Ospreys' Nicky Smith eyes World Cup after Adam Jones praise

By Dafydd PritchardBBC Wales Sport
Nicky Smith
Nicky Smith made his Ospreys debut against Newport Gwent Dragons in 2013, aged 18

If a young Welsh prop is looking for an endorsement, few carry as much weight as one from Adam Jones.

Having amassed a combined 100 caps for Wales and the British and Irish Lions, Jones knows a good front-rower when he sees one.

So when he tipped Ospreys loose-head Nicky Smith to win a place in Wales' World Cup squad, people took notice.

"My father was shooting up the stairs to tell me," says 21-year-old Smith.

"For someone like him [Jones], a British Lion and one of Wales' arguably best tight-heads, to pay that compliment means the world to me.

"As for the World Cup, of course everyone wants to be involved in the World Cup but I've been out for a lot of the season and there are a lot of good loose-heads out there.

"So hopefully I can get a lot of game-time and concentrate on the Opsreys, then what will happen will happen."

Jones was one of many spectators impressed by Smith's performance during Ospreys' Judgement Day win against Cardiff Blues.

It was Smith's incisive intervention shortly before half-time which proved to be the game's turning point.

Nicky Smith (left) hands off Cardiff Blues winger Joaquin Tuculet
Nicky Smith (left) hands off Cardiff Blues winger Joaquin Tuculet during Ospreys' 31-23 Judgement Day win

Ospreys trailed 9-0 after a lethargic first half-hour, but Smith sparked them into life as he shrugged off a tackle from Joaquin Tuculet and smartly offloaded to Dan Evans for his side's opening try.

Ospreys went on to win with a swagger befitting Smith's stylish assist.

"In this modern day it's not just about scrummaging and hitting rucks," he says.

"Props now, such as Gethin Jenkins, get their hands on the ball, they pass a lot and make a nuisance of themselves.

"That's what you've got to be if you want to be up there with the best."

Smith has already been rubbing shoulders - quite literally - with the best this season.

Solid in the scrum and dynamic in the loose, Smith's Ospreys form earned him his first two caps for Wales in the autumn before a pectoral muscle injury ruled him out for more than three months.

Nicky Smith
Nicky Smith (right) leaves the field after injuring himself during Wales' defeat by New Zealand in November 2014

"It was a high getting game-time with the Ospreys, then to have the call-up with Wales was unbelievable," he adds.

"Sadly it didn't end the way I would've wanted [getting injured against New Zealand] but I had a lot of time to think and get fit.

"Before the injury it was rugby, rugby, rugby but, after it, I understand there's more to life than that.

"When I was injured it was a long three months but I'm just happy to get as much game-time as I possibly can."

With Ospreys having already guaranteed their place in the Pro12 play-offs, it promises to be an eventful end of the season for Smith.

Then, like his peers, the former Swansea prop will have his fingers crossed he is included in Wales' World Cup squad.

Head coach Warren Gatland is clearly an admirer and, although Smith is not among those signed to the Welsh Rugby Union's dual contracts, he is in their plans.

"I had a phone call from them just after my injury to say 'good luck on your comeback'," says Smith.

"I haven't spoken to them since, which I do like because I just want to concentrate on Ospreys.

"If Wales comes, it comes, but if it doesn't, I've still got time to establish myself."