Wales v Tonga: Jonah Holmes thinks of grandmother on Test debut

By Gareth GriffithsBBC Sport Wales
Jonah Holmes
Leicester Tigers' Jonah Holmes was born in Stockport
Autumn international: Wales v Tonga
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Date: Saturday, 17 November Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, S4C, BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru, the BBC Sport website and app.

Leicester full-back Jonah Holmes says he will be thinking about his grandmother when he lines up for Wales for the first time on Saturday.

Holmes qualifies for Wales through his Cwmllynfell grandmother Rachel Jenkins, who died a couple of years ago.

"It would have been great if she was here to come along on Saturday," said Holmes.

"I will be thinking of her; she always used to cry when Wales were playing on the TV."

Holmes added: "Luckily I've got quite a few friends who have decided to make the trip down. I've got my mum and my brothers, my dad and my stepmum and other family coming down as well."

Holmes was a surprise call-up for Wales' autumn squad after his unorthodox journey to international rugby.

After starting his career at Rosslyn Park, Holmes has had stints at Wasps, Henley Hawks, London Scottish, London Welsh and Leeds Carnegie before moving to Leicester in the summer of 2017.

The 26-year-old admitted he found it hard when he received a phone call from Warren Gatland asking about his Welsh heritage and ambitions.

Jonah Holmes
Jonah Holmes joined Leicester Tigers ahead of the 2017-18 season

"It came out of the blue. Warren called me up and said: 'Have you got Welsh blood in you?'" said Holmes.

"I said yes. I'm very proud of that. He said, 'do you want to play?' and I said of course. There was only one answer to that.

"When he phoned I was in my kitchen and the next thing you know I'm pacing round outside my area.

"I didn't have Warren's number - I was going to block it, to be honest!"

'Honoured and thrilled'

Holmes admitted he did not consider playing for Wales a possibility at the beginning of the season.

"I would have said 'awesome' but wouldn't have expected it," said Holmes.

"It's great and I'm honoured and thrilled. When I started playing professional rugby and I left school to go to Wasps, Wales Under-20s were my first option.

"But it didn't come about and I wasn't allowed to go. Since then there's been talk about coming over to the regions and maybe trying to get involved with the Sevens but nothing came about.

"Now finally this opportunity has come about and I'm thrilled. If you get the chance to play for Wales, you take it."

Holmes has been given the 15 jersey against Tonga ahead of Liam Williams who will line up on the wing for his 50th cap.

"I want to be on the field first and foremost but I do love playing full back," said Holmes.

"I'm very glad I've been able to play for Tigers at full-back this year and I hope that continues but I also love playing on the wing."

Holmes is prepared for his first appearance at the Principality Stadium.

"The first time I was there was three weeks ago when we did the commercial training session," said Holmes. "I think it will be the noise that hits me first.

"I know this will be louder than other stadiums but with most stadiums by the end of the warm-up you just zone in, your selective hearing has worked and you're able to hear the boys.

"I just know on Saturday it will be very loud."

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