Sydney is not a new experience for me – I was here way back as a 15-year-old on a school tour – but there is something new coming my way on SaturdayHis French is much better than mine because he seems to be doing more lessons. For the first time I will be lining up outside Jonny Sexton as we take on the Waratahs in our last Saturday outing before the Tests start.
He is a guy I'm really looking forward to playing with, a running 10. Hopefully, we are going to make a good go of it as a 10-12 pairing because we could be together for a few years. Of course, this is all about the Lions but we might also have the smallest of eyes on the future as once the tour is done we will be team-mates in Paris with Racing Metro.
This is going to be some dress rehearsal! Over the years I have spoken to him briefly after games in the Six Nations or the Pro-12. We've got to know each other better on the tour and no doubt there are plenty more coffees to come over the next few weeks as we bounce our French off each other. Now that is an area where I am playing catch-up. His French is much better than mine as he seems to have been on the computer every day doing his lessons.
Everyone knows he is a quality 10, a fantastic player. There are certain players you just get on with on the pitch and it would be great if Jonny is one of them. He is a running threat at 10 and more often than not at centre that creates space for you. I love playing alongside 10s who like to have a go. It means defences are kept guessing and, in turn, holes can be opened up elsewhere if you pick the right moments. His passing game is fantastic, his kicking game is superb – basically, he's a pretty special player all round.
As with a number of the boys this will be my second game of the week while others played Saturday and Tuesday. Playing two games in such a short space of time is something you never really do in the season but it is part of touring. I put in 60 minutes on Tuesday and I feel fresh for Saturday. If there's any time to take that mental block away about being tired it is now. We are excited to be putting on the Lions jersey – you are every time you pull on the red shirt. It's where you want to be, isn't it? The ultimate. There is no complaining of tiredness across the camp.
The demands of touring are quite hard on the body, but the sports scientists, the conditioners and medics know their way around that and are very careful in making sure everything is prepared properly. The demands of training are obviously tailored to the demands on the pitch. We are eating fantastic food, staying in great hotels, so everything is catered for. It is tough on the body but we are well looked after, and after all, this is the Lions.
Ultimately, it is getting bodies right to play in the Test matches. There are a couple of niggles that are well documented and the medics are doing a great job. They are working round the clock to make sure everyone is right for matches. But it is part and parcel of being on tour. That's why the squad is 37 plus a few call-ups. Billy Twelvetrees and Simon Zebo have arrived to boost the backs and cover for some positions. It is about getting the job done for all of us, whether you are a player, a coach or a medic.
Tuesday was a tough match to assess. Watching the video back we spilt a few balls, myself included. I spilt it three or four times, which I was personally disappointed with. We missed a couple of chances and there were some frustrations but you know when you come up against a good team it's not a case of going two phases, passing the ball to a winger and scoring in the corner. Rugby doesn't happen like that at the highest level. Tuesday had its worth as a run-out but we are making sure it doesn't give us any false impressions of the way we want to play. A lot of those tries came in first-phase possession and that is very rare at the highest level. We are under no illusions that Saturday will be a massive step up.
The Waratahs may be missing players but will have plenty of talent out there. It is going to be as tough, if not tougher, than against the Queensland Reds last weekend. They have a couple of Wallabies back, probably including Rob Horne up against me and Jon Davies in the centre. By all accounts they have had a decent Super 15.
We are a week out from the first Test and all the players desperately want to put their hands up for selection. We are raring to go and the atmosphere and intensity are ramping up. Once the Test matches come these are the games, the moments you want. Hopefully, we will take an unbeaten record into them. That's important. We are bracing ourselves for the weekend but are fully aware of what's round the corner.
Corbisiero and Zebo in musical rap battle
It's been a musical week as we've headed down to Sydney. We arrived on Wednesday and I'm rooming with Matt Stevens again. We were together in Newcastle and here I am with him and his guitar once more. He enjoys a little sing-song and the guitar is left out in the team room for the boys to have a little strum. I thought I was good on it but I am not a scratch on Matt or Sean Maitland. They are actually pretty impressive.
As was Alex Corbisiero when he got up on the bus to do his song – as all players have to do when they join up with the squad. He did a rap and then Simon Zebo got up and did one too so we had a bit of a rap battle! The new boys are buying into the tour.
The forwards trained today but the backs had a day off so I had a bit of a lie-in and then got a boat from Circular Quay over to Manly Beach with Jon Davies. It's a beautiful spot. I went there on that school trip – Glantaff Secondary School tour. It's good to be back!
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