Written by John Davidson
Regan Grace did not grow up in Wales dreaming of a Great Britain & Ireland Lions shirt, but the St Helens winger is hoping of winning a spot on the tour to New Zealand at the end of this year.
The Port Talbot product has been in fine form this year, crossing for 14 tries in just 18 appearances for Saints.
With Tom Johnstone out with injury and Ryan Hall only recently returning to the field, Grace is in contention for a Lions jersey.
But with four months until the tour takes place, the Welshman is taking nothing for granted.
“It would be amazing [to be selected],” Grace told Everything Rugby League.
“[But] there’s a lot of competition to get into that team, there’s a lot of games left this season to be played before it comes to that part, but I’m just focusing on what’s ahead and Saints season. The Lions is just a bonus at the end of it, if it goes well.”
Grace played rugby union as a youngster and only crossed codes to join St Helens as teenager.
The 22-year-old admits he knew more about the rugby union version of the Lions as kid, compared with rugby league’s Great Britain side.
“I knew the Welsh players that played for Great Britain, like Jonathan Davies and Scott Gibbs, but obviously I’ve been more of a union supporter until the end of my teens really because I didn’t switch over till late,” he said.
“So I would have been following the union side more.”
Grace has been a big hit in Super League since he burst on to the scene in 2017 with a try on debut. He has scored 45 tries in 77 appearances for Saints, along with three tries in six Test for Wales.
But the flyer is not resting on his laurels.
“I’m happy with my own form but I’m never complacent,” he said.
There’s always something I can pick out and do that better next week. I’m always looking for things I can improve on because nobody’s perfect.
“There’s always something you can do better. We’re going really well as a team, we’re working hard together and we’re all raising the bar together.
“We’re just playing off each other, which is good.”
In 2018 St Helens failed to reach either major final, losing in the Challenge Cup semi-finals to Catalans Dragons and in the Super League semis to Warrington Wolves.
Grace is unsure why the Red V faded at the end of last season, but says in 2019 his team is ready.
This season Saints have only lost two games out of 19 and sit on top of the Super League ladder.
“We probably got complacent or something last year,” he said.
“I don’t know, I don’t really know what it was. But this year, this is a year where everyone is focused on the end goal.
“We don’t want to get those end stages and fall short again. I think everyone’s ready for it.”