipman toured with England last month and Andy Beattie is an England A player, so I can't take a starting spot for granted, that's for sure.
"Of the Wales boys playing No 8 at the moment, it looks like Michael Owen is making the best fist of it, but I know Andy Lloyd very well from when he played at Bath and he's right up there, as well as a few other good players.
"We'll see what happens - I have enough faith in my ability to think I can play for my country, but at the moment I just want to play some rugby. I want to get out there and stay out there.
"I might be the man they're looking for, but it's not the first thing on my mind."
Delve, who is so quick he played on the wing for Colston's College in a school match against Llandovery College, said No 8 was his favoured position in the backrow.
"I prefer playing there because you have more responsibility and are expected to carry the ball up. You have a bit more right to get your hands on the ball and you go into the game knowing that."
Delve admitted that being labelled a future Wales star for so many years had its drawbacks.
"It was getting quite embarrassing there for a while," he said. "People were talking me up left, right and centre, and hardly any of them had seen me play.
"Still, I guess it's better than people saying I'm rubbish!"
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