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One happy new ear on, King hoping for even better 2013

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: December 20, 2012

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JAMES King started 2012 amid suggestions Hammer horror movie scouts might be on his trail, and he is finishing it with talk that the Wales selectors are keeping tabs on him ahead of the Six Nations.

From gory to glory, perhaps.

We'll see.

But what is beyond doubt is that it is proving a breakthrough campaign for the 22-year-old.

Two outstanding Heineken Cup performances against Toulouse, playing out of position at lock, have underlined that the youngster has big potential.

Yet before this term he was largely known beyond the Ospreys as the bloke who suffered a gruesome injury playing against the Blues.

It was January 1 and King required plastic surgery to save his right ear after it was almost severed. Reporting the incident, the Daily Mail ran a headline chirping: "Happy new ear!"

Funny the episode wasn't, though.

"I went to put in a hit and everything seemed fine — a normal tackle," recalled King. "But as I hit the floor it was like getting a bang on your hand on a cold day.

"I noticed a bit of blood dribbling down and assumed I had cut my ear a bit. But the physio came over and told me I had to go off. As I was leaving the pitch the boys were urging me to go back on, so I was trying to hold my ear at the same time as hoping the ball would go out of play.

"I didn't really see the ear until I got to the hospital. Then I had someone take a picture for me. They just reattached everything and sewed it back up. Luckily, the ear was still attached to the head. The blood vessels were still there, so it was superficial damage."

King has long since pushed memories of the incident to the back of his mind. "There's no problem on that score," he said. "Everything's fine. I wear a scrum cap for training and playing. It was a freak accident."

Indeed, he has recovered so well from the trauma that Steve Tandy predicted earlier this month he could be there or thereabouts for the Six Nations.

And the region's head coach isn't alone in believing the Ospreys have on their hands a serious player.

A paper ran a headline the other week declaring "Ospreys find a new King in their pack", and Sean Holley has suggested the 22-year-old has the potential to be as good as Dan Lydiate.

But King isn't the type to get carried away. On the pitch, he may be a line-out jumper; off it, he keeps his feet on the ground.

"I'm just going along, happy to be playing," he said.

"It's fine (the hype).

"I'm just enjoying being part of the team. I haven't previously played so many consecutive games in my career — it's just great to be on the field."

Asked directly whether he harboured hopes for the Six Nations, he said: "I'm just trying to play as much rugby as I can. It's the first season for me to be involved in so many starting XVs, so I'm just trying to focus on the rugby."

King has put in 23 tackles from second row over the past two games, bringing his appetite for work around the field to the engine room. What is particularly impressive about him is he never goes missing and he always takes responsibility. If there is a tackle to be made, he does all he can to make it.

"It's been good in the second row," he said. "I try to do the same there as I would if I were playing six, the only difference being at the set-piece, where the role changes slightly.

"I prefer playing at No. 6, but the truth is I'm just happy to get on the field. I just try to do a job for the team wherever I play."

Watch this space.

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