What an incredible feeling. In the locker room after that special win we all huddled together and started beating Wild Rover.
Jack Conan started the vocals, then Jamie George followed with ‘Southgate, you’re the one, you still turn me on, football is coming home!’ Even the non-English guys joined in!
The music blared, we had a few beers and the boys then got in our Chef Andre and asked if he could get us a McDonald’s for the bus home. However, there are none near our hotel in Hermanus, so we had to ask him to make his own version!
It’s an incredible feeling to win the first Test and the team was in a good mood after that
Warren Gatland told us we are on a different level after the win that came through pure grit
Warren Gatland spoke to us right away and said we have another level in us. That was pure guts – it wasn’t the most exciting game, but sometimes you just have to get test wins. There were mistakes on both sides, it was restrained, but those are the ones you like to get on top of.
The difference between winning and losing the first Test is huge, so coming out on the right is such a good feeling.
We’re used to it now, but it was still strange to play a test match of this magnitude with no fans in the stadium – I’m sure Lions supporters would be bouncing full time.
It’s a real shame not to have the Lions supporters in the stadium, but we’re all used to it now
I tried to treat it like any other race day and continued my weird thing of not stepping on the whitewashed lines as I ran onto the field. During the week I played a few games of table tennis with Louis Rees-Zammit to calm the nerves.
After the naming of the team, we had a very tasty training on Tuesday. Some guys had a point to prove and it got a little physical.
Tom Curry and Conor Murray went head to head. Tom got caught on the wrong side of a ruck, so Conor gave him a taste of his studs. There was a real lead and that was what we needed to go into the game.
Conor Murray and Tom Curry were part of a very physical training session earlier this week
After that session, management had organized framed photos of all of our families in each of our rooms. That was a nice boost after the team selection.
It was an incredibly proud moment to collect my first Lions Test jersey on Friday night. My career has been focused on that moment for four years now. The relief was enormous, because it was a now or never moment.
Before the presentation, all our families, parents, girlfriends and wives read out each of our names and pet numbers and then sent short video messages. My wife, Alex, got all our friends to send in video messages with their congratulations and how proud they were. That was really fun.
James Haskell, former England and Lions backrower, texted me: ‘You’ve come a long way since you were on the bin juice team four years ago!’
My career was focused on this moment for four years and I was so proud to play
Before the match, Gregor Townsend showed us a video of Muhammad Ali fighting George Foreman – The Rumble in the Jungle.
Foreman was such a big brute, muscular and punching heavy, and Ali had to move him and tire him out. Everyone knows how South Africa plays and our motto was ‘make them miss and make them pay’. We had to cleverly box and move them. You can’t go toe to toe for 80 minutes.
Warren had given us a few presentations and the main messages were about air combat and keeping our orbital rate low.
We wanted to take care of the catcher and give our boys as many free catches as possible. We wanted to put a lot of pressure on Faf De Klerk’s kicking because you are less accurate when you have to hurry.
Gregor Townsend showed us a video of the Rumble in the Jungle as we prepared for the match
We wanted to put as much pressure on Faf de Klerk’s kicks as possible to make him rush
I have divided this tour into selections: warm-up games, selection and test performance. I wanted to get all three of them.
We wanted to be the first to loose balls. If you flip the ball, drop balls, miss touch, then there are chances for the Boks to regain the field position. You don’t want to cough up the ball and give away territory.
We didn’t get the air dominance we wanted and didn’t fire too many shots in the first half, but everyone was very calm at half time. There was no yelling or yelling.
In the second half our attacking form was much better, we controlled the field position and won penalties.
Unfortunately I had to leave because when I came out of a jerk Siya Kolisi’s knee hit me on the side of the head – I feel fine and am already buzzing for next week.
We will have to up our game again, as South Africa is coming at us twice as hard next Saturday.
Had to come off after a blow to the head but I’m absolutely fine and can’t wait to go
Outside of the test match we had a bit of a problem with the sauna in the hotel.
Robbie Henshaw recently managed to flood it. He’s a bit of a novice! Instead of letting the water drip over the coals, he threw the whole bucket on it! Fuses went and everything!
We had to bring in a mechanic and he was out of action for 24 hours. Kyle Sinckler loves the sauna, so he wasn’t happy.
Tom Curry thinks he’s found a way to make a quick buck after we had a Zoom conversation with a diamond dealer, and Tadhg Beirne becomes the team baker. He made cookies with Dairy Milk squares this week and they were a treat!
I read Ali Price’s interview about working in a bakery when he was a teenager, so maybe we should get him to Chef Andre after that!
Robbie Henshaw made a mess of the hotel sauna and managed to completely submerge it