TIGHTHEAD Lloyd Fairbrother is enjoying learning about the dark arts of scrummaging from fellow new recruit Boris Stankovich and has set his sights on a spot alongside him in the Newport Gwent Dragons front row.
The 22-year-old Cornishman has settled into life with the Rodney Parade region after signing from Exeter Chiefs.
Despite his self-confessed love of pasties, the mulleted prop has been grafting hard as preparations intensify ahead of the Guinness Pro12 opener against Connacht.
And that includes packing down at the region's training base in Ystrad Mynach with no-nonsense loosehead Stankovich, a man whose approach to the game is revealed by his hi-top, black scrummaging boots.
"After playing for Leicester in the Premiership for years Boris has loads of experience, something that you can't buy," said Fairbrother, who has penned a three-year deal.
"I've been doing a lot with him, scrummaging live both with and against him. He's definitely hard to scrum against – he's so wide – and I've learnt a lot off him already."
Fairbrother was able to put some of his new-found knowledge into practice when given the nod to start alongside Stankovich and hooker Elliot Dee in Sunday's pre-season opener against Bristol.
The scrum functioned well throughout with the three tightheads – Fairbrother, Dan Way and David Young – all getting game time.
"It was brilliant and after working hard in a tough pre-season we were all happy to get out there," said Fairbrother, who will also compete for action with South African prop Brok Harris from October.
"We were quite pleased with how it went and now we've got Lydney on Sunday before taking on Northampton, which will be a big test for us at the scrum.
"I've got a couple of games now to work hard towards my ultimate goal of getting in that team for Connacht."
The opportunity of playing top-level rugby was what prompted Fairbrother, who qualifies for Wales courtesy of his mum's Blaenavon roots, to move out of his comfort zone.
He said: "I was on loan at Plymouth, which was good for me but I didn't feel that I was moving up the pecking order with Exeter.
"I'm still quite young at 22 but they brought some new guys in and the Dragons needed a tighthead. It just felt it was a great opportunity for me to come here, scrum hard and show what I can do.
"I've had to move away from home, which is quite a big thing for a south west boy! I've headed over the water with my partner and have had to grow up a bit, which maybe I needed. I'm really enjoying it."