AS one Wales international career was drawing to a close on Saturday with Shane Williams’ emotional farewell, another began as fellow wing Alex Cuthbert made his Test debut.
The 21-year-old – who played once for Newport in a pre-season friendly win over The Rock Newfoundland in 2009 – came on for George North with 11 minutes left to play in Wales’ 24-18 defeat to Australia.
Now with Cardiff Blues, Cuthbert is a product of Gloucestershire’s prestigious Hartpury College and has enjoyed a meteoric rise this season.
From relative rugby obscurity, he has become a regular for the Blues, scoring four tries in eight appearances.
One of those touchdowns came in the region’s away win at Racing Métro in the Heineken Cup.
Speaking about his Wales debut, the 6ft 6in, 16st 5lb flyer, who can also play full back, said: “I was ecstatic to get on for my first cap. I can’t believe it really. It hasn’t sunk in yet.
“I was speaking to some of my mates and we can’t believe how quickly it’s come in the past three or four months.”
And after having a taste of international rugby, the Gloucester-born Cuthbert, whose mother is from Wrexham, wants more.
He said: “Hopefully, when I get back to the region I’ll play well and (Wales head coach) Warren Gatland will choose me for the Six Nations – we’ll see how it goes over the next few months.
“Hopefully if I’m playing well at regional level, and Warren still wants me in the squad, I’ll be included.”
And he knows the prospect of following in Shane Williams’ footsteps is a tough act to follow after his remarkable career saw him score 58 tries in 87 caps as well as two touchdowns for the Lions after two tours to New Zealand in 2005 and South Africa two years ago. “Shane’s a legend of rugby – I know I can’t really fill his shoes,” Cuthbert said.
Williams brought his international career to an end in style with a last-minute try that brought the house down and some respectability to the final score for Wales.
Cuthbert said he was delighted for the old master: “It was great for him. When he was running in for the try, it was amazing how loud the crowd were.
“It was a good finish for him.”