People say you never change a winning side but then those people have clearly never kept a close eye on how Warren Gatland does things. The Welsh guys in the squad arrived Down Under knowing how Warren works and it did not take long for everyone to catch on. He promised every player a chance from day one and he promised that every player would have a chance right until the final kick of the tour in Sydney next week.
He has never been afraid to make changes, whether they come after a defeat or a victory, and he has been like that since game one in charge of Wales. I won my first cap for Wales in similar circumstances. We had gone to Twickenham for the opening 2008 Six Nations game, Warren’s first match in charge, and won our first victory there for 20 years. It did not stop Warren making changes. For the next match, back at the Millennium Stadium against Scotland, among other changes he dropped Mark Jones from the match-day squad altogether and gave me my debut on the wing.
He has always been prepared to make changes. From a player’s point of view it keeps you on your toes and in an environment like the Lions, where there is so much competition for places, whether it is in the back three, the centres or back row, it means there is an intensity to every single training session.
I’m pleased for Dan Lydiate getting a start. He showed against the Rebels, as he has done throughout the tour, how destructive he can be in defence. He rarely misses a tackle and is a guy who hits very, very hard. You know when you have been on the receiving end of a Lydiate tackle. Australia face a must win game today and to have someone in our defensive line who can smash their ball carriers is going to be a huge help. Don’t doubt he will rise to the occasion.
Bowe shows how much we owe to the medics
Dan is one of a number of guys out here who have come back from bad injuries. It is usually a long and tough road back from serious injury but the medics out here have to take a bow for getting Tommy Bowe back into action in time for today’s Test.
It is an incredible turnaround to get him back on the pitch for the game. He’s got a few screws in the hand and he’s ready to go. Under the direction of James Robson, the head doctor, we have two docs, three physios and a masseur and they are all being kept pretty busy! I’m not sure where we would be without them.
I would certainly not be in a position to be targeting the third Test. I was disappointed not to be able to have a chance for today but you have to be realistic. It is only 14 days since the injury and I am optimistic of being in contention for selection next week. Thursday was a big day because I started running properly again. There is the odd nerve before that first full run out after an injury like this but it felt good, really good, to get into my stride again. And with no ill effects. The aim is to be at full tilt by Tuesday and then be available for when the team is selected.
Winning thanks to Beale’s miss was brutal payback
Being injured or being dropped, as some of the guys have been this week, is all part of the game and, in particular, the nature of touring. There are more players than there are places and it is something you have to deal with. There is still another Test to play so what all the boys who are not involved today have to do is get back on the training pitch and train hard. That is what I will be doing this week.
But first it is back up into the stands today. Last weekend was 95 per cent enjoyment at what happened and five per cent completely gutted at not being involved. I wanted so much to be part of the match-day squad because being a Lion means so much. But, as I’ve said, injuries are part of the game, even if it does feel like sod’s law that I picked one up the week before the series. Still, live with it, Roberts.
It was incredible it came down to that one Kurtley Beale (left) kick. I know only too well what it’s like to be on the receiving end – four years ago South Africa won the second Lions Test with the last kick and that was brutal, absolutely brutal. To be on the other side was a little bit back for 2009. But it is only a third of the job done.
Bumping into my hero was painless... this time
In Melbourne this week I bumped into Scott Gibbs and Stirling Mortlock – three generations of centres. The last time I saw Stirling was in the Millennium Stadium medical room after we’d clashed heads during a game with Australia in 2008. I was down there with a fractured skull, he was concussed. We sat there in a daze and swapped jerseys. Gibbs was always someone I aspired to be. There are a lot of great old players here. It is all part of the Lions experience, everyone has their memories and to be a part of it is so special.
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