Having spent a World Cup campaign of highs and lows vying with Elliot Dee and Ryan Elias for the Wales hooking berth, Dewi Lake is now ready to resume battle with his rivals on the BKT URC stage.
This Saturday, he travels to Rodney Parade with the Ospreys for a derby clash against Dee’s Dragons and then, eight days later, it will be a home encounter with Elias’ Scarlets.
“I’ve got Elliot and Ryan two weeks on the bounce now - two blokes who I spent every day with for five months, throwing, talking to each other about off-field stuff,” said Lake.
“I don’t think there’s anything we don’t know about each other!
“The three of us have a good relationship working together.
“It will be strange to stand opposite them in the scrum and think I’ve got to try and get the better of them.
“But that’s why we play the game. Everyone likes the competition side of things and we all see it that way.
“I am sure everyone has got friends in different regions, but once you are on that field in different jerseys that gets parked for 80 minutes. You are rivals for that bit of time and I will try my best to beat my opposite man, always. That’s just how it goes, that’s the game. I am looking forward to playing them.”
The hooking battles will be among a number of encounters between players who were together for an extended spell amid Wales’ World Cup crusade.
“We got each other through some dark places with the training camps in Switzerland and Turkey where it was really hard and we were all battering each other,” said Lake.
“Then going undefeated through four group games out in France, putting a record score on Australia, you are only going to get tighter as a group. Little things bring you closer, being together pretty much every minute of every day,
“Five months is a long time to spend away from family and away from kids in some cases. So we were very much a tight knit group because we needed to lean on each other sometimes.
“You do become close with each other, you do become tight, so it will be a bit strange to run out against them.
“But it will be fun. There will probably be a bit of banter thrown around on the field, having spent five months with everyone. They probably know the little details about who you are, what makes you tick and what to try and get in your head with.”
With the dust having now settled on the World Cup, Lake is able to reflect on what was a real rollercoaster time for him.
He was made co-captain for the tournament along with fellow Ospreys forward Jac Morgan and was selected to skipper Wales for the first time in the warm-up game against England at Twickenham - only to suffer a medial knee ligament injury early on.
“It was a grade three tear and I was told I would be out for 12 weeks, so I thought my World Cup was gone basically,” he reveals.
“But I worked hard with the physios, we just did everything we could and got it down to three or four weeks. I’m not sure how it happened, but I somehow got through.”
However, it did mean Lake missing the opening group match against Fiji and he was then having to play catch-up, with Elias and Dee having gone well in his absence.
In the end, he was limited to two starts - against Portugal and Georgia - and wasn’t involved in the 40-6 victory over Australia, while there was the disappointment of the quarter-final defeat to Argentina.
Yet he remains pretty philosophical about the whole experience.
“I look back and there are fond memories and probably some tough times as well,” he says.
“It was up and down. I’d have loved to have gone further or done more or however you want to put it. But, at one point, there was a realistic chance I wasn’t going at all.
“So I am grateful that I got to be involved in a World Cup and captain Wales in a World Cup game.
“I missed out on Australia, but I couldn’t complain with Ryan and Elliot having played the way they did against Fiji. They didn’t do anything wrong to lose their spots.
“To go from where I was after the England match to even being able to go to the World Cup is probably why I don’t look at it like I am gutted I didn’t start this, this and this.
“I am happy I went because I could have missed out on that experience.”
Now the 12-cap Lake has returned to domestic duties, getting up to speed with life at the Ospreys once more.
“You go back to your club and calls are different, things have changed around the place,” he says.
“There are new faces in, a lot of young boys. You kind of come back and are like ‘Hang on, who are all you?’
“It does feel a bit strange, as if you are somewhere new that you shouldn’t be.
“But it’s been awesome coming back and all the boys have helped get us ready with calls and preparation.”
Lake certainly hit the ground running on his Ospreys return last weekend, making a Round 4 best 17 carries in the close-fought BKT URC defeat to Glasgow.
Now it’s on to the Dragons and the Scarlets.
“The Welsh derbies are always great to play in,” said the 24-year-old.
“You know everyone on the field, you know their game and it’s nice to get one up on the other Welsh regions.
“The atmosphere around the games is always very good. We are going into a period now where we’ve got quite a lot of them coming up, so it would be nice to start the first one off with a bang against the Dragons. I am definitely looking forward to playing against the boys.”
David against Goliath.. Dewi against Elias?