So far so good – we’re two from two with a few laughs along the way. It’s a happy camp but from this evening in the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane it’s going to get tougher and tougher with every step we take. Time to go onwards and upwards.
It is a simple sporting fact that it’s always easier when you are winning and these first two games have given us the chance to set foundations. Every rugby team at this level has to have their foundations in place, and with what lies ahead for us in Australia they have to be dug in firmly; what you do with your kicking game, your exit strategies, your attacking platforms and your defensive systems.
The opening games are about getting that structure in place and once it’s there the opportunities will come within that for players to express themselves. We saw that in the first game against the Barbarians and on Wednesday night in Perth. The players were put in space and given the opportunity to create. Coach Warren Gatland, for all the time I have played under him for Wales and again here for the Lions, has always been a big advocate of that way of playing.
We did just that against the Barbarians and played some clinical rugby – don’t overlook the quality they had on that field. We put them to the sword and then the rest of the boys had a good win in Perth. It is a fine gauge, knowing the quality of the opposition and judging that with how well we are playing. Ultimately it is the coaches who measure that, working out the balance between early momentum and quality playing time. This weekend it will undoubtedly be a sterner challenge from the Reds as we build towards the Tests. The Waratahs next weekend will be another step in that direction, they are a tough team. The quality of opposition is going to improve quickly and we’re looking forward to it.
I’m not involved tonight. Myself and Jon Davies played the first game in Hong Kong, Manu Tuilagi and Brian O’Driscoll played on Wednesday night and Manu and Jon will be the pairing in Brisbane tonight. At the moment Warren wants to try out all the different combinations between the four of us in the centres, just as he is doing all round the pitch.
Next up for us is the Combined side on Tuesday. I, obviously, haven’t played with Drico for four years – not since that fateful second Test against South Africa in Pretoria. It will be great to line up together again. I really enjoyed playing alongside him and learnt an awful lot on that 2009 tour. Hopefully during this trip I will get the chance to play alongside Manu as well. That’s part of what the Lions experience is all about for a player, lining up next to guys you are usually competing against.
I don’t like watching them though. I’m not a good watcher, in fact I find it pretty difficult. It’s tough sitting up in the stands on a tour when everyone is competing for Test spots. It is only human I suppose and it is how you respond to the challenge your team-mates lay down when your chance comes round again.
There is that common goal for all of us out here, but I will be fidgeting through the game. I get frustrated watching games that you could be involved in. It’s the same when you’re injured, you just want to be out there.
Discipline is key for us and that is no wind up
If watching tonight is all about me being patient, what the first two games have shown is the importance of keeping our discipline. There are all sorts of different ways the opposition might seek to wind us up and it is the mark of a better man not to react if something does happen.
Discipline has become more important than ever – so much of the game revolves around keeping your cool, not retaliating if someone comes at you, keeping your defensive discipline in your half when teams are coming at you, discipline in attack, discipline in staying on your feet when you are clearing out the rucks. That mental discipline is paramount when it comes to winning big Test matches. That will be hammered into us in the next few weeks.
I’m pretty mentally disciplined. I don’t usually get wound up – if someone takes a cheap shot I have always reckoned the best thing to do is stand there and laugh at them. Take it on the chin. I want to channel my aggression towards playing hard and fair.
East coast is a goldfish bowl, let banter begin
My new room-mate here in Brisbane is Richie Gray – the longest Lion about. He is playing tonight but for those of us not involved there is the chance to have a look round Brisbane. I’ve some old friends from Cardiff who have moved out here that I hope to catch up with.
Now we have moved across the country from Perth – where Australian Football League rules – to Brisbane where rugby is more popular you notice the difference. Arriving on the east coast we are stepping into the goldfish bowl. There are a lot more rugby fans about. We are expecting a bit of banter with the local fans – we are bracing ourselves! And we’re beginning to see a lot more red jerseys.
A lot of people have come out here to support us and you have to give something back, whether that’s with a photo or a chat. Sometimes it is nice though to find a quiet corner to yourself. It’s a balance.
I’ve got into the Game of Thrones as my way of switching off from the rugby – I’m ploughing through the first series on my laptop – but there is not much time to kill. The first few weeks are intense in getting everything up and running as time is never on the Lions’ side.
Williams is special and deserves first Wales cap
Away from the Lions it is good to see my old Cardiff Blues team-mate Owen Williams get his first Wales cap. He is a quiet bloke but he is a great athlete with power and pace and a good skill set. Give him a couple of full seasons playing for the Blues and hopefully being involved with Wales and he will develop into a very good player. There are a couple of youngsters in our squad who have caught the eye and he’s one of them. I’m delighted he’s been named in the team to play Japan today – his athletic ability is special.Reuse content