Scarlets hooker Ryan Elias has spoken to the media ahead of Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations opener against Scotland.
Elias is one of eight Scarlets named in Warren Gatland’s squad for the tournament and is in line to win his 39th cap in Cardiff.
The 29-year-old could come against his former Carmarthen Athletic and Scarlets team-mate Javan Sebastian, who was this week drafted into the Scotland squad.
“I love Javan to bits,” said Elias. “I first started playing with him at 11 and played all the way through with him. He’s a very close friend of mine and I have a great deal of respect for him. I’m delighted to see him playing week in week out and he’s now getting to where we all thought he could get to.
“He didn’t drive for years so I was his taxi back and forth to Carmarthen from Llanelli. I used to give him words of encouragement because I knew how strong he was and how good a player he was. It took longer than it should have for him to get to where he is now, but now he’s there he is fulfilling his potential.”
Javan Sebastian and Ryan Elias (Ryan Elias Instagram)
Elias also backed his Scarlets team-mate Sam Costelow to shine on the big stage.
“Sam is a top man,” he added. “I play with him week in, week out at the Scarlets. He’s incredibly likeable and a phenomenal rugby player with his skillset. In the last two years his maturity with regards to being able to handle pressure situations and speak up has improved. It’s not just speaking for the sake of it. It’s saying the right things which is one of the traits of a great 10. Dan was great at that. Sam is looking forward to the challenge and stepping up.”
Asked about what it was like coming into a new-look Wales squad, Elias said: “There are a lot of young, new faces and they bring a lot of energy to the sessions. They want to learn. To be honest with you it was a bit odd in the first day or two. You’re so used to seeing the old boys and experienced heads that have been there for years. I remember watching them growing up – people like Dan Biggar who have been stalwarts for the country. It’s exciting and almost refreshing in a way. Other boys get the chance to – and have to – step up. They want to push to make game days to be playing. It’s very competitive in training.
“People might not be giving us much of a chance because there have been so many changes but for us as a group, we’re just concentrating on ourselves to put a performance in that we can be proud of. We’ve worked hard in the last week and a half in preparation for the first game. Scotland are a great side. They’ve got a big pack, they’re big, physical men and they’re clinical as well. They’ve got so many stars in their backs – Finn Russell, the centres, van der Merwe on the wing. There is firepower throughout so we’ve got to be on our game.”