Alex Cuthbert has laughed off claims from former Lions team manager Jim Telfer that Welsh players are lazy.
The 22-year-old English-born wing is poised to win his 14th international cap when Wales kick off their Six Nations campaign against Ireland at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday. Twelve months ago he was awaiting his first start.
On that basis alone, it has been a whirlwind year for the 6ft 6in three- quarter who has already laid down an indelible marker ahead of Lions head coach Warren Gatland's selection for the summer tour to Australia.
"Amazing really," said Cuthbert (right), whose constant training and playing schedule has been, to say the least, exacting. Little wonder therefore that when Cuthbert learned of Telfer's comments, he felt honour bound to not only support his own case, but that of his countrymen, too.
"It's just his opinion, but I know how hard the boys work," Cuthbert said. "I think we have shown in quite a lot of games that we come out on top because we are the fitter team. That was certainly the case in the last Six Nations.
"I have worked my ass off since I have come in to professional rugby and although I have got a lot to learn, I'm willing to work as hard as I can to achieve it."
"You would certainly get a mouthful off those two if you were lazy."
Attack coach Mark Jones echoed Cuthbert's sentiment, claiming that in his 12 years as an international player and now coach, shirking responsibility has never been an issue.
"There is absolutely nothing lazy about the work ethic around the coaching or playing staff," he said. "I haven't seen anything lazy about the current squad or any of the squads that have been before."
The good news for Wales ahead of tomorrow's team announcement is that one or two of the injured players who were struggling to train last week are back in harness and challenging for a place in Howley's starting XV.
"We are in a lot better shape," Jones said. "We had seven fit backs last week and now we have 11 or 12."
The biggest headache for Howley is not so much behind the scrum, but in it. With second-rows Luke Charteris, Bradley Davies and Alun Wyn Jones ruled out, and Ian Evans and Ryan Jones recovering from injury, Wales find themselves in a rather desperate position.
They do have the option of Harlequins' lock Olly Kohn, who was called into the squad last week, but the interim coach is hoping that both Ryan Jones and Evans will come through today's session in time to be named in a side that might also include both openside flankers Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric. (© Daily Telegraph, London)