Ospreys flanker Justin Tipuric started the RaboDirect PRO12 season standing in as Ospreys captain – now he is filling the No.7 shirt of Wales skipper Sam Warburton and says he does not feel out of place.
While Warburton was setting about establishing himself as one of the world’s foremost opensides during the Rugby World Cup, Tipuric seized his chance in the absence of the Ospreys’ internationals to shine in the RaboDirect PRO12.
Starting the first two matches against Heineken Cup champions Leinster and Edinburgh as skipper, the 22-year-old scored tries in both matches.
Those performances didn’t go unnoticed by the Wales coaching staff with Tipuric coming off the bench in the match against Ireland before making his full debut in the Six Nations defeat of Italy.
And after a stellar performance against the Azzurri, Tipuric is hoping he’s done enough to keep hold of his shirt with Warburton still nursing a knee injury.
"If I am lucky enough to be involved, it does give me an advantage having had 80 minutes under my belt against Italy,” he said.
"I'm ready. We'll just see what happens. Sam is our captain, so of course it's going to be hard to keep that jersey with him there.
"I just try to go on the pitch to enjoy myself and prove myself as a player.
"I really enjoyed it out there against Italy. I have been involved before, so it wasn't all new, but obviously it was a big thing to make my first Test start.
"You can see the fans and hear them screaming you on. I loved it.
"Overall, I just have to be patient. Sam has made a name for himself and I just have to keep working on my game and enjoying my rugby.
"We both push each other to become better players.
"We all know that if we're playing and make a mistake, there's someone to come on — we know we have to perform."