Josh Adams has only been in the Wales team for a year, but it’s a measure of his impact that there were more media swirling around him with cameras and microphones this week than there were around George North.
That may have a little to do with the fact that Adams was also the designated Welsh speaker handed to broadcasters – North, presumably, having been given a day off from Cymraeg duties – but it also illustrates how the Worcester wing has moved from relative unknown to box office Six Nations star.
A brilliant jinking run sparked Wales’ revival against France in Paris on opening night, since when Adams has scored a try in every game. Against Italy, he showed a finisher’s instinct, there was the spectacular athleticism and skill against England, followed by a mesmerising feint with his head and turbo-charged body swerve last week against Scotland at Murrayfield.
That’s three tries in this tournament – one more than North, who scored twice in Paris but was rested against Italy.
But perhaps what really suggests that Adams has arrived is the ease with which he appears to be dealing with what he admits is the biggest game of his life – tomorrow’s Six Nations decider against Ireland where a Grand Slam can be seized.
Far from appearing still the same wide-eyed youngster of just 12 months ago when he made his Wales debut, Adams has an assurance about him that makes him stress he wants to win as much as a parting thank you to Warren Gatland – the coach who saw something worth taking a risk on – as for himself.
Ask Adams, who is still only 23, how Gatland has shaped his meteoric rise and the part it has played in Wales’ year-long unbeaten run and the wing who is expected to join Cardiff Blues next season keeps it as straightforward and cliché-free as the coach himself would do.
“He’s a great coach and he builds a lot of confidence into the boys. He has helped me because he makes you believe you can go out and play well and win the game – whoever you’re playing.
“He speaks well, he motivates the boys well, and he says things that are not too complicated, but fill you with confidence.
“He has always backed me, which is nice. I want to repay him and send him off on his last Six Nations match with a Grand Slam.”
Adams has no doubts where this match stands within his career, although he appears calm and capable – the qualities he has shown so far in the competition that must make him a contender for player of the tournament, alongside skipper Alun Wyn Jones.
“To date, this is definitely the biggest game of my life. To be at home, to have the potential of a Grand Slam, it’s the biggest game I’ve played in so far.
“There have been ups and down in this tournament. We have produced some great halves of rugby, but some poor halves, also.
“It’s important now that we take all the lessons learned from these past four games and try and show how far we have come as a squad.
“In the French game, we left ourselves with a lot to do at half-time. But to come back and win that gave us a lot of belief in the squad that we can come from a few points behind and still win the game.
“We played really well at times against England. When Cory (Hill) scored his try, I think we had held the ball for 32 phases.
“We will have to do the same again on Saturday and also bring a similar aerial threat to the one we had against England.
“Against Scotland we played well with the ball in hand and scored some nice tries. In the second-half, Scotland threw the kitchen sink at us, but the defence held up really well.
“Ireland have great half-backs, who manage the game well, so as a back three we will have to earn our money there as well.
“All the other games won’t mean anything unless we put in a big performance on Saturday.”
Adams also seems to thrive on the enjoyment of playing for Wales, which is hardly surprising given how most of his days for Worcester are spent on the receiving end.
For the Warriors, he has a 29% win ratio. With Wales it is 90%, with just one defeat – against England last season. It’s an imbalance he shares with most of his Welsh-based regional teammates.
“It feels brilliant to play and score tries for Wales. When you get on a try-scoring run you just want to keep it going. I try and work off my wing as well as I can to try and get on the end of opportunities. Hopefully, I can do that again.
“The atmosphere is always electric in that stadium. The England game was special and I expect it’ll be the same this Saturday. It’ll be packed, the fans will be in great voice, and against England the roof was open and it was still electric so it makes no difference.
“Sometimes the fans can be the 16th man – they certainly were towards the end of that England game.
But we will have to be better at controlling the game this Saturday than we were a week ago. We probably can’t give Ireland as many opportunities as we gave Scotland. Our game management will have to be better.
“That’s something we have learned. If we do, it could be a great day.”