Alex Mann is determined to make the most of every opportunity in the back row for Cardiff, and is relishing Saturday’s BKT United Rugby Championship Welsh derby against the Scarlets at the Arms Park (3pm)
Mann has started at blindside flanker in five of Cardiff’s six games this season, and has managed to rack up more tackles than any other player in the URC up to this point. His effort and determination has been evident for all to see but he is not going to start easing up anytime soon.
This Saturday could be his first taste of a Welsh derby at the Cardiff Arms Park and the Aberdare man is acutely aware of the difficult challenge the Scarlets pose.
He said: “It’s a really big challenge. Derbies are always massive games. I’ve played against Scarlets twice now this year, once in pre-season and then down at their ground, they’re always a tough team to play.
“They’ve got some really good players, so it’ll be a big challenge but as long as we do what we set out to do I’m sure that we’ll be good for it.
“I’m really enjoying it at the moment. All you want as a rugby player is some game time and I’ve be fortunate to get a few starts this season.
“In my head I’ve thought about this for a while now. So when the opportunity came all I wanted to do was take it, and give everything I’ve got for all the boys out there.
“I just feel like I enjoy proving myself, especially to the boys, proving that I’m good enough and that I can do the job.”
The back row has always been a position of strength for Cardiff, which means that Alex Mann has had some fantastic players to learn from and he describes his approach to training being like a sponge.
But this also means competition for starting places is fierce and he knows how much work it will take to keep that number 6 jersey.
“I’m really lucky to be in the position that I’m in, with the other back rows here as well. Thomas Young and Ellis Jenkins have been really good to me, going through my game and giving me pointers before games.
“I’m just a sponge really. I’m trying to soak everything in, but also trying to make sure I put my point of difference on my performance as well.
“With Gethin (Jenkins) here now (as defence coach), he’s worked really hard with us. And that’s been on show. I want to defend. I want to put my body on the line.
“We’ve all worked really hard with Gethin, he’s been working on stuff with me. Anything he sees that’s wrong, he tells me.
“I’m really enjoying it really because I feel like I’m just getting a little bit better each and every game. I know I’m going to make mistakes but it’s just trying to rectify those.”
Having leaders throughout the pack has been crucial for Cardiff this season and it seems to be rubbing off on Alex Mann who put in an impressive performance last Friday against the Stormers. When asked about an incident in which he challenged some of the South African forwards directly, Mann shared what was pushing him to stand up for his teammates -
“I think that’s a bit of the Aberdare in me. You know, it comes from playing here at the Arms Park too, it gives you that edge.
“The coaches all week were talking about physicality and I just took it a little personally. I thought, they’ve come to try and bully us so I tried my best to stand up. They were towering over me but there we are.
“They’re a good side, and massive, massive people, but like I said - it’s just in the back of your head that it’s an exciting challenge. If we come out on top, we come out on top and if we don’t, we don’t.”