NEWPORT Gwent Dragons forward Andrew Coombs isn’t content with a dream call-up to the Wales squad – he wants his fairytale rise to continue with a starring role against Ireland at the Millennium Stadium.
The 28-year-old was yesterday named in a 35-man squad for the RBS 6 Nations, reaping the rewards of a recent switch from the back row to lock.
Four years ago Coombs was captaining Newport while working as a software salesman at a company owned by the father of Sam Warburton’s girlfriend.
Now he could be stood next to the Wales skipper while belting out the national anthem.
It is a rise to rival that of Lloyd Burns, his former Dragons teammate who went from being a bricklayer and Cross Keys’ captain to playing for his country in the 2011 World Cup. Coombs was once on the books of the Dragons Academy but was released because of shoulder problems.
He worked his way back up, first with Pontypool and notably with the Black and Ambers, captaining the side from number eight and winning the Premiership player of the year award in 2010.
Those exploits earned a professional deal and now, after making the move to lock, he is on the verge of a Wales cap.
“I took a lot of inspiration from Burner,” said Coombs. “He is a similar character to me and we come from the same type of background.
“Seeing him do it made me think that I could as well. I’ve always believed I could achieve things – I just keep trying and see what comes my way.”
It is that never-say-die attitude and an abrasive on-field nature, traits he shares with Burns, that caught the eye of the Wales coaching staff in the festive derbies.
“I think you’ve got to give 100 per cent all the time, if you upset a few people on the way then so be it,” said Coombs.
“I’ve probably not made many friends in the derbies so it could be strange going into the Wales camp, but I’m the first person to shake hands after a game. I’m probably a bit old school.”
Coombs’ call-up comes thanks to a host of injuries in the second row but he isn’t heading to the Vale of Glamorgan international base to hold tackle bags.
“I knew there were a lot of injuries but I never quite believed I would get picked. I was blown away,” admitted the lock, who has had no contact with any of the Wales coaches.
“I got into the Dragons team (in the second row) through other people being injured and it’s exactly the same with Wales. I took the opportunity once and I want to do the same again.
“There’s a lot of work to be done before then and I’ve got to get myself in contention but hopefully it will happen.
“It would be pointless going in there and just wanting to be part of it all, I’d be wasting my time. I am going in there for one thing and that’s to play.”
And to that end Coombs is desperate to catch the eye in the Dragons’ European finale against Wasps tomorrow night.
“The Welsh call-up is at the back of my mind because I need to concentrate on performing well against Wasps,” he said.
“I see it as an opportunity to get myself in the side, not just the squad, so I need to impress. I don’t want to be wrapped in cotton wool.”
Wales squad: Backs – L Byrne (Clermont Auvergne), Liam Williams (Scarlets), L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), E Walker (Ospreys), G North (Scarlets), A Cuthbert (Blues), S Williams (Scarlets), J Roberts (Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), J Hook (Perpignan), D Biggar (Ospreys), M Phillips (Bayonne), T Knoyle (Scarlets), Lloyd Williams (Blues)
Forwards – S Andrews (Blues), C Mitchell (Exeter), A Jones (Ospreys) P James (Bath), G Jenkins (Toulon), R Bevington (Ospreys), R Hibbard (Ospreys), K Owens (Scarlets), M Rees (Scarlets), R Jones (Ospreys) L Reed (Blues), I Evans (Ospreys), J King (Ospreys), A Coombs (Newport Gwent Dragons), J Turnbull (Scarlets), J Navidi (Cardiff Blues), A Shingler (Scarlets), J Tipuric (Ospreys), S Warburton (Blues, capt), T Faletau (Dragons), A Pretorius (Blues).