NICKY Smith has eaten his way back into the Wales squad by piling on the pounds in a bid to return to the international stage bigger, better and stronger.
After winning his 35th cap in the World Cup bronze final last year, the 26-year-old Ospreys loosehead was dropped by new head coach Wayne Pivac and hasn’t featured since.
But now he is back for the warm-up with France, the Six Nations game with Scotland, and the Autumn Nations Cup. He will return 11 months on from his last cap against New Zealand as a new man – and father.
“When lockdown came it was a golden opportunity for me to lock myself in the garage with some weights, eat well, and try to get bigger and stronger,” said Smith, right.
“Most of what I did was being more consistent with my food and upping the meals. Before lockdown I ate about four times a day, but I increased that to six or seven with a protein shake or two in the gym. I was having 40 grams of protein and between 60 to 65 grams of carbohydrates with each meal.
“The other thing was being in the gym six times a week. It’s tough to put on weight when you are playing because it is such a demanding sport so I limited my running to try to put on the bulk.”
The results have been positive so far.
Smith played in the two regional derbies last month and scored a try in the shock win at Edinburgh on the opening day of the new season last weekend to celebrate the birth of his first son, Alby.
His new look, and current form, has hit home with Pivac and the other Welsh coaches because he found himself named alongside Rhys Carre (133 kgs) and Wyn Jones (114 kgs) among the three loosehead props in the squad for the six games internationals over the next eight weeks.
“I feel I am in a good place physically and mentally and I’m just raring to go for the rest of the season. I bulked up to 116kg and I was a bit nervous coming into pre-season testing, but I passed everything okay,” said Smith.
“So far I feel a lot better than last year. When I was younger I had a bit of a belly on me and I needed to lose that, but over the past couple of years I have been playing at around 109kgs which is quite light for a prop.
“Hopefully, I’ve now got the balance right. You are never going to be perfect. I could be a bit heavier or carry a little less body fat, but I just want to try to get a bit fitter.
“I may need to trim down a bit or build up my strength, but I feel like I am heading in the right direction. Maybe I was a bit weaker before and that could explain why I’ve had a few injuries in the last few years.
“I feel a bit more physical. I can chuck my weight around more with the extra couple of kilograms. It is certainly easier to do that than when I was down at 109.
“The set-piece and hitting rucks are the basics for me and it is a bit easier to do that with the extra weight. I can be a bit more aggressive.”