Wales’ most experienced player Jordan James said that he always dreamed of playing for his country at the Millennium Stadium.
The 33-year old made his Welsh debut exactly ten years ago when on Sunday 26th October 2003, he ran out at Aberavon in front of 1,082 people, the second lowest Wales home attendance of all time, as Wales beat Russia 74-4 in the European Cup.
Now he is expected to take to the field in front of a record Welsh Rugby League crowd, when Wales face Italy in the opening game of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup in Cardiff on Saturday (kick-off 4.30pm).
“I think I dreamed about playing here for Wales but I didn’t think it would actually happen,” James said. “Ten years ago – it’s a long time and it’s going to be totally different tomorrow to when I played that first game and scored my first Welsh try.
“I’m really looking forward to the challenge that Italy give us and let’s hope we can go out there and get the win.”
James, who has played for Crusaders, Wigan and Salford in Super League, will break the Welsh record for most caps if Wales reach the quarter-finals and he plays in every game. Currently on 27 caps, just three below Ian Watson who holds the Welsh record, James says that it’s not his first thought.
“It’ll be lovely but if that comes it comes,” he said. “I just want to make sure that I get selected for every game and play my best, and if that happens then it’s a bonus. I just want to play well and get picked for every game.”
James will be moving to South Wales next year when he takes a new role at the Wales Rugby League academy at Maesteg School, something he is relishing as he’s keen to help in the WRL production line that has brought nine of the players through to this World Cup.
“When I first started playing for Wales, we didn’t really have a big youth structure coming through,” he said. “Now there is that pathway. People like Gil Dudson and Ben Flower have trod that path to Super League and there are others coming through that I’m going to be coaching next year in South Wales – under 16s and under 18s who’ll hopefully make that jump to Super League if they stick at it.
“That’s what Iestyn (Harris) started and it’s what we’ve been working on over the last five or six years. It’s really exciting times in Wales for the youth coming through.”
Italy face Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday October 26, as part of a double header of matches including England v Australia which follow the RLWC2013 Opening Ceremony