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Turnbull reflects on international summer as focus turns to new campaign

5th September 2018

If any player is proof that hard work pays off, then it is Josh Turnbull.

The versatile forward pulled on the number four, five, six, seven and eight jerseys last season and played more minutes than any other player.

Since arriving from Parc y Scarlets in 2014, he has become one of the most selfless and reliable players within the squad, putting his body on the line, where his team need him most, week in, week out.

And yet international honours have been few and far between. He even jokes that he gets capped every two years.

The 30-year-old last featured for Wales in the 2016 summer friendly against England and after missing out on selection twice, he finally received the call.

Turnbull said: “I was sitting in the house and had watched the Scarlets game against Leinster. I saw Shings (Aaron Shingler) had unfortunately gone off but I actually didn’t think anything of it.

“But at about 9.30pm my phone went off and I saw it was Thumper, Alan Phillips the team manager, asking if I fancied going on tour.

“I was managing a few little injuries towards the end of last season so I had to give Dan our head physio a call to get the all clear.

“It was a bit of a surprise but it was good to get out there and be involved.”

Turnbull did not arrive in time to feature in the Washington victory over South Africa but he came off the bench in both triumphs against Argentina, once again displaying his versatility.

“I had spoken to Hodges here and he said there had been conversations about me and the fact that I was versatile helped. 

“I was a little bit disappointed to miss out on selection originally and then they called in four other boys and I missed out again. 

“Sometimes you think you are in the mix, especially with how well the Blues were doing towards the end of last season and coming away with a European trophy but it’s just one of those things.

“That was frustrating but you just have to keep your head down, keep working hard and the good thing was we were in the middle of a two week pre pre-season block. 

“I managed to keep up my fitness and strength so when I was called up I was ready to just go out there and crack on.”

Turnbull certainly made the most of the opportunity both on and off the pitch, visiting the Washington Redskins NFL franchise, the Under Armour headquarters and the Whitehouse during his stay in the American capital. The Wales squad were even treated to a glimpse of Donald Trump boarding Marine One.

But now back across the pond and on Welsh soil, the Newcastle Emlyn produce knows he must build upon his performances if he is to remain in international contention.

At both region and country, the back-row is arguably the most competitive position but Turnbull is excited about what lies ahead as Cardiff Blues aim to use the European Challenge Cup triumph as a springboard.

He continued: “The biggest thing for me now is to back my performances up in a new season for Cardiff Blues. 

“It’s exciting, we have a new set of coaches and everyone is really buying in because how well we finished the season last year and how much we want to go one better.

“We have signed some pretty tidy players. It will be interesting to see how Samu fits in, Jason Harries has trained really well and Dima and Rory both coming from the Ospreys give us a bit more strength in the pack. We are in a stronger position than last year.

“Collectively we have to push on. We were one or two results away from the play-offs last season so we really have to strive to do that. It’s within our grasp. 

“Then in Europe we have to be competitive, it’s a tough group, three of the four pitches are artificial so there will be a lot of running rugby. It’s exciting.”

Outside of life at Cardiff Blues, Turnbull is continuing to expand on his coaching education, having previously worked with the Blues and Scarlets age-grade set-ups he is now forwards and defence coach at Newcastle Emlyn.

And while it is another opportunity to gain experience for life after rugby and give something back to his local club it is also beneficial to his own game.

He continued: “I’m coaching my home club Newcastle Emlyn in the Championship, which will be interesting because four teams get relegated at the end of the year. 

“We have a really young, talented squad and a lot of them played regional age-grade rugby. There’s some really srrong competition with teams like Ystrad Rhondda, Pontypool, Narberth and Tata Steel. 

“It’s about my personal coaching development because all I know is regional rugby. It’s great to get some experience in the community game.

“I find it also helps my own game. When you try to coach what your coaches are trying to coach you, understand a lot more in terms of what they are trying to get out of it. I find that really beneficial.”

But you can dismiss any notion that Turnbull is trying to wind down on his playing career, he is still as hungry as ever and it would be no surprise to see his name at the top of the minute chart once again at the end of the 2018-19 campaign.

He added: “I said to Mulvers that I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every year since I have been here, while fit, I have been up there in terms of minutes and games played.

“I’ve hit 30 now and you don’t want to be sat on the bench, you just want to be playing and enjoying it. 

“Having that ability to play four, five, six, eight – we have too many quality sevens – is another tick in the box.”