THERE was no need for name badges when two Wales new boys met up ahead of the Six Nations yesterday – Andrew Coombs had already introduced himself to Andries Pretorius in typically uncompromising style over Christmas.
The pair were among five uncapped players who joined up with the national squad for the first day of preparation for the tournament at their Vale of Glamorgan headquarters.
“The new faces have certainly made an impression,” said assistant coach Robin McBryde. “They are not here to make up the numbers, they are here to fight for a first team place.
“They bring freshness and training at 100 per cent means 100 per cent for them because they want to stake a claim for their shirts.”
That Newport Gwent Dragons lock/back row Coombs has headed into camp with that attitude doesn't come as a surprise.
He earned his spot with abrasive, whole-hearted displays in the festive derbies, as Cardiff Blues skipper Pretorius knows all too well following their Boxing Day encounter in the Arms Park mud.
“We were having a laugh about the game when we met up,” said the 27-year-old back row forward. “I got stuck at the bottom of a ruck and he showed me no mercy down there!
“That's rugby and how it happens out on the pitch, we enjoy that side of it. And on that day, in those conditions it was a case of the forwards standing toe to toe and slugging it out.”
South Africa-born Pretorius stated yesterday that after getting his first call-up “the really hard work starts now” and to that end he is trying to displace Dragons star Toby Faletau from the heart of the back row.
Faletau has had little competition for the number eight jersey since bursting on to the scene in 2011 but the Blues back row forward wants to put him under pressure.
“You want to create an environment where there is competition for places because that is for the benefit of the team,” said Pretorius, who went to Hartpury College and qualified for Wales on residency grounds.
“Toby is a very good player and I am hoping to learn from him but also bring some of my experience to the squad.
“I pride myself on my work rate and being able to read the game while Toby is very dynamic, very physical and has the ability to create something out of nothing. You always have to keep an eye on him.
“He is very experienced at Test level now so I hope to pick things up from him as well because, as senior rugby players tell you, your learning never stops.”