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Page last updated at 08:24 GMT, Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Lydiate dreaming of Wales debut

Interview: Wales back-row Dan Lydiate

Dan Lydiate feared he may never walk again two years ago - now the young forward is dreaming of his Welsh debut.

The Dragons back-row broke his neck in their 23-19 Heineken Cup defeat in Perpignan almost two years ago.

Now the 21-year-old hopes to complete a miraculous transformation by winning his first Wales cap this autumn series.

"The call was a big shock but I was always hopeful. I didn't expect a Wales call to happen so soon after my injury," Lydiate told BBC Sport Wales.

Lydiate was only a rookie rugby player when he was taken off on a stretcher and rushed to a French hospital after breaking his neck in the Dragons' European clash.

The then 19-year-old was brought back to the United Kingdom in an air ambulance after spending a week in hospital and the young blindside flanker spent the rest of the time recuperating from crucial neck surgery at his parents' mid-Wales farm.

"The first thing that was going through my head afterwards was, 'am I going to walk again?' " admitted Lydiate.

"So rugby and everything else was put to the back of my brain. But once I got it established that I was going to be all right, then you start hoping, 'am I going to be able to play again?'

Dan Lydiate
Dan is one of the new breed and the sooner he gets a cap the better. It's amazing to think that he broke his neck almost two years ago

Dragons coach Paul Turner

"Then you get the feedback once you have the operation you're going to be fine - you just need to do rehabilitation.

"The rehab was hard but I took myself out of the rugby environment as I went back to the farm and that helped me a lot.

"The only time I really missed rugby was when the Dragons were playing on television. But because I took myself out of it I wasn't as hard as it could have been, as I just got on with my own thing.

"Then when I was ready to get back it made it a lot easier - but it was a long road."

Lydiate has been one of the stand-out performers for the Dragons this season and is one of just two Rodney Parade players - alongside lock Luke Charteris - called up for Wales coach Warren Gatland's 29-man autumn Test squad.

"When I got the text from the Wales management I was straight on the phone to my parents," Lydiate told BBC Sport with a beaming smile. "I'm over the moon."

And Dragons coach Paul Turner has backed his international call.

"Dan is one of the new breed and the sooner he gets a cap the better," Turner told the South Wales Argus.

"It's amazing to think that he broke his neck almost two years ago. This is great for Dan and his family and it's a real tribute to the way he has got through his rehab and then back on to the field.

"It was difficult for him last year. Now he's one of the first names on the sheet. He needs to play in one of these internationals, he's a quiet bloke on and off the pitch and he's certainly doing it on the field."

The Dragons have impressed this season and Lydiate is at the forefront of their improvement - playing in all eight of their games this season.

"The Dragons' good form has helped my game," said the Llandrindod Wells-born player.

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"When the team is playing well it boosts your playing ability and it is easier to play on the front foot as no one likes getting stood on and going backwards."

Lydiate was forced to withdraw from the summer's Wales tour to North America to play in the Dragons' Heineken Cup play-off. Now he hopes to win his first cap during the four-match autumn series.

Wales have great strength-in-depth in the back-row as captain Ryan Jones, his Ospreys team-mate Jonathan Thomas - although he has a citing hanging over him - Blues star Andy Powell and Scarlets flanker Dafydd Thomas are all ahead of Lydiate in Gatland's pecking order.

So the Dragons academy product is highly unlikely to win a cap in Wales' autumn opener with New Zealand on Saturday, 7 November.

But Lydiate could make his international debut against Samoa in Cardiff on Friday, 13 November, with Wales also facing Argentina and Australia.

"Hopefully I'll get my chance to win my first cap this autumn," he said.

"It is up to me to show what I can do in training and push for a place.

"It is everyone's dream to play against the All Blacks but there are quality back-rowers in this Welsh squad - so I'll see what happens."



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