Rhys Webb says he will not get caught up in any hype surrounding his anticipated battle with British and Irish Lions scrum-half rival Conor Murray on Friday.
Webb and Murray are set to go head to head at the Principality Stadium when Wales resume their RBS 6 Nations campaign against Ireland.
It is also a contest between arguably the top two number nines in northern hemsiphere rugby, both players looking set to scrap for one British and Irish Lions Test team place in New Zealand this summer.
Friday’s meeting headlines a number of intriguing potential sub-plots between major Lions contenders that should provide fascinating viewing for head coach Warren Gatland.
Webb, though, is far more concerned with helping Wales rediscover winning ways following successive Six Nations defeats at the hands of England and Scotland that effectively ended their title hopes.
“I am not one to get to caught up in individual battles,” he said.
“My effort and concentration go to the team. He (Murray) and (Johnny) Sexton are a big part of the Irish team. They have a good kicking game which we have to be aware of and apply lots of pressure to them.
“There will be a lot of focus on the nine battle, but that is for you (media) and spectators. It has not come to my focus at all. I keep that to myself. I focus on myself, no matter who I am playing. If I do the best I can, I hope the rest takes care of itself.”
Webb was comfortably Wales’ best player in the 29-13 loss to Scotland 10 days ago, with that Murrayfield setback arriving a fortnight after England wing Elliot Daly’s late try saw the Six Nations champions post a narrow win.
If Ireland pile on further misery, then it will be the first time since 2007 for Wales to lose three successive Six Nations games in one season.
“It was the last 15 minutes against England, and the second half against Scotland was poor by our standards,” Webb said.
“If we can play for the 80 minutes and keep our skill level and accuracy up, it could have been different. We’ve put those two games to bed now and our main focus is a big match on Friday night.
“We have unbelievable talent in the squad — competition for places, guys who have won a Lions series, Grand Slams, the lot.
“There is a big focus on players having confidence in their own ability. We are creating chances, but maybe that off-load or TMO (television match official) decision has not gone our way. I hope they will this Friday night and it will be a hell of a Test match.
“We know we have to stay together as a unit in defence and defend well and finish off our chances.”
Wales’s preparations, meanwhile, were watched by an unlikely spectator earlier this week — former France, Arsenal, and Barcelona striker Thierry Henry.
Henry, currently assistant coach with the Belgium national side, took coaching qualifications at the renowned Football Association of Wales programme in Newport, and he was part of an FAW group that observed training.
“It was a bit surreal, really, to have a legend like him around,” Webb said.
“I shook his hand and said hello. I don’t think he fancied catching a few box-kicks or whatever, and as soon as the forwards came down he disappeared, so I think he must be a back!
“There has been a good buzz around the hotel and the training sessions this week and Friday can’t come quick enough.”
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