SEVENS specialist Sam Cross always planned to return to 15s but the former Newport RFC back rower never expected it to be before attempting to add Commonwealth Games and World Cup medals to his Olympic silver.

The 25-year-old from Brynmawr made the last of his 15 appearances for the Black and Ambers against Cardiff in October, 2015 before concentrating on his efforts to make the squad for Rio 2016.

He made the cut and helped GB win silver against the odds after the team was flung together with relatively short preparation time.

It was back to the World Rugby Sevens Series with Wales last season and Cross was expected to be a leading figure in the build-up to April’s Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast and July’s World Cup in LA.

Instead he is representing his country at Principality Stadium and after winning his first cap against Australia last Saturday he gets his first start against Georgia this afternoon (kick-off 2.30pm).

It’s a remarkable rise - he had played just two professional games of 15-a-side before the Wallabies appearance - that has even caught the openside by surprise.

“A big target of mine was Olympics and the Commonwealth Games so the plan was always to go back to 15s after this season,” said Cross.

“My opportunity came at the start of the year with the Ospreys when Steve Tandy rang me up and said I was somebody they were interested at having a look at.

“I had a start at the Ospreys sooner than I thought I would, then with injuries to opensides in Wales it all seemed to fit in well for me.

“It’s a big year for the sevens and it’s still on my radar but it was always my pathway to getting back to 15s.

“It was for me to develop myself, play in big stadiums against that level of competition to come back to 15s. It just happened a bit quicker than expected.”

“The sevens squad are looking forward to going to Dubai and Cape Town in two weeks. It’s weird being around the Vale and seeing those boys in, I’m normally on the other side of the barn looking at the seniors. It’s a bit different this year.”

Cross, was the beneficiary of injuries to fellow flankers Sam Warburton, Ellis Jenkins, Ollie Griffiths and James Davies, could well return to the shorter format to aid the bid for Commonwealth and World Cup glory.

And he believes the Sevens Series is proving to be an excellent training ground for Test hopefuls.

Cross said: “My path may be a little bit different to the normal route but I’ve played a lot of international rugby on the sevens circuit and against some top international players, the likes of Rieko Ioane.

“He was a regular on the sevens circuit and came in to be one of the top players on the Lions tour, that’s a credit to the strength of circuit with some top players like Quade Cooper, Bryan Habana, Sonny Bill Williams all having played in the last 12 months.

“Whenever somebody from sevens steps into 15s you have an interest and a look to see how they go. You see Rieko tearing it up on the sevens circuit and think that he’s good, then he is starting for the All Blacks and kicked on again.”

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Cross’ reintegration to 15-a-side rugby has been aided by some of the biggest names in the game.

“The detail around the set piece and the lineout is the thing that I’ve worked most on,” he said.

“I’ve worked a lot with Alun Wyn Jones at the Ospreys, I can learn a lot off Aaron Shingler who is an exceptional lineout forward, Justin Tipuric has been helping me a lot.

“Sam Warburton was really good in my first week, he had watched my game against Saracens and picked up things I was doing well and things to keep going at, that small detail from the club game to the international stage.

“He is one of the best opensides in the world so any chance to sit down with him is great to snap up anything I can.”

Cross will aid to put all of that knowledge to use this afternoon against an imposing Georgia pack in Cardiff.

After five minutes off the bench against the Wallabies – earning a cap that will take pride of place at ‘Sam’s Bar’ at Brynmawr RFC, built as a tribute following his Olympic exploits – the flanker is excited about showcasing his talents from the off.

“It was good to get an experience last week and have a feel for the day and the set-up, driving in on the bus and playing in front of the crowd in the stadium for the first time,” he said. “I am looking to build on that and show what I can do from the start.

“Georgia are a big, physical pack who are going to be strong at the set piece. We might be inexperienced but everyone is excited and looking forward to showing what they can do.

“They have their strengths but we have ours as well.”