James Ratti has been in a constant state of disbelief since he was named in Wales’ Guinness Six Nations squad but he insists his immediate focus remains with Cardiff.
The 24-year-old has been rewarded for his fine form in blue and black with a call up to the national squad for the first time.
Ratti admits it has been a whirlwind two days and is relishing the opportunity but he is acutely aware that the Six Nations is only horizon and a crucial Heineken Champions Cup encounter against Toulouse is even soon.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s encounter in France, Ratti said: “The last few days has been disbelief more than anything else. Obviously it’s been a bit of a whirlwind, the last two days, but the focus is still on the game this weekend and I’ll worry about anything else after.
“These are the games you want to be playing in. You want to be dining at the top table against the best, so the boys are really looking forward to the challenge.
“We know Toulouse are a very good side and we know they haven’t qualified yet. We aren’t going over to give them the points, we are going there to do a job.
“With Wales, it’s been mad. It’s not necessarily something I expected but I’m chuffed to be included and the work starts now.
“At the time I was on the field, so I was probably one of the last to find out. Then one of the boys - Shane (Lewis-Hughes) - came over and told me. He shook my hand straight away and I thought he was having me on. Then when I went in a couple more boys shook my hand or patted my back and I thought this must be serious.
“From the time I was on the field until I jogged quite quickly down into the changing rooms to check my phone and I saw the email. The boys were great and they were chuffed for me.
“At that point all of my family had already messaged me. I gave my old man and mum a call first and had a chat with them. They were over-the-moon.”
It has been quite a journey for Ratti, who left the Ospreys to join Cardiff RFC while training full time with the firsts.
He excelled in the Welsh Premiership and quickly began to secure game time in the United Rugby Championship and European Challenge Cup, making 11 appearances.
The gamble to kickstart his professional career in the capital, via the Rags, paid off as he was given a full-time contract
Then mid-way through last season Dai Young asked the then second-row to switch to number eight. It was a position Ratti had played right up to entering the Ospreys age-grade set-up and he needed no second invitation to move to back of the scrum once more.
He made an immediate impact in the back-row with his size, power and ball-carrying ability combined with a tireless work-rate around the pitch.
Reflecting on that journey, Ratti added: “I’ve played a lot of rugby for a lot of different teams in the past few years so it’s been one heck of a journey and I’m not saying I’m anywhere near the end.
“This is the start of something different but I’m still trying to play here every week because it is so competitive. I’m thankful for the opportunity and looking forward to it.
“I like to think I always believed. At the time there are moments when your head’s in the mud but you can’t go away from thinking that (you will make it as a professional) because if you don’t believe then it will effect your training and performances.
“It’s a bit of an unusual route but I’m thankful for every opportunity I’ve had from Cardiff RFC to Cardiff Rugby.
“The competition here at Cardiff is brilliant. We push each other every week and it’s always going to be the case that boys aren’t available for whatever reason and whenever someone steps in they do an unbelievable job and you have to get the jersey back off them. We’re in a really good place and all pushing to be better all the time.
“A couple of years ago when I was playing for the RFC, the only thing in my head was playing for Cardiff, you don’t find yourself looking further on. It’s taking it one step at a time and the main focus is playing as regularly as I can for Cardiff.”