Ospreys scrum-half Tom Habberfield still standing after hit from Courtney Lawes
IT used to be said the greatest test of nerve on a rugby field was to stand underneath a high ball on a Wednesday night at Pontypool Park while the home pack screeched towards you like hounds from hell.
Countless players were found wanting.
Those who found enough courage to stand their ground were not so much deserving of man-of-the-match honours as VCs, some of which may have been presented posthumously.
Fast forward to last Sunday lunchtime at Northampton and an examination of Tom Habberfield's mettle.
Stephen Myler kicked off and the next five seconds were possibly the longest in Habberfield's life.
His eyes were focused on the ball descending from a great height but his peripheral vision located a 6ft 7in, 18st 8lb figure hurtling towards him.
Probably somewhere in his sub-conscious he reasoned that the onrushing chap might be Courtney Lawes, a second row who could probably put every demolition contractor in Northampton out of work by offering to bring down industrial chimneys himself, without the dynamite.
The split-second Habberfield caught the ball, Lawes connected with a hit that brought a collective gasp from all around Franklin's Gardens.
Sometimes, rugby can be truly breathtaking.
On this occasion, the breath was simply knocked out of Habberfield.
But, credit, the youngster: he climbed to his feet and got on with the game. As you do.
"It wasn't exactly what you'd call an ideal start, with Courtney Lawes having a 30-metre run-up at you," he said at the Ospreys' training base in Llandarcy.
"I knew he was heading my way. I could see this guy of around 6ft 7in running straight at me at a fair pace. I had it going through my mind, but it's just one of those things that can happen on a rugby pitch. You have to be prepared to take a bang when you take the field.
"It's the way the game is. It got me straight into it, I suppose, ready for the next 79 minutes."
Lawes could at least have had the decency to do as the former footballer Tommy Smith once did ahead of a meeting with Jimmy Greaves. "As we went out on the pitch, he handed me a piece of paper," Greaves later recalled. "It was the evening menu for Liverpool Royal Infirmary."
For Liverpool, read Northampton, of course.
Whatever, it was some way for Habberfield to begin last weekend's crunch Heineken Cup engagement in the east Midlands.
At 21, the Bridgend product is following in a line of outstanding scrum-halves at the Liberty, who include Jason Spice, Justin Marshall, Mike Phillips, Ricky Januarie and Kahn Fotuali'i. One day someone will rule on who has been the best out of that lot, but for the moment the challenge for the youngster is to show he has what it takes to make a name for himself.
He certainly isn't short of ability.
At the junior World Cup two years ago he orchestrated Wales's victory over New Zealand with an exceptional display of tactical kicking that belied his years.
In appalling conditions, he kept turning the Baby Blacks' pack and in the process helped put his own forwards on the front foot.
It was one of the most mature and memorable individual displays by a young Welsh player in years.
The challenge now is to cement his place in senior rugby.
He is getting the nod ahead of Tito Tebaldi at the Ospreys but he isn't the type to get above himself and he certainly isn't entertaining thoughts of being propelled into the Wales set-up and ousting Mike Phillips just yet.
"What I want is a regular starting place at the region," he said.
"That's my goal for the season.
"I think it's great Wales have picked Rhodri Williams.
"He had a great junior World Cup and he's playing well for the Scarlets — good luck to him. But I'm just trying to focus on myself and make an impact here. I played on the wing last year but it isn't what I want this season.
"I want to be playing at nine. You don't want to be in for one or two games then find yourself out. But I guess it's about playing as well as you can and impressing the selectors."
Habberfield's strength is his ability to read a game as it unfolds, something Kahn Fotuali'i was expert at doing during his time with the Ospreys.
The pair met up last week when Fotuali'i came on as a replacement for Northampton. "He's just a great guy," said Habberfield.
"I learned a lot from him when he was here and I still learn when I watch him. He's always positive.
"Last Sunday he made a point before the game of wishing me good luck and he shook my hand after it. He just a top bloke."
Tonight Habberfield will go up against another scrum-half he rates, Richie Rees, of the Dragons, a player who once featured for the Ospreys.
"He is quality, a great player who always brings a spark to the game," said Habberfield.
The Ospreys will be looking to subdue Rees and also blot out the Dragons' other big threat, Toby Faletau.
A run of three defeats, two of them in Swansea, has left Steve Tandy's side desperately needing a win to put themselves back on the right road.
They have made seven changes, two of them positional, in an attempt to revitalise themselves.
But they will have to banish any psychological demons that are lingering as well.
"We can't allow ourselves to be negative," said Habberfield.
"In Europe, we want four big performances to finish our pool campaign.
"And we want to start winning again in the Rabo.
"There's still a lot to play for."
There is, but the Ospreys can't afford another slip. For Habberfield and Matthew Morgan at half-back, a big evening beckons.