South Wales Scorpions skipper Aled James says that being selected for Wales this year was a complete surprise for him.

James, who has won 11 caps for Wales since his debut against Russia in 2003, is set to take to the field this Saturday when the Welsh take on Ireland at The Gnoll in Neath (kick-off 6pm).

Wales are using this game as valuable preparation for their Gillette Four Nations campaign which they kick off a week later against England in Leigh.

“I’m really happy to get into the Welsh squad,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d get in as it’s an elite competition this year and there’s a lot of players who are available from Super League and from Australia. Playing for the Scorpions is good but it is in a lower league so I didn’t think I’d get this opportunity again.

“It’s great that Christiaan Roets and Andy Gay from the Scorpions have been selected too. They’re both really excited too as, without being pessimistic, we all had the same thoughts this year. We’re all very happy to be in.

“It’s a great opportunity for Andy, he came in last year and had a great couple of games and Roetsy played in all the games last year. It’s good for all three of us - everything we’re doing down in South Wales seems to be working and hopefully it can continue to grow. We had a number of Scorpions players in the train-on squad who didn’t make it, and next year perhaps the likes of Steve Parry, Joe Burke, Chris Davies and others may get a chance as they’re the future of the game.”

James knows that the next four weeks will be the toughest of his career but he says that he’s ready for the challenge starting with the pre-tournament warm-up game this Saturday against Ireland.

“We had success last year but we’re realistic,” he said. “We’re playing the best three sides in the world and we’re lucky to have that opportunity.

“Australia gave New Zealand a bit of a battering on the weekend so it’s going to be a tough competition and you’ve got to perform on the day. Iestyn’s made it clear that if your skills are not good enough then you put yourself under pressure to improve.

“Hopefully if the three of us have a good game against Ireland on Saturday, we may get a chance to play in the Four Nations. The Gnoll’s a great place to play, it’s a fantastic surface and it’s a ground that you really get to enjoy playing in. I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be tough as Ireland have already played one match this year and we’ve just got together as a full squad.

“It was a close game against Ireland last year and they will want to get a win this year. It’s the same with us, we want to put a performance in and the boys will want to stick their hand up for a place in the side against England the following week.”