TOKYO, 25 Oct – When quizzed about the journey that led to his becoming the joint leading try-scorer at Rugby World Cup 2019, Josh Adams's mind flicked back to the humble surroundings of Cinderford RFC's Beavis Memorial Ground in Gloucestershire.
"It was the Forest of Dean on a Tuesday night," said Adams, recalling his three-month stint in 2016 in the third tier of English rugby, which played a role in honing a prodigious raw talent into the disciplined professional athlete of today. "It set me up for being here."
During those three months, Adams scored three tries in six games. Not earth-shattering numbers, but a glimpse of the potential that had already led to him representing Wales at the World Rugby U20 Championships.
Adams would continue to mature rapidly. By the end of the 2017-18 season he had become the English Premiership's top try-scorer, crossing 13 times for Worcester and making his Wales debut during the 2018 Six Nations Championship.
Over the course of RWC 2019, he has been a vital component in Wales's progress to the last four, displaying the hand skills and feel for the game that were apparent at Cinderford all those years ago and which will now be on show at Cardiff Blues, his new club.
He racked up a hat-trick in the pool stage against Fiji, pictured above scoring his first try in that game, to help Wales recover from a 10-0 deficit and win 29-17 to clinch a vital bonus point.
Adams did not score against France in the quarter-final victory, but he still leads the try-scoring table – equal with South Africa's Makazole Mapimpi and Japan's Kotaro Matsushima – and has made more clean breaks (13) than any other player in the tournament so far.
Three more tries would enable him to equal New Zealand pair Jonah Lomu (1999) and Julian Savea (2015), and South Africa's Bryan Habana (2007) for the most tries scored by one player in a single World Cup.
"It wouldn't be bad to join that list, would it?" he said. "There are some legends there."
He will face a particularly difficult task in Sunday's semi-final. The renowned Springbok defence produced a tackling masterclass to limit Japan to just three points last weekend. But even they will be wary of the threat posed by a player who averages a try almost every two games in international rugby.
With a guaranteed two more games to go in the World Cup – even if Wales lose on Sunday, they will still contest the bronze final next Friday – Adams also has another record in sight, the six tries scored by Shane Williams at Rugby World Cup 2007. That tally remains the biggest by a Welsh player on rugby's grandest stage.
"Fingers crossed I can pip him," said Adams.