Think of Stuart Barnes and you tend to think of English rugby.
He wore the red rose on his chest ten times in the Test arena and enjoyed a trophy-laden decade with Bath.
Since hanging up his boots, he has spent the past 25 years reporting on England as a writer and broadcaster.
But what a lot of people might not realise is he took his first steps on the international stage in red and sporting the three feathers.
Barnes won a then record-equalling number of schoolboy caps for Wales in the late 1970s.
He was even called up to the national squad at one point and was being touted as JPR Williams’ replacement at full-back.
So how did it all come about and why did he end up playing for England instead?
Well, to begin at the beginning, Barnes was an Essex lad, born in Grays Thurrock, in 1962.
But when he was seven, the family relocated from Purfleet to Wales as his sales manager father, John, was promoted to a new post by packaging company Thomas Case Ltd.
Writing in his 1994 autobiography Smelling Of Roses, Barnes says he was “devastated” when the “bombshell was dropped”.
He lived and breathed for Arsenal FC, with his dream being to play for the Gunners, and here he was heading some 150 miles away from Highbury.
For the first couple of years, his disappointment was tempered by the fact that football was the sport of choice at his junior school, with home being Shirenewton, just outside Chepstow.
“Although I was small as a striker, I scored a bucketloads of goals,” he recalled in an interview with the Independent.
“I was fit, quick, strong and bloody aggressive and I had a tremendous boot.”
But then the family moved again to Newport and, in 1974, at age of 11, the young Barnes pitched up at Basseleg Comprehensive.
It was then “the awful realisation” dawned on him that they didn’t have a school football team.
“There was no soccer, so I didn’t want to go there,” he said.
“They told me I had to play rugby. I was a stroppy little s**t and I said I wasn’t going to do it.”
There was no option, however, and he reluctantly traded the round ball for the oval one. It was to prove a Damascene moment.
“The first moment I touched a rugby ball I bloody adored it,” he said.
“I actually quite liked the violence and the coaches were brilliant.”
He soon fell in love with the game, which was “fast, fun and violent”, and became “intoxicated with the open spaces of the backs”.
The white Alan Ball football boots were discarded, to be replaced by his first pair of real rugby boots.
His mission was to become the best player in his year to prove the English could play rugby and he soon made his mark in Basseleg’s blue and yellow jersey, captaining the school team from the centre.
At 14, he was selected at full-back to skipper the Welsh Schools U15s against South of Scotland at Bridgend, only to tear his hamstring after five minutes.
But such was his speed and obvious talent, he made the leap from the U15s to the U19s in one season and became an ever-present, not missing a schools international for four years.
He played alongside the likes of David Pickering and Rob Ackerman, while he went up against future stars such as Dean Richards, Nigel Melville and both Hastings brothers.
A rising star, he had been earmarked by Newport RFC and, by 17, he was part of their team that reached the final of the Snelling Sevens at the National Stadium in Cardiff.
Just a month after his 18th birthday, he made his first class debut for the Black & Ambers, scoring two tries from fly-half against Watsonians at Rodney Parade on Boxing Day 1980.
Those early days with Newport were some initiation for him.
Their head coach was Wales propping legend Charlie Faulkner, who decided to test out the teenager’s mettle in one infamous training ground incident.
For the final 30 minutes of a trial match, Faulkner played him at hooker, up against the all-international front row of Colin Smart, Mike ‘Spike’ Watkins and Rhys Morgan.
It was a crash course in the dark arts of the front row underworld, as
a finger in the eye was followed by nibbled ears and nose and a gentle rabbit punch.
As Barnes reveals in his book, training sessions could be brutal, geared towards preparing you for the violence of Welsh club rugby.
But he coped with his baptism of fire and flourished on the field.
Even though he was still at school, rumours abounded that he was in the frame for a full Wales call-up, such was the impression he was making.
When he captained Wales Schools against England that season, the senior Welsh selectors were in the stand.
Barnes was big news and the Big Five were watching.
And, in April 1981, he was asked to join the Wales squad in preparation for a celebration game against a Presidents XV to mark the centenary of the WRU.
That saw him training alongside the likes of Terry Holmes, Ray Gravell, Graham Price and Gareth Davies.
He then watched on from the sidelines at the national ground as Wales won 27-21 against a side captained by Bill Beaumont and including the likes of Serge Blanco, Andy Irvine, Mark Ella, Dave Loveridge and Jean-Pierre Rives.
He also got to attend the post-match dinner at the Angel Hotel.
Heady days indeed for an 18-year-old.
By the time he left Basseleg a few months later, he was the joint record holder for Wales schoolboy caps, along with the great Alan Martin.
In the following 1981-82 season, his reputation steadily grew.
He had gone up to Oxford, to study modern history at St Edmund Hall, and starred for the University team at fly-half, going on to play in three Varsity matches, while he also turned out for Newport, mainly at 15, when back home.
Come the autumn, he was named in the full Welsh squad and was a serious contender for a Five Nations place.
He was seen as potential successor to the just-retired JPR at full-back or as a rival to Gareth Davies for the No 10 jersey, such was his versatility.
But he was a young man undergoing a sea change.
Being at Oxford, the spiritual home of all things English, had seen an “acute awareness of his non-Welshness” overcome him.
So, at the end of that 1981-82 season, he wrote “a nervous and apologetic” letter to Ray Williams, then chairman of selectors, saying he no longer wished to be considered for Wales selection.
He admits that friends, teachers and coaches were dismayed and that it was viewed as sacrilige by some.
But while he respected Welsh rugby and what it had given him, he didn’t want to play for Wales without the ‘hwyl’ and passion that many of his friends and team-mates possessed.
“That, in my opinion, would have been more of an insult to them than my defection,” he wrote in his book.
“I knew I was not Welsh and should not play for them.”
Elaborating some years later, the Sky Sports commentator said: “I had great affection for Wales, but the fact is, I had no Welsh blood.
“Although I don’t have a patriotic bone in my body, I was the only person at Bassaleg who supported England.
“I decided to stay with my roots and I received my first bad press.
“I was regarded as officially Welsh and there was all this bulls**t about turning my back on Wales. I was born in bloody Essex.”
After making 17 appearances for Newport in all, the last coming in January 1983, he moved to Bristol.
Then came Bath, where he was to enjoy his greatest successes, pulling the strings expertly from No 10 as they won the Cup six times and five league titles.
There were also ten appearances for England and he went on the 1993 Lions tour of New Zealand.
But there was always a feeling that his great maverick talent was underused on the international stage.
Would he have played more times for Wales? Very likely so.
But, for this Essex lad, it wasn’t the right path. One can only wonder what might have been.