Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi provide inspiration for Rhys Webb

Rhys Webb has taken inspiration from football greats Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo after ending more than two years in the international rugby wilderness.

Ospreys scrum-half Webb is on course to make his first Wales appearance since November 2020 in next Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations opener against Ireland.

Webb, who toured New Zealand with the 2017 British and Irish Lions, featured on just five occasions during Wayne Pivac’s 34-Test reign as Wales head coach.

Argentina captain Lionel Messi
Rhys Webb has taken inspiration from Argentina’s World Cup-winning captain Lionel Messi (Nick Potts/PA)

But with Warren Gatland now back at the helm, 34-year-old Webb is once again battling for a Test spot as part of Wales’ Six Nations squad.

“It has obviously been a long time out of the international set-up, and it is an absolute joy to be back,” Webb said.

“It’s like when I first got called up in 2012 with the goose-bumps. The feeling has all come back to me, and I am just loving every day being in camp with the boys.

“I am a competitor and believe in myself and my ability. I never once wrote it off.

“I am obviously over the moon and delighted to be back, but for me personally this is where I feel I belong.

“I have still got that fire in my belly, and every time I put that Welsh jersey on it fills me with pride.”

Webb is among a number of seasoned campaigners in the Wales squad, with his 36-cap international career spread over the last 10 years.

And he looks set to have a key Six Nations role alongside the likes of fellow thirtysomethings like Dan Biggar, Ken Owens, Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric.

“We know we can’t go on forever but we know what we need to do for our bodies to be in the best possible way and thrive in international rugby,” Webb added.

“It is credit to the boys for keeping themselves fit and healthy for a long time.

“For me personally, I look at the football boys like Ronaldo and Messi, who are still playing in World Cups at 37 and 35. If they can do it, we can do it.”

Despite being largely overlooked during the Pivac era, Webb has maintained consistent Ospreys form and now contests the Wales number nine shirt with Tomos Williams and Kieran Hardy.

Ospreys and Wales scrum-half Rhys Webb
Rhys Webb has maintained impressive form for the Ospreys (David Davies/PA)

“You are obviously disappointed at the time, but I have never let it get to me,” Webb said, on his absence from the international scene.

“Even when I am not picked in the Welsh squad I’ve got a job to do. I’ve got one of the best jobs in the world, playing rugby.

“The Ospreys pay my wages, so I have to go out there and perform. Playing is a release for me, and that is what I do best.

“It has been a disappointment not to make squads, but I have been enjoying myself playing week in, week out, and now to be back is great.”