Fast learner James King ready to take his toughest test yet with Wales
JAMES King's first few days with the Wales squad felt a little like the start of a school term.
There were unfamiliar faces to greet, new coaches to impress and, perhaps surprisingly, a lot of homework.
King is one of the rising stars of Welsh rugby, and his call-up to the national side's Six Nations squad was just reward for a sparkling season with the Ospreys.
Although his regional coaches consider him to be a blindside flanker, the vast majority of the 22-year-old's 15 matches this term have been in the second row.
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A powerful yet nimble athlete who measures 6ft 4in, King has the ideal build for a lock, and injuries in that position could mean he makes his debut against Ireland when Wales begin their Six Nations title defence in Cardiff on February 2.
Making an appearance of any sort in that match would mark a startling ascent for King, who played twice as many league matches for the Ospreys as a substitute as he did a starter last season.
But before he can consider the crucial curtain-raiser at the Millennium Stadium, King has his homework to complete.
"It's been good so far," he says. "I've had my first session, studied the line-out calls and it's gone well.
"I don't want to get anything wrong so I've been wearing the right kit for the right sessions and making sure I'm in the right place at the right time.
"I've only recently started calling line-outs for the Ospreys but I've been studying the Welsh calls and I'm getting there.
"As soon as I came in, I was looking through the papers and laptops at what the coaches had given us to work on."
The fact that King is tasked with orchestrating the Ospreys' line-outs is a measure of how highly he is regarded at the Liberty Stadium.
He is still a relative youngster at 22 and, even with veteran Welsh internationals such as Ian Gough and Jonathan Thomas for company, it is King who calls the shots.
The former Aberavon forward admits that training with the senior Wales squad is a step up in magnitude from regional rugby, but he is certainly not overawed.
"When I was growing up, I used to look up to the people I'm training with now," he adds. "It's another level, how professional everyone here is, and I've got to bring myself up to that level.
"Attitude and working hard is the same everywhere, but the whole structure of everything is really professional.
"I don't think I've got time to be daunted, to be honest. We've got Ireland in two weeks, so, if I want to get into that (matchday) squad, I need to get settled as quickly as possible and not get daunted."
King was drafted into the Wales squad following an unprecedented raft of injuries in the second row, with Alun Wyn Jones, Ian Evans, Bradley Davies and Luke Charteris all sidelined.
It was also a timely call-up, as King could have qualified to play for England or Australia.
Born in Australia to an English mother and father, King moved to North Wales as a child and went to school in Mold before joining the Ospreys.
He is still eligible to play for the old enemy or the Wallabies, but King has no doubts where his international future lies.
"I've lived in Wales pretty much all my life," he says. "I was born in Australia but I lived in North Wales from my first year in primary school up until sixth form, when I went to Ellesmere College, a rugby college.
"I've been with the Ospreys for five years now, and I've just signed for another three years. My future's here.
"I've spent almost all my life in Wales and I've just bought a new house in Wales with my girlfriend, so it makes sense to play for Wales."