PONTYPOOL prop Zen Szwagrzak has spoken of being “emotional and proud” after making his international debut for Poland in their Rugby Europe Trophy game against the Netherlands.

The 29-year-old finished up on the losing side at the National Rugby Centre Amsterdam, with only a late converted try giving the hosts a narrow 7-6 victory.

Szwagrzak, who works at Convey Law in Newport, captained Monmouth to back-to-back promotions before joining Championship champions Pooler last year.

“I received a message from my coach Tom Hancock at Pontypool asking if I was interested in playing for Poland,” he said.

“A few days later I had a call from the head coach Duaine Lindsay saying their scouts in Wales had spotted me and they wanted me to fly out and train with them.”

Szwagrzak flew from Bristol to the team hotel in Warsaw where he met coach Stanislaw Wieciorek, captain Piotr Zeszutek and a few of the players.

A gruelling three days of preparations started at 7am the following day with scrums and lineouts before breakfast, and then finished with Zeszutek’s captain’s run.

“Before the game I was really nervous and quite emotional,” added Szwagrzak. “It’s a massive thing for my parents, especially my dad.

“He has always wanted me to stay connected with my heritage, it made me quite emotional and proud. I was thinking about my dad in the tunnel.”

The tighthead added his weight to a big defensive effort from the visitors, who were playing a team nine places above them in the rankings.

Despite the gales, the Poland kept the Netherlands scoreless until the last few minutes, with the hosts overturning a 6-0 deficit in the closing stages.

After the match, coach Wieciorek, the most capped player for Poland, said that in all his years playing he had never seen a performance like it from a Polish national team.

Szwagrzak added: “I feel emotional with what I have achieved, and I feel this is the beginning of something.

“I never thought this would happen at 29. I have always aspired to play at the highest level when I was a kid. I’m really proud to have done it.

“I would like to say a big thanks to everyone who has helped me along my journey.”

The prop also paid tribute to Lloyd Davies, the Monmouth chairman and managing director at Convey Law from 2017 to 2019.

“Lloyd asked me to play for Monmouth and gave me everything I need to be successful. I owe a lot of where I am to him,” he said.”

Davies added: “We are very proud of Zen and his achievements, both on and off the field of play.

“He is a rugby warrior and a real gentleman, and it has been fantastic to see him start to achieve his potential as an international rugby player.

“Zen heads up our Mindstep Sporting Ambassador team, raising awareness, support and funding research for this mental health charity which is very close to our hearts.

“Keep up the great work Zennon – you are an inspiration to us all.”

Ebbw Vale flanker Dawid Rubasniak also made his Poland debut in Amsterdam.