Lee Byrne: “Pre-season games are tough and that’s what you want.”

On Wednesday we caught up with Lee Byrne and asked for his opinions on how Wales’ preparation’s for the Rugby World Cup were going so far.

Byrne took no part in the match last weekend at Twickenham, and has not been included in the match-day squad for the match this weekend in Cardiff. His opinion of the game last weekend however from a Welsh perspective was all-in-all positive. “I thought we finished much stronger. It’s always tough in pre-season games but we got a good workout and that’s what you want from those games.”

The occasion was marred by the horrific injury to Welsh full back Morgan Stoddart, and Byrne informed us that he had spoken to Stoddart for an update on his progress. “I sent him a text wishing him the best and he’s back home after the operation recuperating which is great news. Hopefully he won’t be out for too long.” Much like the other players involved last weekend, Byrne lamented that whilst the injury had come at a terrible time, unfortunately it was part of the game. “Unfortunately that’s the nature of the game. You can’t stop playing these friendlies especially before a tournament starts because you need that practice, but at the same time it’s gutting for him.”

Wales have put in a lot of hard work before these pre-season games began, heading over to the renowned Spala training camp in Poland, and Byrne felt positive about the time Wales had spent in the tough conditions out there. “We worked on a lot of fitness in Poland, and now we’re more into contact and ball work, trying to cover all the bases. We were out there for a few weeks, and it was tough but again that’s what you want from a World Cup pre-season camp, and it will pay off later on. Wasps and Ireland have been out there before and it seems to have worked for them so we’re feeling good about it.”

Away from the national squad and the Rugby World Cup, Byrne also commented on his current stage of transition in club rugby, with the Wales full back set to move to Clermont Auvergne once the tournament in New Zealand has finished. “I’m really looking forward to the challenge of playing out there. It’s a three year deal which is great and everything is sorted out there in terms of my house which is in the middle of the town. It’s just a very exciting move for me.”

But for now the focus is on New Zealand, and Byrne will hope to play a part the following weekend in Wales’ last match before departing for New Zealand. “We’ve got Argentina after this one and then we fly out on the 27th so it’s all systems go really.” It should not be forgotten that a fully fit, in-form Lee Byrne is a very special player, and one who perhaps has been forgotten about in recent years. With two Grand Slams under his belt, he knows what it takes to be the best, and should offer us more examples of his class this September.

by Ben Coles

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