Ben Thomas was lost for words after receiving his first Wales call-up ahead of the summer Tests against Canada and Argentina.
The Cardiff academy product was one of five uncapped players in the squad, and will be joined by 10 of his club team-mates in the national set-up, including housemate Owen Lane.
Thomas’ call-up came on the back of a hugely impressive Rainbow Cup campaign, where he featured in all five matches and displayed his versatility by playing at outside half, inside centre and full back.
The playmaker says representing his country would be a dream come true but insists there’s no time to get carried away as he looks to earn a spot in Wayne Pivac’s starting line-up.
“We first heard around 10.50am, and there was a bit of a delay on the announcement which kept everyone on edge,” explains Thomas.
“You always know there’s a slight chance that a youngster would get called in for a summer tour but there’s been a lot of good competition in the centre so I wasn’t expecting it at all.
“It’s a massive moment for me, and a bit nerve-wrecking if I’m honest. This is what you play rugby for, and growing up all you want to achieve is to play for your country. So to be in with the opportunity to do that is tough to put into words.
“It’s a feeling that I never thought I’d quite experience. You’ve always dreamed of playing for Wales, but just to be named in the squad is something that’s quite hard to get my head around.
“There is a big training camp coming up so now I want to make sure I do my best throughout that camp and hopefully the rest will take care of itself.
“I’m ecstatic and over the moon just to be involved in this environment but once I’m there the natural competitiveness will take over.
“I’ll just want to keep fighting and pushing forward and hopefully put my hand up for selection.
“It would be massive if we were to have crowds back in the summer, especially for the boys who could get their families to watch them play. It would be pretty special.”
Thomas showed plenty of promise in the Rainbow Cup, forming a impressive partnership with Jarrod Evans and Willis Halaholo.
He admits that the regular game-time has been highly beneficial and hopes his link-up with Evans and Halaholo can continue on the international stage.
“The Rainbow Cup has been massive for me. The biggest factor is being able to play week-in, week-out over the last six or seven weeks,” added the former Cardiff and Vale College pupil.
“I’ve really enjoyed the Rainbow Cup, and even though I’ve played in different positions I’ve pretty much played 80 minutes for a number of weeks in a row.
“It’s a real help to have familiar faces around me in the camp, especially with Jarrod on my inside. He generally steers the ship so it will be good to have that familiarity.
“I really enjoy playing with Willis and it’s something that I never really thought I’d do much of because we both tend to play at 12.
“But it’s been really exciting and enjoyable to play alongside both Willis and Jarrod.
“The three of us have worked quite well together and put together decent performances alongside each other.
“The distribution and playmaking is something I feel that I can bring to the centre that not all centres tend to, and being that second playmaking option. It’s probably been helped by the fact that I grew up playing as a 10.
“Hopefully that’s something I can show that I can deliver.
“12 is definitely my favourite position but to be realistic at this stage, it’s about getting as many minutes on the field as I can.
“So anywhere I’m put I’ll make sure to put my best foot forward and will just be happy to play.”
It’s been quite the journey for Thomas, who came through the ranks at Cardiff Blues and only made his Guinness PRO14 debut back in November 2019.
A former Premiership Best Newcomer award winner, Thomas primarily wore the number 10 jersey as a youngster, but eventually made the switch to inside centre.
He’s extremely grateful to those who have helped him along the way, as he is set to follow in the footsteps of his childhood heroes.
“There’s loads of people to thank for getting me into this position. My school teachers at Corpus Christi and then coming through from Cardiff Schools into Cardiff and Vale College is where I really kicked on.
“So the likes of Martyn Fowler and Dan Fish have been massive towards my whole development.
“Also everyone who has helped me ever since coming into the Cardiff Blues set-up, especially the senior players.
“They’ve made sure it’s been a smooth transition for me and given me tips along the way which have made it a successful jump up.
“My mum is obviously another one. She was the first person I told, sending her a little message when I got the email, but told her to make sure she kept it to herself.
“I could almost feel her reaction through the text back. She’s not normally too emotive over text, and can be quite hard to read what she’s saying but I could feel her excitement through her reply back.
“Growing up and watching rugby for me was around periods where you had Alex Cuthbert on fire, around 2011 or 2012.
“That’s when I really started imagining being out there playing in games of that standard.
“I remember the thrashing of England at home and those are the type of games that made me think that I’d like to be out there myself.”