What an unbelievable feeling. In the dressing room after that special win we all huddled up and started belting out Wild Rover.
Jack Conan kicked off the singing, then Jamie George followed with ‘Southgate, you’re the one, you still turn me on, football’s coming home again!’ Even the non-English lads were joining in!
The music was blaring, we had a couple of beers and the boys then got into our chef Andre, asking if he could source us a McDonald’s for the bus home. There are none near our hotel in Hermanus, though, so we had to ask him to make his own version!
It’s an unbelievable feeling to win the first Test and the squad was in high spirits afterwards
Warren Gatland told us we’ve got another level after the win which came through pure grit
Warren Gatland spoke to us straight after and said we’ve got another level in us. That was pure grit — it wasn’t the most thrilling game but sometimes you’ve just got to grind out Test wins. There were errors on both sides, it was cagey, but those are the ones you love coming out on top of.
The difference between winning and losing the first Test is enormous, so to come out on the right side is such a good feeling.
We’re used to it now but it was still strange playing a Test match of this magnitude with no fans in the stadium — I’m sure Lions supporters would have been bouncing at 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 game day and continued my weird thing about not stepping on the white-wash lines when I ran on to the pitch. In the week I played a couple of games of table tennis with Louis Rees-Zammit to calm the nerves.
After the team was named we had a very tasty training session on the Tuesday. Some of the boys had a point to prove and it did get a bit physical.
Tom Curry and Conor Murray were going at each other. Tom got caught on the wrong side of a ruck so Conor gave him a taste of his studs. There was a real edge and that’s what we needed going into the match.
Conor Murray and Tom Curry were part of a very physical training session earlier this week
After that session, the management had organised framed photos of all our families in each of our rooms. That was a nice perk-up following team selection.
It was an unbelievably proud moment collecting my first Lions Test jersey on Friday night. For four years my career has been geared towards that moment. There was a huge amount of relief because it was a now or never moment.
For the presentation, all our families, parents, girlfriends and wives read out each of our names, cap number and then sent short video messages. My wife, Alex, got all of our friends to send in video messages saying their congratulations and how proud they were. That was really nice.
Former England and Lions backrower James Haskell texted me saying, ‘You’ve come a long way since being in the bin juice team four years ago!’
My career was been geared towards this moment for four years and I was so proud to play
Before the game, Gregor Townsend showed us a video of Muhammad Ali fighting George Foreman — The Rumble in the Jungle.
Foreman was this big brute, brawn and heavy punches, and Ali had to move him around and tire him out. Everyone knows how South Africa play and our motto was ‘make them miss and make them pay’. We had to box clever and move them around. You can’t go toe-to-toe for 80 minutes.
Warren had given us a few presentations and the key messages were around the aerial battle and keeping our turnover rate low.
We wanted to look after the catcher and give our guys 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 if 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 as possible on Faf de Klerk’s kicking to make him hurry
I broke this tour down into selections: warm-up games, selection and Test performance. I wanted to nail all three.
We wanted to be first to any loose balls. If you’re turning the ball over, dropping balls, missing touch, then it’s opportunities for the Boks to regain field position. You don’t want to cough up the ball and give away territory.
We didn’t get the aerial dominance we would have liked, and didn’t fire too many shots in the first half but everyone was really calm at half-time. There was no shouting or screaming.
In the second half our attacking shape was much better, we controlled field-position and won penalties.
Unfortunately, I had to go off as when I came out of a ruck Siya Kolisi’s knee whacked me on the side of the head — I feel fine and am already buzzing for next week.
We will have raise our game again as South Africa will come twice as hard at us next Saturday.
I had to come off after receiving a knock to the head but I’m absolutely fine and raring to go
Away from the Test match we’ve had a bit of a problem with the sauna in the hotel.
Robbie Henshaw managed to flood it the other day. He’s a bit of a novice! Rather than drip the water over the coals, he chucked the whole bucket on! Fuses were going and everything!
We had to get an engineer in and it was out of action for 24 hours. Kyle Sinckler loves the sauna so he wasn’t happy.
Tom Curry thinks he has found a way to make a quick buck after we had a Zoom call with a diamond dealer, and Tadhg Beirne is becoming the team baker. He made some cookies with Dairy Milk squares this week and they went down a treat!
I read Ali Price’s interview about working in a bakery when he was a teenager, so we might have to get him in with chef Andre next!
Robbie Henshaw made a mess of the sauna in the hotel and managed to completely flood it