Despite pre-season training being well under way, Wales and Gloucester scrum-half Gareth Cooper took time out to reflect on his 2005 Lions experience exclusively for Lionsrugby.com
Here’s what the 29-year-old had to say about selection, limited game time and the chances of becoming a two-time tourist in 2009:
"It was a massive honour. We won the Grand Slam that year with Wales and I played, not a huge part but, what I felt was an important part coming off the bench in three of the five games. Obviously Clive Woodward saw something in those performances to pick me and it was a huge honour to be picked.
"It’s the pinnacle of everyone’s career. It’s an added bonus to your Welsh jersey, really. To get that recognition to go on and play for the Lions is one step higher."
"The best moment of it for me was being selected and then playing against Argentina in the Millennium Stadium in front of home fans. It was a huge honour and the Millennium Stadium crowd are always brilliant. That was a great moment.
"Looking back on it, the (number of ) chances I had to play for the Lions was quite disappointing.
"I still look at it as a success and something I’m very proud of doing but also with a little bit of a bitter taste in my mouth too."
"Obviously I’m a little bit out of contention at the moment but it would be great.
"I’ve not had the greatest last couple of seasons but, with the South Africa tour going well for me in the summer and a good pre-season under my belt this year, hopefully I’ll be pushing for a Welsh spot and maybe have a chance to have a crack at it again."
Cooper’s Lions lowdown
Gareth Cooper was selected for the Lions while playing for Newport Gwent Dragons. He has since moved to Gloucester Rugby and is now entering his second season with the Cherry and Whites.
Cooper was one of three products of Pencoed Rugby Club on the 2005 tour. The others were Gareth Thomas and Gavin Henson, while 1989, 1997 and 2001 tourist Scott Gibbs is another Lion to have played his formative rugby with the club’s junior section.
After starting the game against Argentina at the Millennium Stadium prior to the Lions’ departure for New Zealand, Cooper had to settle for just three further appearances on tour.
The then 26-year-old former Bath and Celtic Warriors player only wore the No9 shirt in the 26-16 win over Southland and the 109-6 thrashing of Manawatu, after coming on as a replacement in the Lions’ second fixture against Taranaki.
Cooper was a try-scorer in the demolition of Manawatu in Palmerston North.