SCRUM-HALF Kieran Hardy, from Pontyberem, says he wants to stake his claim to become Wales' first-choice number nine this summer.

A remarkable 12 months has seen the 25 year-old rise from being a Scarlets understudy to winning his first international cap last autumn.

The former pupil of Ysgol Maes Y Gwendraeth helped Wales win the Six Nations title with a try in the Triple Crown victory over England.

A hamstring injury ruled him out of the final two matches for Wales – but he is on standby for the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa.

"I was definitely nowhere near that 12 months ago, it has definitely been a breakthrough season for me," said Hardy.

"I got my opportunity to be a part of the Welsh set-up in the autumn and was lucky enough to get capped.

"I had a decent couple of games in the Six Nations, and you never know who is watching and how far you can go up the ladder.

"I was over the moon just to be in contention for the Lions squad, but I didn't quite make it.

"Fair play to the boys who did and all the best to them."

With Scarlets teammate Gareth Davies selected for the tour, Hardy will take his place in Wayne Pivac's Wales squad this summer.

He will compete for the number nine shirt with Tomos Williams and Rhodri Williams, with Rhys Webb and Lloyd Williams not involved.

Wales face Canada on 3 July before two Tests against Argentina.

"I would love to leave as Wales' first choice and will try to do everything to accomplish that," said Hardy.

"All the nines bring something different and they will all be itching for an opportunity, so it's up to us to grab it when we get it.

"Competition is healthy, and congratulations to Gareth on the Lions call-up, because he deserves it for the way he has played for his club and country.

"It is great to be competitive with Tomos and Rhodri coming in, so there is now somebody new coming in who wants his opportunity.

"It is about the team, winning is a habit and we did well in the Six Nations, but that means nothing if we go into these three games and perform poorly."

Meanwhile, there is even the possibility of a call up for the Lions tour, if there is an injury to Davies, Ali Price or Conor Murray in South Africa.

"It is part of the game that people pick up bumps and bruises. and there is a lot of rugby to be played," he said.

"Everyone who is in contention probably needs to stay on top of their game - and I will make sure I am ready for anything."