LLOYD Fairbrother was the man in the thick of the action for Wales against the Barbarians last weekend but it was a family effort to get there.

The Dragons tighthead made his international debut in the uncapped fixture at Principality Stadium on Saturday, just three days after being a late call-up to the squad.

In the stands was his pregnant partner Sofia, who he credits with building him back up after some testing times.

She was alongside her parents Dawn and Guy, who haven't missed a Dragons game in three years.

But, most importantly, Fairbrother was watched by Pat, his mum from Blaenavon who has had to show strength that South Africa’s ‘bomb squad’ would marvel at.

The pair shared an emotional embrace on the Principality Stadium turf after Wales' 49-26 win.

In their thoughts were Fairbrother's brother Paul, who died from bowel cancer in 2007, and his sister Julie, who also died from cancer last year.

South Wales Argus: FAMILY: Lloyd Fairbrother with partner Sofia, mum Pat and Sofia's parents Dawn and Guy after making his Wales debutFAMILY: Lloyd Fairbrother with partner Sofia, mum Pat and Sofia's parents Dawn and Guy after making his Wales debut (Image: Submitted)

“She has had a really rough year or two but she’s a tough little cookie,” said the prop about Patricia, who is soon moving back to her homeland from Cornwall.

“She’s lost my brother, lost my sister and just to bring her back to Wales for that one weekend and for her to be a part of it was really touching.

“Mum has lost two children and never really gotten over it, so to make here proud and bring her back for that day meant everything.

“We had a moment on the pitch afterwards and both had a bit of a cry, so it was lovely to be able to play for her and make her proud.

“I asked the stewards if it was okay if she came onto the pitch for a minute so I got her down and to just cuddle her in, we instantly cried.

“It wasn’t about the rugby, it was more about everything we have been through over the years. To share that moment was lovely.

“Playing for Wales might be a massive achievement and a bit of a pat on the back for me but this is really for my mum and my family.

“For me, there has always been an emotional side to things, doing it for more than just rugby. It was special because of my mum and my daughter, Marley-Rose, who has always been a massive driver for me.

“I’ve heard some people saying that it was a bit of a Mickey Mouse match but to me it was everything.

“To start for Wales out of nowhere in front of my mum and my partner, who has really helped me get to this point, was incredible and I haven’t really taken it all in.

“Sometimes rugby moves so fast and I can be a lonely game when things aren’t going well but this week has really opened my eyes to how much support and love there is for me.”

South Wales Argus: Dragons prop Lloyd FairbrotherDragons prop Lloyd Fairbrother (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

Fairbrother, whose father is Cornish, arrived at the Dragons from Exeter in 2014 and has become a club stalwart.

No prop can beat his tally of 167 appearances and his exploits had previously led to invites to train with the Wales squad.

Another call came from team manager Martyn Williams on the Wednesday before the Baa Baas game and he swiftly learnt that he would be wearing 3 on his back.

Fairbrother said: “I didn’t really sleep on the Wednesday night and I got there early on the Thursday, had my medical screening, got my kit and then they named the team an hour or two later. I was straight in!

“It was such a crazy morning and everything happened so quickly, and then to top it off we were training against the Dragons.”

It might not have been a full-blooded Six Nations encounter but the uncapped fixture has given Fairbrother a taste of Test rugby.

“The bus journey to the stadium was amazing, I have never felt or seen anything like it going down Westgate Street,” said the prop, whose uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather all worked at Big Pit in Blaenavon.

“I was advised to get a window seat and I didn’t have my headphones in – I might only get the chance once so wanted to take it all in.

“There were just rows and rows of Welsh fans and I have never felt passion like it from all generations, young up to old.

“Getting off the bus and there was a Welsh choir singing and then to get onto the pitch...

"I had dreamt of playing for Wales and it was all happening. It was crazy, absolutely crazy.”

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