JAKE Ball is ready to fight for the Wales number 4 jersey after returning from the injury that opened the door for Dragons captain Cory Hill to shine last season, writes Chris Kirwan.

The Scarlets second row is back after a 10-month lay-off with a dislocated shoulder suffered against New Zealand at Principality Stadium last November.

The blow came when Ball was establishing himself as first-choice partner for skipper Alun Wyn Jones in the Wales boilerhouse and presented a chance that Hill grasped with both hands.

The Dragons forward, who came off the bench for Ball against the All Blacks, was the only player to feature in all 12 Tests last season and captained Wales to a summer series win in Argentina.

With Warren Gatland also having Jones, Bradley Davies, Adam Beard, Rory Thornton, Luke Charteris and Seb Davies as options, Ball knows that he faces a major scrap for a place in the squad for Japan 2019.

"For me, that competition is only a good thing, especially going into these years," said the 27-year-old, who has won 28 caps.

"If you look at the injuries we picked up going into the last World Cup, to be able to be competitive in those World Cup years you have got to have a big squad that is capable of playing at that level.

"And it is a driving factor. When someone comes in and plays well your aim is to try and knock them off their perch, that is how it works.

"It is good to be back and it is a case of getting games under my belt and just playing. If you look at the year ahead, there is so much in my head that I want to aim towards.

"I am at that point in my career now that I want to be winning stuff, not just with the Scarlets, but hopefully, if I put my foot forward there, with Wales as well.

"I have had a taste of a World Cup, I know what it takes, I know the training that goes in before that as well, it is pretty gruelling.

"But then I also know to be able to get to there you have got to play well for your region and that is my focus at the moment."