Cardiff Blues lock Bradley Davies has spoken openly of how he dealt with the death of his mother in the run up to Wales’ Six Nations clash with France.
Davies played against Les Bleus in Cardiff last month, just a week after mum Cheryl passed away.
Wales coach Warren Gatland singled out the courageous youngster, who wins his ninth cap against Ireland in Dublin this Saturday, for his brave performance in the narrow home defeat.
"Losing my mum was a big shock to everyone and a really tough week for me and my family,” said Davies.
"She was a wonderful and incredible person and mother and I owe her a lot.
"Of course, it was really upsetting before the game but I just wanted to be with the squad rather than crying in the house. The other players made me feel really wanted.
"In the first week, I had the rugby to focus on and the funeral was the hardest day.
"But it was nice to see more than a thousand people at our local church – there wasn’t enough seats for people.
"All the Wales and Cardiff Blues lads were there too offering their support and that helped me through it."
Davies and his Wales team-mates wore black armbands, had the words ‘In Loving Memory of Mam, Cheryl Davies 1964-2010’ embroidered into their shirts and observed a minute’s silence in tribute to his mother, who died following a sudden illness.
Now the giant second-row, who spent a couple of sessions with Wales psychologist Andy McCann prior to the clash at the Millennium Stadium, has thanked the Welsh nation and coach Gatland for their support ahead of this weekend’s trip to Croke Park.
"I gained a huge amount of strength from the Welsh public. The family had 300-400 cards delivered to the house. Llantrisant is only a small town but people look after each other. They have been awesome and I’m grateful for their support.
"It was tough during the silence and then the anthems. But then I heard the crowd scream and I knew I had a job to do.
"Warren told me I would be playing if I wanted to and that was a massive boost for me.
"He has built me up slowly but it was nice to play for 80 minutes and do well.
"International rugby is all about taking your chance. If you don’t, then it’s your own fault. I was happy to put in a performance. I love rugby and I just want Wales to win."
Davies has true fighting qualities etched throughout his family with his two brothers, Ashley, 26, a military police officer and Miles, 22, a soldier in the Queen’s Dragoon Guards who has served in Afghanistan, Iraq and Germany.
"It puts into persepctive what we do for a living. Being in the Army is something my brothers always wanted to do,” added Davies.
"But it’s been tough for them because they have seen me in the spotlight.
"Hopefully they have seen how much our mother meant to a lot of people. It was nice to see her get the recognition she deserved."