Grab your inflatable daffodils and embrace the Welsh lions
Happy birthday Tom Jones! The Welsh icon turns 73 years young today. We might as well jump in and celebrate him because for the next month in the spirit of the Lions, we are backing the English, Scottish and Welsh and in turn they are behind the Irish.
As Mr Lions himself, Ian McGeechan eloquently put it when he put on the famous red he thought not only of Scotland but that he was playing Ireland, England and Wales.
From an Irish fan’s point of view this weekend as the Lions take on the Queensland Reds with Tommy Bowe the sole Irish starter; it is the perfect time to embrace our inner Englishness, Scottishness and Welshness.
As well as the Monaghan man, we will be cheering two Scots, five Welshman and seven English. Well, it could have been ten English when you consider that Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies and Dan Lydiate are all English born.
As supporters, it can help us to get behind players when we know a bit more about them beyond just the hard on the pitch stats. Let’s take a look at the trio of English born Welsh stars as all have shone so far on tour and are Test team challengers – maybe even pipping an Irish player in the process.
If Bowe is known as a big, strong powerful, pacey wing with that eye for the finish the same could be said for 23 year old Cuthbert, who scored a brace of tries upon his Lions debut in Hong Kong.
The Cardiff Blues player is renowned for both his balance and speed in attack. It would seem these attributes came from other sporting endeavours he enjoyed growing up as the Gloucester native only took up rugby at the age of 16.
As a boy, the wing dreamt of competing at the highest levels of showjumping and participated quite successfully on the circuit. Add to this that he was also on the books of Gloucester City as a promising striker and this might lend a clue to where his good co-ordination originates.
The six foot six back can credit his acceleration to athletics, as he was an accomplished 400-metre specialist. Cuthbert, along with fellow Lions George North, Jamie Roberts and Davies are part of Wales current crop of lofty and brawny backs that after defeating Ireland at the last minute in the 2012 Six Nations, Jamie Heaslip described as “big buachaills”.
Watching how this Welsh boy works along side one of Ireland’s most popular buachaills in Bowe is bound to capture Irish eyes tomorrow.
Jonathan Davies self-proclaimed “baby face” betrays his rather imposing six foot one, sixteen and a half stone frame. In the Valleys and beyond his centre partnership with Roberts is gaining the sort of reputation to rival that of Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll.
A Lions sub-plot many non-Irish neutrals were hoping for would be a battle for the outside centre position between the 25 year-old Scarlets man and the one and only BOD.
It is interesting to note that despite a positive display at 13 against the Barbarians, Davies has been shifted inside to twelve for this fixture, which may somewhat diminish the race against O’Driscoll but could perhaps open the door, for the two to play along side each other during the tour.
If so, it could have particular significance for the centre who grew up in west Wales close to the old stomping ground of another Welsh institution, the great poet Dylan Thomas, as Davies admitted to feeling “like a supporter” as he waited to swap jerseys with O’Driscoll after Wales’ victory over Ireland in the quarterfinals of the 2011 World Cup.
Two Six Nations titles later Davies will be relishing the thought of knocking both his compatriot Roberts and O’Driscoll off their perch.
During the Lions’ weeklong sojourn at Carton House, one of the biggest hits with the local media was blind side flanker Dan Lydiate. He charmed with a combination of a formidable reputation and earthy charisma.
The 25 year-old is due to become a colleague of Jonathan Sexton and Ronan O’Gara at Racing Metro next season. As well being eager to get to know the Leinster out half
during, the tour he was keen to point out that he had a shared interest as well as back row business with Seán O’Brien – farming.
The former Dragons player describes himself on his twitter profile as a “rugby player and future farmer” and will give his followers as much insight into tending sheep in Llandrindod Wells in the heart of Wales as he does that of a professional sports man.
Similar to Bowe, Lydiate is a player Warren Gatland has always openly admired and it is a testament to his talents that despite a six month spell side lined by injury, missing the entire Six Nations as did the Irish wing that he looks set to be a serious contender for a test berth.
So, why not grab our inflatable daffodils and belt out “Delilah” before we settle to watch the match tomorrow morning?