ANDREW Coombs has a great chance of winning his first Wales cap against Ireland in just over a fortnight, according to Robin McBryde.
And the national side’s forwards coach admits he is a big fan of the Newport Gwent Dragons man and can’t wait to work with the 28-year-old.
Utility forward Coombs was a surprise inclusion in caretaker coach Robert Howley’s 35-man Six Nations squad yesterday.
The former Pontypool and Newport back rower is being considered as a second row for Wales where he has featured this season for the Gwent region.
And the 6ft 4in and 17st 2lb from Nelson, near Ystrad Mynach, has enjoyed a truly remarkable short few weeks.
Coombs is on the brink of international stardom after only just returning to action last month following a knee injury had kept him out of action since the opening day of the season, back in late August.
He gets his chance because of Wales’ second row crisis, which currently sees Alun Wyn Jones (knee), Bradley Davies (ankle) and Luke Charteris (knee) all ruled out.
Coombs is up against the likes of James King, Lou Reed and Josh Turnbull to potentially partner Ian Evans – who is also facing a race against time to recover from a knee injury – in the second row, and McBryde is adamant that the Dragons star isn’t just around to make up the numbers.
“We’ve had our eyes on Andrew (for a while) and he’s a player who has really impressed us in the past,” the former Wales hooker said.
“He’s good with the ball in hand, he makes the right decisions and he’s got the talent.
“When you watch the Dragons, he always stands out with regard to his ball carrying ability and his work rate.”
McBryde also thinks Coombs has made a seamless transition from back row – where he was used to playing number eight and blindside flanker in the previous seasons – to second row.
“He did his time in the Premiership as a back rower and has played as a second row for the Dragons more recently and he has bulked up so he can compete in the scrum,” he said.
“And he has also been able to maintain how effective he is around the field, in the tackle area and he doesn’t waste himself during contact – he’s an intelligent player.
“I’ve been talking to Iestyn Thomas and Rob Appleyard (Dragons scrum and forwards coach respectively) and they are hugely complimentary about his work rate around the field and fellow player Dan Lydiate really rates Andrew.
“I’m really looking forward to working with him.
“And his age could be an advantage because he has matured a lot, I would imagine.
“Maybe his opportunity is coming a bit later than he would have liked but perhaps that will drive him on even further to make the most of his chance.
“When you take into account the number of injuries we’ve got in the second row – and we are hoping Ian Evans will be fit for the Ireland game – Lou Reed, James King, Josh Turnbull and Andrew are all battling for that second spot.”