It will be a huge moment for Shane Lewis-Hughes when he makes his Wales debut against Scotland at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday afternoon.

So what’s the background of the Cardiff Blues blindside and what will he bring to the party?

Rugby correspondent Simon Thomas has followed his progress closely over the past few years and now tells his story.

Where is he from?

Home is the Rhondda.

Born in Pontypridd in September 1997, he grew up in the Ferndale area and attended Ysgol Gyfun Cymer, near Porth.

The 23-year-old remains based in the Rhondda today, living in Ferndale, and is very proud of his roots there.

How did his rugby journey begin?

It all started one day in the early noughties.

“When I was five or six, I watched Wales v Ireland on TV,” he explained in a previous interview.

“I asked my mum what sport it was and said it looked good. She said I could go to Ferndale RFC and at my first training session I remember getting my first touch of the ball and having a feeling I never wanted to let go. I absolutely loved it.”

Starting out on the wing, he tried his hand at both openside and second row, before settling at six.

He progressed from Ferndale RFC and Ystrad Rhondda RFC to Rhondda Schools, coming under the tutelage of the legendary Chris Jones, who he singles out as a big reason why he is where he is today.

At Coleg y Cymoedd, he was then coached by Chris’ brother Clive, another important influence.

The Cardiff connection

Lewis-Hughes has become a fans’ favourite at the Arms Park, but he used to be a supporter there himself back in the day, cheering on the Blues.

“I used to come down there with my grandfather and my brother for the games and sit behind the opposition subs,” he revealed.

“I remember watching the likes of Xavier Rush, Martyn Williams. I think Sam Warburton was coming through then as well.

“Those are the players that really inspired me to want to play for the region.”

Shane Lewis Hughes (left), alongside fellow Ysgol Gyfun Cymer Rhondda students Thomas Sheppard and Cameron Lewis when they were selected to represent Wales U16s in 2014-15

And that dream was to come true.

After attending U16 trials for the Blues, he was handed a place in their Academy and went on to represent Wales at U16s, U18s and U20s level, starting every game in the U20s Grand Slam of 2016.

In October of that year, he made his senior Blues debut as a replacement against the Scarlets in a PRO12 match at the Arms Park, going on to gain further experience in the Anglo-Welsh and British & Irish Cups, while also playing for Pontypridd in the Premiership.

Over the past couple of years, his regional game-time has increased and last season was something of a breakthrough as he made 18 appearances, figuring regularly during the truncated campaign.

So, what kind of person is he?

Well, put it this way, the opening words of his Twitter profile read: “obsessed to be the best”.

It’s fair to say he is a young man on a mission. He’s single-minded, driven, has a steely-eyed focus and is massively committed, earning the nickname "Crazy" from his Blues team-mates.

Just look at these quotes of his from an interview he gave when he was just 19 for an indication of what he's all about.

“I always want to push my rugby to a high standard,” he said.

“I treat it like a ladder I have to keep climbing until I get to the top. I want to be consistent and never be satisfied with any performance.

“My dream is to play for my country and for the British Lions, so I’m just going to carry on working hard.”

That ceaseless desire to improve and set new standards remains a driving force today.

It’s telling that Alun Wyn Jones has said he sees echoes of himself at a young age in Lewis-Hughes and there are certainly similarities in terms of the uncapped flanker’s dedication and professionalism.

That’s not a bad role model to have.

Shane Lewis-Hughes on the attack for Wales U20s against Ireland U20s in February 2016

What are his strengths?

Former Welsh international Tom Shanklin summed it well when he was commentating on the Blues’ opening game of the season versus Zebre earlier this month.

He described Lewis-Hughes as having “everything you want from a six” and you can see what he means.

It’s a position where defence is a key responsibility and he is an absolute machine in that department.

In the Zebre match and the following league fixture against Connacht, he made no fewer 43 tackles, a pretty staggering tally.

Significantly, a large number of those hits were dominant ones, knocking opponents down on or behind the gain-line, as he used his 18st 11lbs frame to good effect.

But, following up Shanklin’s point, what’s been noticeable since rugby’s resumption is how the young blindside’s all-round game is developing.

He’s becoming increasingly effective as a jackal over the ball, while he’s also offering himself more as a carrier, with his size, aggression and footwork making him a tough man to put down.

Around the coalface, he is a real grafter. He hits rucks hard, while his disruptive defensive mauling is excellent with the way he wraps himself around the man in possession.

Then there’s his lineout work. At 6ft 4ins and blessed with an athletic leap, he is a real asset there, both as a target and when picking off opposition ball.

In the space of a few minutes against Zebre, he won a turnover penalty, charged upfield on a rampaging run and then stole a lineout.

That’s what he’s like, he’s into everything, bringing an appetite and an attitude to the table, as well as real physicality.

Has his selection to start against Scotland come out of the blue then?

Well, yes and no.

In the one sense it has, in that he wasn’t in the original autumn squad.

But Pivac has clearly seen something in him for some time.

He included him in his first squad, for the match against the Barbarians last November, even though he’d had relatively limited game-time for the Blues at that point.

Shane Lewis-Hughes beats Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones to lineout ball during Cardiff Blues' victory over the Ospreys in August

Such has been Lewis-Hughes’ eye-catching form since rugby’s return from lockdown, he was unfortunate to miss out on the original selection for this autumn.

But while he wasn’t named in the group, he was involved in training from the outset, providing cover - with his Blues colleague Josh Navidi recovering from concussion.

Then, when Ross Moriarty damaged his ankle, Lewis-Hughes was officially added to the squad, with Pivac saying how much of an impression he had made in training, particularly grabbing the attention of skipper Alun Wyn.

Given that high praise, the continuing absence of Navidi and Moriarty, plus the way Wales were outmuscled in the collisions in Paris, the selection of the powerful young man from the Rhonnda makes a lot of sense.

He is the form No. 6 in Wales at the minute and now he gets the chance to carry that onto the international stage.