Paul James will be back in Wales with Bath this week
Wales prop Paul James is all geared up for his return to Wales this week for the Amlin Challenge Cup Final as he aims to persuade head coach Warren Gatland that he is worthy of a place on the summer tour to South Africa.
James is set to start Friday night's clash with Northampton Saints at the Arms Park for Bath, with a two-Test series with the Springboks on the horizon next month.
The former Ospreys loosehead isn't counting his chickens as far as national selection is concerned but he admits both he and Bath back Gavin Henson would love the chance to wear national colours in South Africa.
"They say South Africa's the toughest place to go and play on tour and as a professional that's where I want to be tested, against the best and in the toughest places. If I'm selected, I'll really look forward to that one," said James.
"Gavin has come in here this season and his leadership and the way he has performed has been great. He's getting back to the Gav of old, who we know can win games and is world-class. I don't see why he doesn't deserve a chance.
"It's always nice to come back to Wales and smell that Welsh air. I've never played in a final in Cardiff…the town is a big party area… it'll be good."
James is hoping his latest trip back across the Severn Bridge will end in silverware as Bath go in search of a first trophy since they picked up a maiden Amlin Challenge Cup crown six seasons ago.
Defeat at Harlequins ended their hopes of Aviva Premiership glory in heartbreaking fashion and European success has now taken on extra meaning as the West Country club look to put some sense into the sacrifices they have made this year.
"With the amount of hard work we've put in this season and the sacrifices we've made, it would be very disappointing if we couldn't take anything out of it," added James.
"I obviously moved to Bath for a change but a big factor in coming to Bath was the ambition the club had: they want to win things and that fitted into everything that I want.
"Our goal was to go through to the play offs but it wasn't to be. We went through the reviews and looked at what we did well and what we did badly but we've put that to bed now. That's gone, we can't dwell on it.
"We know we've got to dust ourselves off quickly because we know what's needed to win finals. Everybody's come back in, regrouped and is now looking forward to the final. The boys are back up and are walking around with heads held high and we're just looking forward to Friday."
James and the rest of the Bath pack are particularly looking forward to another hugely physical battle up front as they lock horns with Saints for the second time in three weeks.
Bath edged the tight exchanges at The Rec on May 2 when the sides drew 19-19 in a domestic nail-biter and the Welsh international is looking for more of the same this time around.
"All season we've worked really hard on our setpiece. Our scrum, lineouts and the breakdown, we've pushed that this season. Every session we train hard and that's not going to change this week.
"Northampton are a great team with a huge pack and usually they dominate so if we can stop them there it's going to help our backs to create a bit out wide.
"We're going to keep focusing on the same things. We worked hard in training on Monday, especially at scrum time, and hopefully we can go into the final on Friday and be dominant."
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