Christ Tshiunza has been speaking for the first time about his “crazy couple of weeks” as he reflects on his Wales debut and his future goals.
The 19-year-old back-five forward came on to win his first cap against Fiji and then shared in the victory over Australia in the final autumn international.
While impressing with his cameos, he was also involved in arguably the most touching moment of the campaign off the field.
After his debut against Fiji at the Principality Stadium, he presented his match jersey to his former teacher at Whitchurch High School, Steve Williams, with his family watching on.
Now back with his club Exeter, the Congo-born and Cardiff-raised youngster has been giving his thoughts on his time with Wales.
“It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, it’s been nice to get back to reality for a bit,” he said.
“Coming on against Fiji, it was a very good experience and topped by being able to see my family after that.
“The WRU really helped me on that day, they sorted my family out with their own room and I could go in and see them after, so it was a really good experience
“I was really grateful that people were able to come and watch, especially my old school teacher who got me into rugby.
“I was only able to be in that stadium because of him so it meant a lot to see him after the game. A few tears were shed.
“He’s been there with me for every part of the journey, I gave him my Wales 18s shirt on my first game, my Wales training shirt, my debut shirt, and it was only right to give him this one.”
Tshiunza, who turns 20 in January, also revealed how he’d had a special message from Welsh coaching team member Gareth Williams ahead of his debut.
“The day of the game, I woke up to a little slip under my door from Gareth, we call him Babs,” he said.
“It was a very kind letter. I knew him from Wales Under-20s, we were quite close, and the day of the game he slipped through a little note under my door and it just said I’ve got no pressure, just to relax and enjoy the day.
“Waking up to that in the morning, knowing that the coach just wants me to relax, that was good.
“I was just genuinely so happy to be there, there was not a single ounce of nervousness.
“I didn’t have it in me to feel any other emotion, I was just so happy just to be there. I ran out with a smile on my face and the whole game I was playing with a smile on my face.
“I just pinged my ears back and just went for it.”
Talking about fellow squad members, he said: “I got along very well with Liam Williams.
“He looked after me and of course Tom Francis and Alex Cuthbert that I knew from Exeter, and also Dillon Lewis. They were really good boys.
“I really liked the environment, it was a really enjoyable environment.
“Adam Beard was A good one, he was a really good lad. Coming into camp and getting up to speed, he’s the one that helped me through that.
“There were a few characters that I thought would be more serious than they were, which kind of like made me relax a bit, because going into that environment, in the back of my head I was thinking it would be really serious.
“But seeing the boys like Nick Tompkins for example and how he was a jokey person made me relax.
“I was only there for two and a half weeks, but I actually got to know those boys really well.”
As for what Wayne Pivac had to say to him after the campaign, Tshiunza - who is currently nursing a minor hamstring injury - said: “The overall message was good feedback.
“He sounded impressed, so I’ll take that. I think I did alright, as well. He gave me a few work-ons and potentially target the Six Nations, who knows?
“There were a few rugby-specific work-ons, but I think the main message he wanted me to know was this wasn’t just a one-off, that I’ve actually got a potential chance of not just coming back here to Exeter and slacking off saying ‘I’ve played two games for Wales, that’s it now’.
“The main message he wanted to get across was there’s actually potential, so I think on my behalf now it’s just to work hard.
“Actually playing the Six Nations is a genuine goal for me.”
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