Lions 2013: Adam Jones on familiar foes and horrible heat

 

In the second of a regular series of columns for BBC Sport, British and Irish Lions prop Adam Jones provides a look behind the scenes of the Lions' tour of Australia.

Well I am chuffed to bits to be starting the first game of the tour against the Barbarians on Saturday.

Obviously it was on the cards I would be involved, with so many of the other guys involved in finals and not being able to attend our training camps.

But it is still great to hear your name read out. Sometimes you get told individually, or if you are not playing the coaches might have a quiet word so you are not shocked, or start crying in the meeting. But 'Gats' [head coach Warren Gatland] just announced the team to everyone, nothing flash.

It is great to get a chance to put down a marker early in the tour. It will also be great to play against two good mates, Paul James (starting at loose-head prop for the Barbarians) and Duncan Jones (on the bench), who I have played so much of my rugby with at the Ospreys.

Adam Jones (left) and Paul James

Jones (left) and Paul James have been team-mates for Ospreys and Wales

I usually watch a bit of footage of my opponent to see what traits they have so I can devise a plan to counteract them. Strange as it may sound, I'll probably have to do a bit of homework before Saturday because I have only ever scrummaged against Paul once, and that was when we were 15.

I was playing for my secondary school, Maesydderwen, against Paul's - Dwr y Felin (in Neath) - in the Welsh Schools Cup final. He swears to this day he got the better of me, but I remember it a bit differently.

Paul was in the year below me at school but I'd heard a lot about him and his brother Kevin - a 6ft 3in, 16-stone wing who was on a different level. I think he scored a hat-trick in that final. The James boys were rather notorious at that age - they certainly backed themselves up, put it that way.

Paul and I both got picked for Neath Under-21s in the Welsh U21 League when we were 18 or 19, and have been friends ever since.

I remember our first game together against London Irish. Their tight-head did something that Paul didn't like and Paul, being Paul, decided to take things into his own hands. I think the poor guy might have gone off soon after that. Paul's a lot more laid-back now - a fantastic family man with a lovely wife and two kids - but if he wants to go, he will go.

Duncan and I first came through together for Neath in 2002 and then the Ospreys. There was a lot of chat about us 'Hair Bear' props but I didn't know Dunc too well at that time.

Lions training Hong Kong

"Everyone was surprised at how hard it was training in the heat and humidity," says Jones

I came back from the U21s World Cup with Wales and was growing my hair when we came in for pre-season training, and he had decided to grow his as well.

That year I started to play a bit more in the first team and we started to get a bit of stick from old players. Apparently props weren't allowed to have long hair - we should have had short backs and sides. But it was all good fun.

Paul, [Lions hooker] Richard Hibbard, Duncan and I have been close for a long time so it is going to be extremely weird on Saturday. I am really looking forward to it and it will be great to catch up after the game and have a beer together - if we still have the energy.

Everyone was surprised at how hard it was training in the heat and humidity we have experienced here in Hong Kong - it was horrible. All the boys had their tops off to cool off under the water fans we've been using, but as soon as you get out of there, you start sweating again.

Saturday's game - from the scrums, to running around, to tackling - is going to be a totally different level altogether in terms of the demands on our bodies.

We will need to get lots of fluids on board - and things like electrolyte tablets to stop us cramping up - because it is going to be a tough old game, especially against a side that like to run the ball.

Lions fixture list

  • Sat 1 June: Barbarians, Hong Kong
  • Wed 5 June: Western Force, Perth
  • Sat 8 June: Queensland Reds, Brisbane
  • Tue 11 June: Combined New South Wales-Queensland Country, Newcastle
  • Sat 15 June: New South Wales Waratahs, Sydney
  • Tue 18 June: ACT Brumbies, Canberra
  • Sat 22 June: First Test, Brisbane
  • Tue 25 June: Melbourne Rebels, Melbourne
  • Sat 29 June: Second Test, Melbourne
  • Sat 6 July: Third Test, Sydney

Saying that, it is going to be just as bad for the Baa-Baas.

You have to be careful with your structures against the Barbarians, and if we need to tighten up, we will. But we want to play some good rugby - there is no point coming out here with some of the backs we have got and just trying to grind teams down with our pack. We need to let our backs have the ball and do what they do. It would be silly not to. But you have to have more strings to your bow and if we have to drive it up the middle, we will.

My room-mate in Hong Kong is [Ireland loose-head prop] Cian Healy and we're getting on well. He's not as loud as Mako [Vunipola] although he is quite nocturnal - up until 1.30am on the computer.

We have probably played against each half a dozen times but we haven't talked too much about that. I don't think Cian is a massive rugby head - he doesn't want to sit down and talk about rugby all the time. He is a bit off the wall, an interesting character and a good bloke.

And he doesn't snore, which is always a bonus.