Wales fly-half Rhys Patchell is determined to bounce back a better player after a poor start to his international career.
The 20-year-old made his international bow against Japan last month and endured a tough start to life in the big time as he helped botch three try-scoring opportunities from the unfamiliar position of outside centre as Wales suffered a humiliating 23-8 defeat. This came after he made a strong start in his debut a week earlier when he kicked a match-winning penalty.
While the match didn’t go according to plan, Patchell believes that having learned some important lessons early on will only benefit him.
“It was a case of being thrown in at the deep end,” he told Wales Online of his rough time in the number 13 jersey. “I think the last time I played outside centre was the Cardiff Schools U11s trials.
“Look, I was put there to do a job and maybe I fluffed a couple of opportunities. But that’s what learning is about.
“I was devastated after the game what happened, as was everybody else. But it only makes you more hungry to improve and to make sure the next time you get an opportunity like that you may not fluff it quite as badly as you did the last time.
“The experience was amazing and seeing what was expected of you and everything that went with it. It was unbelievable how professional the environment was.
“Shaun Edwards has a great saying that if you train like a club player you’ll only ever be a club player, but if you train like an international you may be lucky enough to be one. That is certainly something I’ve taken out of it.”
It all could have been very different for Patchell who was due to turn out for Wales at the Junior World Cup before an injury to Rhys Priestland saw him called up to the senior squad. In Patchell’s absence, fellow Welsh fly-half Sam Davies was named the IRB Young Player of the Year.
Patchell has no regrets about missing out on the competition though, having returned home with two Test caps to his name.
“I would have been thrilled to have played for the under-20s. I was thrilled to go to Japan,” he said.
“It would been a different pressure playing for the U20s, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the seniors.
“I was thoroughly pleased for the U20s. I trained with them for a week before I got called up to the seniors and they worked unbelievably hard.
“There is a bit of what could have been. But you can’t look back. s it was, I went to Japan and made my Wales debut and I’m over the moon about that.
“That was massive. Every little kid in Wales wants to play for Wales and to be able to tick that off at 20 years old I was absolutely thrilled.
“There is no looking back now, you have only got to improve.”
With Ceri Sweeney and Jason Tovey having left the Cardiff Blues, Patchell looks set to be the Blues’ first-choice number ten in just his second season of senior rugby, a challenge he is relishing.
“There is responsibility on the fly-half in any team,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you are playing in Division Five, the Premiership or international rugby. The responsibility is there.
“You have got to try and push the team where it needs to be on the field and try and turn the screw. Maybe there is more external expectation than pressure I would say because nobody expects more of myself than me.
“There are 10,000 people every week hoping for you to be brilliant, but that’s an external pressure rather than an internal one.
“There is always pressure to perform and to try and impress.
“I still can’t get over the fact that I’m fortunate enough to be able to call playing rugby my job. That’s something really special and I’m forever grateful to the people that have given me my contract.”