Wales lock Jake Ball will hope to prove a point when he faces the Wallabies at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
Wales lock Jake Ball will hope to prove to Australia that his decision to turn his back on a career that might have led to a ‘Baggy Green’ cap as a fast bowler was the right one when he faces the Wallabies at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
As a teenager, Ball was pounding in on the fast pitches of Western Australia, having been coached by former Australia Test opening batsman Geoff Marsh – and playing cricket alongside his sons Shaun and Mitchell.
His slingshot action produced deliveries timed at 82mph (132kph), with Ball reckoning his bowling style was “probably more Jeff Thomson” than Mitchell Johnson.
Born in Ascot, south-west of London, Ball – whose father Dave is from north Wales and played number eight for London Welsh and Harlequins – emigrated to Australia with his family at the age of 16.
Back then his sporting priority was cricket but a lack of fondness for fielding and the growing realisation he yearned to play rugby again prompted him to concentrate on the 15-man game.
“I went out there to play cricket, and I did it for two years,” explained Ball.
“I was a fast bowler and I played alongside the Marsh boys. I miss the competitive edge of the bowling, but I hated standing in the field and I was a tail-end batsman as well, so I ended up spending a lot of time sitting around.
“I was probably a bit over the top when I played cricket.
“If I got nicked through slips and that, it would be a case of trying to keep my cool. I wouldn’t say it was sledging – I was more of a quiet angry man, I think!”
Now aged 23, Ball was good enough at cricket to open the bowling for Western Australia U19s but he insisted: “I realised that cricket wasn’t the path I wanted to go down. I missed my rugby.”
Ball got back into rugby by training with the Perth-based Western Force Super Rugby franchise, where Welsh regional side Scarlets spotted his potential.
The Llanelli club offered him a three-year contract in 2012 and Ball has been back in the land of his father ever since.
In under two years the bearded Ball had made his Test debut, coming on as a replacement against Ireland during last season’s Six Nations Championship in February and he has now won five caps in total.
Ball featured during Wales’s heart-breaking 31-30 second Test loss away to South Africa in Nelspruit in June and is now vying for second row berth alongside Alun Wyn Jones with the likes of Luke Charteris and Bradley Davies.
“I am just happy to get this opportunity, to be honest,” Ball said ahead of his first start against major southern hemisphere opposition.
“I think it is going to be a brutal contest, and we will get stuck into it like we would any international game.
“I know a couple of their players (Matt Hodgson and Ben McCalman) as well, so it means a lot to me this game.”