Newport Gwent Dragons hooker Lloyd Burns revealed he is still pinching himself after going from bricklayer to being part of Wales’ World Cup squad in less than a year.
Burns seized his opportunity in the absence of injury victims Matthew Rees and Richard Hibbard to book his place on the plane to New Zealand.,
And Burns was quick to pay tribute to the work done behind the scenes at Rodney Parade for launching his international career.
“It’s totally awesome,” said Burns. “Toby (Faletau) and I were just sitting in a café having a coffee when we heard the news so I’m a bit in shock.
“It’s a bit of a dream come true for me. Last summer I was working on a building site and now I’m going to the World Cup!
“It’s great news for the Dragons that so many are going – it shows what we can achieve.”
Burns was one of five Dragons included in Gatland’s squad alongside lock Luke Charteris, flanker Danny Lydiate, back-rower Toby Faletau and winger Aled Brew.
Like many RaboDirect Pro 12 teams, the Dragons are likely to feel the pinch during the absence of their international stars.
However Charteris believes that will allow the next generation their chance to shine.
He said: “It’s been a long hard summer so it’s a really great feeling to be going. It’s fantastic that all the boys from the Dragons are going – it shows how far we have come as a region.
“I know it will be tough with five of us missing, but after the game against Russia the boys seem to be doing just fine without us! I’m coming down to the game tomorrow night against Leeds so I’ll get another look at the Dragons before we leave for New Zealand but we have always had boys who step up and take their opportunities so this is a great chance for some of our emerging players.”
The Ospreys and Scarlets provide the squad’s biggest representation with seven each while the Blues contribute six players.
Notable absentees include Cardiff Blues' veteran flanker Martyn Williams, Ospreys’ loose forward Jonathan Thomas and Scarlets’ Josh Turnbull.
After an outstanding season for club and country, Blues flanker Sam Warburton is given the captaincy in the absence of Rees.
Forwards: Gethin Jenkins (Blues), Lloyd Burns (Dragons), Huw Bennett, Ryan Bevington, Adam Jones, Paul James (Ospreys), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Craig Mitchell (Exeter), Bradley Davies, Sam Warburton (Blues, capt), Luke Charteris, Danny Lydiate, Toby Faletau (Dragons), Ryan Jones, Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Andy Powell (Sale Sharks).
Backs: Michael Phillips (Bayonne), Lloyd Williams (Blues), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Blues), James Hook (Perpignan), Jonathan Davies, Stephen Jones, Rhys Priestland, Scott Williams (Scarlets), Leigh Halfpenny (Blues), Lee Byrne (Clermont Auvergne), Aled Brew (Dragons), Shane Williams (Ospreys), George North (Scarlets).