This is my first time in Australia and so far I'm impressed, even if the national sport appears to be beating Poms at anything from cards to rugby. It doesn't take long to realise this is a country that is passionate about sport and we are all too aware of the challenge that awaits us in Perth tomorrow and Sydney next week.
The talk here in the media ahead of tomorrow's first Test is of taking Australia on up front. Of course we have to play to our strengths and if that is up front then that is what we must aim to do – you have to be realistic, we are playing Australia in Australia and that's a tough assignment. But we will still look for the opportunity to go wide or attack in other areas if the chance arises. It is also doing them an injustice to talk down their pack – I know as a player that when people don't give you respect it only fires you up even more.
Historically, England have not done well down here, but for a player it has to be about the here and now. It always is. We know all about the "Tour from Hell" in 1998, but then everyone has their stories of being on the wrong end of a hammering – I remember conceding 85 points at Leicester once when playing for Newcastle. It happens, but you move on. It will be a really tough Test match but we are convinced we can cause them problems.
Tomorrow will be the first time I've played with Shontayne Hape. He was around the squad during the RBS Six Nations and we've had some pretty intensive training since arriving Perth. He is a strong ball carrier and has particularly good awareness of what's going on around him. His particular strength is in the off-load and we will be looking to run support lines off him. His League skills are undoubtedly transferable into union, but what takes time is picking up the feel of the game. In union there is more freedom for individual players to make decisions.
It may have been a long season and the body has taken a bit of a battering, but I still feel good – it's been an enjoyable campaign and it was a huge achievement for Leicester to win the Guinness Premiership. We were picked up from Leicester the day after the game and set straight off on tour, so it has been pretty relentless and some days you can feel a bit sore. But then you are on tour with England, getting ready to play against one of the world's best teams... what greater incentive do you need?
As for the opposition, I couldn't help but be impressed by James O'Connor's performance for the Australian Barbarians on Tuesday. To go out there and produce like that when you know you are in effect auditioning for the Test team takes real nerve. When you are a young player just starting out on your career you do go on gut feeling and the trick is not to lose that as you progress, not to become too regimented. Quade Cooper, my opposite number at 10, will be a threat too. What he's good at is skipping around the field and bringing others into play. He is dangerous.
We spend our time chasing winters around the world so it's been good to have some cloudless skies and even time on the beach. We went surfing on Scarborough Beach earlier in the week – but that stopped pretty quickly when someone pointed out there had been a shark attack up the coast. You have never seen the front row move so quickly.