|Rugby World Cup: Wales v Fiji|
|Venue: Oita Stadium, Oita Date: Wed, 9 October Kick-off: 10:45 BST|
|Coverage: Full commentary on every Wales game across BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru, BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.|
Wales lock Jake Ball says he has put a “hard and frustrating” catalogue of injuries behind him to become a key World Cup performer in Japan.
Second row has been an injury problem position for Wales during their campaign so far, with Cory Hill ruled out of the tournament and Adam Beard yet to feature after having his appendix removed.
So it is ironic Ball has played a pivotal role in the early successes against Georgia and Australia after suffering an injury-ravaged couple of years himself.
His catalogue of ailments include a biceps rupture, concussion and torn toe ligaments.
Ball’s woes all started with a dislocated shoulder against New Zealand in November 2017 which ruled him out of action for nearly 10 months.
The Scarlets forward can painfully recall having a “hole” in his back where a muscle had stopped working due to nerve damage after undergoing shoulder surgery.
“It was just unlucky,” said Ball.
“There was nothing I could have done to prevent a lot of things that have happened.
“The most frustrating thing about my shoulder was they said it was meant to be a four-month return. Then there was a bit of a complication because I had some nerve damage from the operation.
|Wales World Cup fixtures – Pool D|
|Mon, 23 Sept: Wales 43-14 Georgia|
|Sun, 29 Sept: Wales 29-25 Australia|
|Wed, 9 Oct: Wales v Fiji, Oita Stadium, Oita (10:45 BST)|
|Sun, 13 Oct: Wales v Uruguay, Kumamoto Prefectural Athletic Stadium, Kumamoto City (09:15 BST)|
“That set me back and it was hard. There was a point where it just wasn’t getting any stronger.
“I had a hole in my back where the muscle had just stopped working, and at one point I wasn’t sure that was going to get any better.
“I was seeing the nerve specialist and he was saying ‘look, this is probably going to take between six and 10 months’. I remember thinking ‘I can’t see it taking that long,’ but in fairness to him, he was about right.”
Ball admits the injury issues were a new situation he had to deal with.
“To go for the best part of five years without an injury, which is probably what I had, and I was very durable, playing 80 minutes a game,” he said.
“To then having that patch was very frustrating from a mental side as well.
“I had patches where I would come back and was just starting to get going again and playing some good rugby, and I would get hit with something else. That was the annoying bit.
“I just tried to use the time wisely, did a lot of gym work and put my head into that. I am not going to lie, it was hard and frustrating.”
Wales resume World Cup action against Fiji next Wednesday, when victory in Oita would secure a quarter-final place with Ball in line to win his 39th cap by starting again alongside captain Alun Wyn Jones.
It is crucial both Jones and Ball remain fit given Wales’ lock injury worries so far in Japan.
Dragons captain Hill was ruled out of the tournament with a leg injury to be replaced by Bradley Davies, while Beard had his appendix removed just before Wales flew out.
This has left captain Jones and Ball as the only fit specialist locks for the victories over Georgia and Australia.
Ball, 28, was man-of-the-match against Georgia, while Jones made 25 tackles against the Wallabies to mark the occasion where he became Wales’ most capped player.
“Alun Wyn seems to be the constant,” said Ball.
“Over the years everyone has revolved around him. It’s a big challenge for me, Alun Wyn is obviously a talisman – is to push him and outdo some of his stats.
“That’s a goal, to work harder than him. He’s unbelievable. A top-class pro, I hold a lot of respect for Al and what he’s done in the game is brilliant.
“His leadership has been great over the last couple of years as well. I am enjoying playing alongside him, he gives me a lot of confidence as well.
“World-class players come up with the goods in the key moments of games. He’s done that time and time again.”
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All selector pictures via Huw Evans Images.