Announcing the Lions team for the first Test face to face, as Ian McGeechan decided to do it, was definitely preferable to having notes shoved under doors or whatever. I'd spent a nervous couple of days with my room-mate Stephen Jones, chatting about what might be, and then came the big meeting, which involved the entire squad and staff, in the team room on Wednesday evening. Ian spoke for a reasonable amount of time about how some players would be disappointed but still had their part to play. And then he read the team out, starting from No 1, so thankfully I was dealt with quickly and had the news I wanted. I'd had my expectations but hearing my name was brilliant, it was what I wanted to achieve. I dashed off a text to my wife, Danielle, as she would have probably filled me in if I didn't let her know first.
But it didn't take long to start thinking about the next goal. Winning is the only thing which matters now. We're not going out to win the series 2-1, so I don't buy into the view that this Test is any more "must win" than the others. Our aim is to win every match, which means 3-0.
The Test team have never played together, one to 15, although we got pretty close to fielding this pack when seven of the eight started against the Sharks in the same Durban stadium where we will face the Springboks on Saturday. I don't think it matters because we have been forging our combinations and patterns together in training and the various warm-up matches. In some ways it's better because if we'd played as one team in one way and then someone dropped out injured, the man coming in wouldn't know what was going on. The management had always prepared for this.
So Tom Croft got the nod in the back row and he gives us an extra line-out option and speed around the field. I liken him as a footballer to the Springboks' Pierre Spies and that will be a great battle to look out for. We know Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield and Spies are phenomenal aerial athletes, we realise the Boks are very talented in the set piece and we have to compete there. At the same time, we want to move them around to fit our game plan. As for the breakdown, it can be a mess with the ruling that players can hang around there. That's what the South Africans have done well, and we have to do it well too.
The Springboks' selection of John Smit as a prop rather than hooker has been another talking point. I played for England Under-21s against Smit years ago when he was tight-head prop, and I've seen him do it more recently for his club in the French league, which is no picnic. So he is hardly a novice, and it shows the class of the man that he can take on both roles, like Freddy Mendez who was the last guy I can remember doing it when he was at Bath. Not many do, and there are pros and cons. It enables the Boks to be more mobile in the front row and to carry an extra prop on the bench. On the other hand, hopefully we can tire Smit out and get at him a bit in the set piece.
Smit is a World Cup-winning captain, so he commands respect and I like the bloke. When a few of the Lions players were out for a meal the other night, John and his wife came over and said hello. We might catch up with them again after the Tests are over. But I expect a ferocious onslaught from Smit and his team on Saturday, and I wouldn't want it any other way. In my mind's eye, I see it as just another international. But we are very conscious of not wanting to let anyone down and just playing as well as we can.
Why Ugo decided to boot me in the head
The observant among you may spot a little nick above my eye when we line up for the anthems tomorrow. Just in case you are wondering, it was an accidental boot from Ugo Monye that did it. I hit the last pad in the final ruck drill in training yesterday morning, and as I picked up the ball he booted me in the face. Really, why do wings feel they have to get involved in these things? The upside is that the recovery session straight afterwards consisted of a dip in the Indian Ocean. With bright sunshine on a midwinter's day, and a Test place sorted, it wasn't the worst day I've ever spent.
In association with Savanna cider, www.savannacider.co.uk
Anthems for a unique tour
They have built a new stadium in Durban for next year's football World Cup right next to Kings Park, where we're playing, which is bizarre. But the buzz here has been all about the rugby, with loads of supporters in red jerseys arriving. We went out for a steak on Florida Road and it was unusual having a Welsh fan coming up to me and saying, "You're not Welsh, but I'm cheering you on". When we got on the bus to go they were singing Welsh songs, Irish songs, English songs... There are also a lot of my pals and colleagues from Bath here. Andy Beattie, Tom Cheeseman, Pieter Dixon, Butch James and Matt Stevens have been sighted this week. I'm opening a café, Jika-Jika, with Matt in Bath in a few weeks and he's on great form, which is good to see. I guess if I wasn't a Lion I might have been a supporter here too. It is a unique tour.Reuse content