Dillon Lewis is determined to make his mark in regional colours after an impressive autumn series on the international stage.
The Cardiff Blues prop played in three of Wales’ four games, as Warren Gatland’s side secured an unprecedented November clean-sweep.
The 22-year-old features on the bench for Saturday’s trip to Ulster, and with the likes of Dmitri Arhip, Scott Andrews and Keiron Assiratti competing for the tighthead spot, Lewis insists he must continue to impress ahead of a crucial block of fixtures for Cardiff Blues.
“For me, it’s my biggest season to date. One of my biggest issues in the past has been not playing regularly for Cardiff Blues, and not playing well,” said Lewis.
“I’ve still got a massive point to prove in terms of regional rugby, and that’s why I’m very keen to get out there as much as I can and play regular.
“I’m really enjoying my rugby at the moment, which is why I want to play this weekend and continue that going forward.
“I play better after getting a run of games and playing regular minutes.
“The competition is good here, and there is a good and healthy rotation going on at the moment, and the boys are pushing each other every day.
“I had a lot more experience during the autumn than I thought I’d have. Going into the series, there were four tightheads with two positions up for grabs on matchday.
“I was fortunate to pick up three games out of four and get a start as well.
“It was a massive experience for me, my first taste of an autumn series and I loved every minute of it.
“We managed to make it four from four and create a bit of history. The boys were really happy and obviously the coaches expressed how happy they were at the end of the block.”
Lewis is joined by fellow Welsh international, Tomos Williams, on the bench, while Samu Manoa and Rey Lee-Lo also return from their duties with USA and Samoa respectively.
The prop is expecting a tough game in Northern Ireland, and believes it’s important for the side to build momentum ahead of next week’s Heineken Champions Cup clash against Saracens.
Lewis said: “I spoke to Mulvers [John Mulvihill] last week, before the South Africa game, and he asked me how I was feeling.
“I said that I was feeling good and if I came through the last game then I’d want to play in Belfast.
“I’m keen to get back in the mix here, because it’s a big eight-week block where we’ve got Ulster on the weekend, back-to-back games against Saracens and the Christmas derbies. It’s a big time for us.
“We’re expecting to come up against a typical Irish team, and could face a bit of an arm-wrestle up-front.
“This is a game that we need to win, heading into the two games against Saracens. We’ve done our preparation for it and it’s a must-win.”