For Rhys Webb, the desire to play for Wales burns as brightly as ever.
He hasn’t featured in Wayne Pivac’s last two squads – for the Six Nations and summer Tests – with Gareth Davies, Tomos Williams, Kieran Hardy, Lloyd Williams and Rhodri Williams all selected ahead of him at scrum-half.
During the 18 months where he has been eligible for Wales again, after re-signing for the Ospreys, he has started just once, along with four further caps off the bench.
But, as he heads into the new season, he feels in as good shape as ever and would be very much ready to answer the call if it comes.
“I certainly have ambitions to play for Wales again,” he said.
“I have got three young boys who are rugby mad and I would love to have them watch me play in the Principality Stadium.
“I will always have that ambition to play for my country. It’s one of the highest honours.
“But I’m not going to get too drawn into it. .
“I have always said to myself, you have to control the controllables.
“I have never been one to worry about selection or get down about it.
“If it happens, then brilliant.
“If not, then I will continue working my socks off for the Ospreys. It’s my job, I love playing rugby and I just try and do my best for the club.
“I will continue to work hard and my standards will always be international standards. i won’t let them drop because that’s the standards I set myself.
“I will always make sure I am on top of everything.
“I will always want to play for Wales. As I say, I would love my three kids to see me do that, but for that to happen I have to play well week-in, week-out for the Ospreys.”
The 38-times capped Webb actually started last season as Wales’ first-choice scrum-half.
Having been chosen at No 9 for the Six Nations game against Scotland in March 2020, which was postponed due to Covid, he was selected there again for the opening Test of the new season against France in Paris.
But, after that, he was limited to a couple of outings off the bench ahead of being omitted from the squad in the new year.
“With the autumn series that I was involved in, they decided to use it as more of a development thing, so I didn’t get the run of games that I would have liked to show what I could do and to get a hold of that jersey,” he said.
“I think my performances for the Ospreys showed I was playing well and I continued to do that.
“Scrum-half is obviously a competitive position in Wales. Everyone wants the jersey and there are three or four nines in line for it.
“Whatever happens happens.
“Wherever I am ranked, as long as I am playing well week-in, week-out for the Ospreys I am happy.
“I am feeling good. I still feel young. I look after myself incredibly well and my nutrition is on point.
“I am still enjoying myself and still striving to get better week-in, week-out.”
As for the particular strengths which he feels he brings to the party, Webb says: “It’s the nitty gritty thing, controlling the game.
“That’s the one where I believe I can continue to thrive. I can grab the game by the nuts, if you want.
“If I finish a match having made just one line-break or nor scoring, I don’t worry.
“I continue to run those lines, I continue to do my job, control the team as best I can, put them in the right areas.
“As long as I’m doing that and getting the results for my club, then the rest will take care of itself.”
Looking ahead to the new season, it’s the return of supporters to grounds that is perhaps enthusing Webb above all.
“That’s massive,” said the 32-year-old, who got married to his long-time partner Delyth over the summer.
“I made my debut at 17 in front of fans and I thrive on that.
“I get a real feel-good factor playing in front of lots of people. That’s when I feel like I’m alive.
“It was a long season last year and it kind of dragged with no fans there.
“You look to create your our own atmosphere, but there is only so much of that you can do.
“Having thousands at Franklin’s Gardens for our game against Northampton last week was brilliant.”
Webb is ready for the crowd to play their part when the Ospreys kick off their United Rugby Championship campaign away to the Dragons a week on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a different sort of environment up in Rodney Parade,” he said, speaking at the Welsh launch of the URC at the Principality Stadium.
“A lot of our youngsters are not used to playing in front of crowds and it will be new for them.
“We will have to speak to them to make sure they control their emotions and the hostility around it and the shouting from the crowd.
“We have shown some great signs in the two games against Hartpury and Northampton and the boys are ready for the first league match.”
The clash with the Saints at Franklin’s Gardens saw Webb partnering the fit-again Gareth Anscombe at half-back.
“His hard work, his dedication and resilence to get back on that pitch has been brilliant,” he said.
“Obviously I have had my fair share of injuries, but having been out for more than two years it was huge for him to come back.
“It’s great to have him round the environment with his knowledge of the game and the way he speaks to the youngsters to make sure they are seeing the right things as him.
“It’s just nice to have another loud voice outside you.”
As for the introduction of the four top South African sides into the URC, Webb sees that as a definite positive.
“These teams have been competing in Super Rugby, which is one of the best leagues in the world, with the style of rugby they play,” he said.
“We want to test ourselves against these sides and it’s great for the league to have them in.
“They will add strength to the competition and I think they will cause a couple of upsets as well.
“South Africa have some of the best players in the world and you want to test yourself against these guys.
“Having them come down to the Liberty Stadium or when we visit them in South Africa, it will be an exciting time.”
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