WALES v SAMOA (Friday, KO 7.30)
FORMER Newport Gwent Dragons star Luke Charteris says his move to France away from life at Rodney Parade has made him a better player.
The 6ft 9in and 19st 10lb giant joined Top 14 aristocrats Perpignan in the summer where he has linked up with another Wales ace in James Hook.
Charteris joined the Wales squad yesterday after playing for his club on the weekend in their 15-3 away defeat to Biarritz and his ex-Drag-ons comrade Aled Brew who was on the wing.
The second row will be looking to win his 38th cap this Friday when Samoa come to Cardiff looking to avenge last year’s controversial 17-10 World Cup defeat to Wales in New Zealand.
Charteris’ return to the Wales squad is a timely one with fellow lock Alun Wyn Jones having to leave the field on the stroke of half-time during last Saturday’s shock 26-12 mauling at the hands of Argentina’s Pumas.
The Ospreys captain was due to have a scan on his shoulder yesterday to discover the extent of the damage.
Whatever the outcome, 29-year-old Charters is raring to face the formidable Pacific Islanders, his move to the Catalan super club having reinvigorated his desire.
“I’m enjoying myself over there and having a good time,” he said.
“It’s nice now to switch back and focus on Wales and hopefully get a chance to play.”
On the difference between the standard of Top 14 rugby with Perpignan and life in the RaboDirect Pro 12 with the Dragons, Chartetris said: “I don’t think the physicality is any different really.
“What I have found is the quality of the people you are playing against, it seems to be better.
“I’ve been involved in some really good games, some very enjoyable games which have been good fun to play in. I’ve had a good run of not being injured, playing 80 minutes regularly over in France.”
But he is in doubt that his game is improving: “Personally I think my game has come on since I have been there over the last four months.
“I feel I have improved as a player, my confidence is pretty good, playing every week in a good team in a tough league.
“It’s not taking away from the Rabo – that’s a tough league as well.
“But I think personally, for me to be able to put a good string of games together is what’s important.
“The way we are playing in Perpignan is very much an attacking, offloading game and we are encouraged to run from everywhere.
“My ball skills, ball handling and offloading has improved which has fit in to how I play. It’s certainly more enjoyable to play.”
He added: “The rugby is brilliant but the lifestyle is another thing as well.
“The people are so friendly, it’s such a great place and with the weather. When I left Perpignan on the weekend, I was still wearing shorts and T-shirt in the middle of November.
“It’s about little things like that. When you’ve been living Wales for so long, it’s a nice change. The weather allows for a different lifestyle.”
On Samoa, Charteris said: “We know it’s going to be a tough game. Honestly, the boys say that was our hardest game in the World Cup.
“It was a very physical game, very fast game. They like to throw it around and we know it’s going to be a tough game again this week.
“It went down to the last minute against them last time.”