Matthew Rees insists that coming through three tough tests for Scarlets has left him raring to reclaim his position as Wales’ first-choice hooker.
After missing the World Cup on medical advice and forced to undergo neck surgery, the 47-cap front rower received his first international recall for Saturday’s clash with Australia.
The call-up forced the 30-year-old to miss last Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 22-12 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons but Rees hailed his recent Scarlets showings for earning him his Wales return.
However, following the strong performances of Ospreys’ Huw Bennett during the World Cup semi-final run, Rees admits he’ll need to work hard to earn his place back in Wales colours.
"I have had three tough games for the Scarlets, and my neck is fine,” said Rees.
“I am glad to be part of the squad again but I am starting from scratch
"I was a bit nervous at the first couple of scrums, but I am 100 percent fit.
"I had a bulging disc in my neck which was catching a nerve. It was not career-threatening, but it needed to be sorted out.
"They have taken 50% of the disc away, and I am not in any pain now.
“But there is stiff competition for places at hooker with Wales, and I have to raise the bar and get back to my best.
"The way Wales performed in the World Cup has had a positive impact on the regions. You only have to look at the results.
"The players who have come back from New Zealand have been confident and full of belief.
"The young players coming in have been amazing and George North is a perfect example. Shane Williams is retiring but we have the players coming through.
"We have to be pleased as a nation about where we are, and it is about progressing now.”