Dan Lydiate on trial for Lions in Welsh cauldron
Judgement Day games give back-rower chance to offer evidence of his fitness and form
Saturday 30 March 2013
Dan Lydiate has already enjoyed one spectacular triumph over adversity in his rugby career – and today's Millennium Stadium "Judgement Day" could herald another.
Lydiate is just 40 minutes into his comeback after suffering a broken ankle six months ago, but he hopes his performance for Newport-Gwent Dragons against the Scarlets will prove another step towards selection for Warren Gatland's British and Irish Lions squad for this summer's tour to Australia.
Such is the 25-year-old Wales player's standing – he is among the most destructive back-row players in world rugby – that Lions head coach Gatland looks almost certain to take him Down Under, fitness permitting.
Lydiate has appointments with Ulster and Munster before Gatland's scheduled 30 April squad announcement. But given that Lydiate made his Wales debut barely two years after breaking his neck in Perpignan and travelling home from France by air ambulance, it would be foolish to bet against him becoming a 2013 Lion.
"Because I was injured early on in my career and then picked up an ankle problem in the  World Cup, I have learnt you can never look too far ahead," Lydiate said yesterday. "I realise I am not going to play for ever, and I know I have to make the most of my opportunities.
"I feel fresh because I have not been beaten up every week like I had for the previous 18 months. Everyone gets tired, mentally and physically, but I feel refreshed and I am looking forward to finishing the season strongly.
"I was happy after the Ospreys game last Friday just to get through 40 minutes of rugby. My performance was almost secondary. I have that half of rugby under my belt, which gives me so much confidence. I now need to start getting my match fitness back, and over the next few weeks I am hoping just to get a bit of form. I am not sure how long it will take. It might be the last game of the season where I will feel as if I am back."
Gatland gave Lydiate his Test debut against Argentina in 2009, and the New Zealander knows more than most what the 27 times-capped blind-side flanker is about.
Even though the Lions back-row selections promise to be Gatland's most detailed area of deliberation next month, a fully fit Lydiate more than holds his own in any company the best of Britain and Ireland can provide.
"I was hoping to be back for the Six Nations, but it is the way it goes," Lydiate said. "Sometimes the harder you train, it does not always work out the quicker you will be back. But the body was ready for me last week, and I am happy just to be back on the paddock."
Will Genia, the Australia scrum-half, boosted his Wallabies hopes before the Lions tour after he stepped up his comeback from injury with a try for Queensland Reds in their 34-33 Super 15 win over the Highlanders yesterday.
It was Genia's second game since his return from knee surgery following a cruciate ligament injury in September last year.
And as well as scoring the Reds' fourth try, he inspired the fly-half Quade Cooper to put in one of his best performances this season, kicking 14 points against the New Zealanders.
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