Adam Beard has delivered a “don’t write us off” message ahead of Wales’ Guinness Six Nations campaign that begins against Scotland in Cardiff on Saturday.
Wales’ chances have largely been dismissed by the bookmakers, as they they set off on a long road towards Rugby World Cup 2027 in Australia with a new-look squad.
Several big names are no longer part of Wales’ rugby landscape, headlined by Louis Rees-Zammit’s departure for a possible career in American football, while cap centurions Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny have retired from Test rugby.
And when Wales’ injury list is factored in – George North, Taulupe Faletau, Jac Morgan, Dewi Lake and Gareth Thomas are among those currently absent – the size of their task is laid bare.
Scotland, though, have not won in the Welsh capital for 22 years, losing 11 successive games that comprise nine Six Nations encounters, a World Cup warm-up fixture and an autumn Test.
And Gregor Townsend’s team will need to overcome any mental demons that might exist as a result of that one-sided sequence.
Ten of Wales’ matchday 23 have cap totals in six figures, but experienced lock Beard said: “Look, don’t write us off, whether it is new faces or not.
“When you put on that Welsh jersey you have got a job to do, and our job tomorrow is to get a victory over Scotland.
“There is no better competition in the world than the Six Nations.
“(It is) a new-look squad, a lot of boys getting their opportunities to play in their first Six Nations, and there is no better way than to start at home.”
Cardiff full-back Cameron Winnett makes his Test debut on Saturday, named in the starting line-up after just 15 games of professional rugby.
And Wales will be led by their youngest captain since 1968 – 21-year-old Exeter lock Dafydd Jenkins – for a game that is followed by Six Nations assignments with England at Twickenham, Ireland in Dublin and then France at the Principality Stadium.
On Winnett, Wales head coach Warren Gatland said: “You watch someone at training and that is where you get a feel for a player.
“He looks comfortable on the ball, he is good in the air, and when we had our selection meeting we just said, ‘let’s go for it. Let’s not be afraid to expose someone at this level’.
“It wasn’t a difficult decision for us to make when you see a player and think he is going to be a really good player in the future.
“Yes, we’ve lost a considerable amount of experience and players have moved on.
“But a lot of teams go through cycles, and I think we are at the start of an exciting cycle with this group of players. I couldn’t be happier with how they have trained and prepared.
“There are probably a couple of young players in the squad who are still developing, and they will learn from the time with us.
“We have already seen in the last couple of weeks how much some of them have improved and handled the difference in intensities in training at this level. So that has been a real positive for us.”