'I feel I'm 18 again and watching a Lions video. Except that I'm in it'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

We're finally here. It's not easy to describe how it feels in the run-up to something as unique as the first Test of a Lions series. I've never experienced it before so I'm not quite sure what to expect.

We're finally here. It's not easy to describe how it feels in the run-up to something as unique as the first Test of a Lions series. I've never experienced it before so I'm not quite sure what to expect.

This is where experience comes in handy. Matt Dawson has been down this road a few times, and he told me at breakfast the other day that I'd be experiencing feelings that I never experienced before as the match gets closer. It's a cool thought.

I haven't played for two weeks and I'm mad for action. My last outing seems like so long ago, when we lost to the Maori. People think it is easy for us to think we were as well off getting beaten that day, so it could teach us a few lessons. But that will sound hollow if we haven't learnt a thing and we end up losing tomorrow. That would represent a massive disaster and we'd have to look very closely at ourselves and work out just what we had done in those two weeks. But the positive thoughts are far outweighing any negatives. They have to.

There's been talk filtering through to the camp that we're planning a 10-man game. It's absolute nonsense. The basic aim of every rugby match is to lay down a platform from the set-piece situations and carve up as much ball as you can in the loose. This will be no different.

There'll be no silly stuff in our 22, I'm quite sure of that. But when you have a back three of the calibre we have, then you'd be mad not to use them. Jonny and Brian in midfield can also do their thing so we've a bit more to offer than some people might think.

What that is will remain under wraps until tomorrow. But there's no huge secret - like the All Blacks we will have different set plays that we will put into operation. That will only happen if we have the ball. Without it, any team will struggle.

There's been no more getting-to-know-you stuff this week; there's been a discernible change in mood. We all realise that we're on the brink of something hugely important. OK, we're not tearing each other's hair out but there has been an edge to training. We're more vocal, more cranky, which is good stuff. We've got a job to do and if we're not ready now, we'll never be.

Ian McGeechan hasn't crossed my path much because he's been detailed with the midweek team but we did hear him speak at a full squad meeting earlier this week. I don't know what it is, but every time I hear him or the Scottish doctor, James Robson, speak, it's like I'm 18 again and watching the Living With Lions video. Except this time, I'm in it. It's a strange feeling.

"Geech" has so much experience of these things. He told us the jersey is special, which we know. But he told us that filling that jersey and living up to the feats of those who've gone before you is an even bigger challenge than just putting it on. He's right. Winning is what counts.

It makes you feel incredibly special, being in a Lions team. But you have to feel for the other lads who were so close to making the squad too. On the one hand, you're beaming away while they're in a different place altogether. You'd be wary of being near them almost.

They're strong characters and Geech has it ingrained in them that about half of the Lions players in history were capped having failed to make the first Test squad. So there's always hope. That's why the midweek guys need to push the Test team as hard as possible. We all need to be on our toes.

Our pre-match treat tonight is a chocolate biscuit cake. Our chef, Dave Campbell, makes it from 12 packets of digestives and seven an a half kilos of chocolate. It's only for Test players and it's absolutely gorgeous. Gethin Jenkins has been eating it for two weeks now. I reckon that's why he was so delighted to make the Test team!

We're all hungry. And I just can't wait for it to start.

Comments