After two months out injured, Danny Grewcock returns to action on Friday night. Here at www.lionsrugby.com, the Bath second row talks to us about all things Lions.
The 35-year-old is yet to start a fixture this season after injuring a bicep in a pre-season friendly with the Scarlets in August, but his imminent comeback gives him ample opportunity to press his claims for a third Lions tour.
Grewcock appeared in all three Tests for the Lions in 2001 and was again chosen to tour in 2005. Selection for next summer’s series against the Springboks would give the 69-times capped England international a full house of Lions tours and, although his focus is purely on performing well for his club, Grewcock would love to be on the plane to South Africa.
Here’s Grewcock’s recollections of his two previous tours…
In 2001, Grewcock played in six of the 10 fixtures for Graham Henry’s Lions, including all three Tests against the Wallabies.
On how injury aided his cause…
"I was lucky in a way because I’d been injured towards the end of the season. I’d broken my jaw so that meant that I hadn’t really played for two months prior to the tour. When a lot of the guys were pushing 35 or 40 games and then going on tour, I’d had an eight-week gap.
"It was a bit annoying breaking my jaw but it meant I could do all the training bar contact so I’d been able to refresh before the tour. That probably gave me a bit of an advantage over the other second rows who had played all the way through the Six Nations and a competitive club season.
"That was possibly the little bit of luck I needed to get me into the team against some very good players that were perhaps a little more tired."
Danny Grewcock on the charge during his Lions debut in 2001
On his first appearance in a Lions shirt against Western Australia…
"For anyone to be selected on a Lions tour is a very, very special day. To get in that squad feels fantastic but the important thing is that you want to go out there, you want to earn your jersey and play the game.
"Thankfully, it was one of the easier run ins. Perth and Western Australia is a fantastic area but, at that time, the rugby wasn’t as big as it was in Brisbane and Sydney. For every single one of the guys wearing the Lions jersey for the first time, it was a brilliant experience."
On making the Test team against the Wallabies…
"I didn’t think too far ahead, my focus was just to play well and do a good job. I don’t pick the team so I don’t worry about where I end up – as long as I do a good job when I’m given the opportunity.
"Once you’ve played on tour, it’s then a question of battling for a Test place. It’s great being selected for the Lions but, deep down, you knew that the big games were still to come.
"I was up against really good people like Scott Murray, Jeremy Davidson and Mal O’Kelly, so some fairly impressive second rows who had a lot more international experience than I did. I was very pleased to get the edge on those guys."
Grewcock was at home in the thick of the action against Owen Finegan and co
In 2005, Grewcock featured in three provincial fixtures and the first Test against the All Blacks before an incident with Keven Mealamu saw a two-month suspension bring his tour to an abrupt end.
On competition for places…
"It was good to play and, without doubt, it was fantastic to be named in the tour squad again. Competition was potentially even stronger that year. Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, Ben Kay, these guys played exceptionally well – Mal O’Kelly was there again – so it was always going to be tough.
"I think on the first trip, Martin Johnson was always streets ahead and everyone else was chasing behind. In 2005, it was more of an even group but an incredibly competitive group. There wasn’t a kind of Martin Johnson figure who was streets ahead of everyone but there was a big group of guys of a similar standard, all desperate to be picked for the games."
On the way his tour ended…
"It was unfortunate not to finish it but disciplinary panels make their decisions.
"I was definitely disappointed. When you start a tour, you want to be pushing for a Test place and you want to finish the tour, so it was frustrating from that side of things."
Grewcock missed out on selection for both the England Elite Player and Saxons squads this year, but an impressive season in club colours could still see him pushing for an international recall and a place in the Lions squad to take on the reigning World Champions.
Grewcock’s 2005 tour ended with defeat and suspension
On possible selection for a third tour in 2009…
"I don’t think anyone needs an extra incentive. Realistically, players need to be playing for their international team to get seen. Like I said, I don’t pick the team, so I don’t worry about it. I’m happy if I’m playing well and doing my job. It’s up to the coaches and the selectors to do their jobs well and select the best people. Whoever they deem that to be, that’s fantastic for them.
"It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been named in the squad for the Lions, to get named in that squad for the next tour is an amazing experience. I think, looking at the way British and Irish rugby has gone, it will be a very, very strong tour squad. With South Africa being World Champions, it makes that tour very exciting, and every player would love to play a part in that."
Grewcock will start at lock for Guinness Premiership leaders Bath Rugby when they travel to the Arms Park for their EDF Energy Cup match against Cardiff Blues on Friday evening.