Lifting the lid on the 'cat flap', on not believing the hype and why I don't drink coffee
I remember games in detail because I go over them in the changing room. I sit by myself quietly for five minutes, thinking about what I did wrong and things I did right.
I put the positive things away so that if you’re having a rough day in training you can call on them for strength. The bad things are what to work on.
During the week Rob Howley will give us a list of positives and negatives. Obviously you want more plus signs than negatives on your sheet. Then you go through the footage.
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I try not to read anything about me because if you start reading too much hype then you’ll get above yourself. Luckily, if I chirp up for a second the boys here or my dad at home will chop me down straight away.
It goes the other way, too. A lot of people lost a lot of confidence in me at the start of the season and said I’d just had a lucky break with beginners’ luck and all that. It can get a bit too much when you’re 19. Now I’ve just got to try to play well every week — and hopefully for the next 10 years.
The size of the landing in our hotel room in Dublin was bigger than my entire flat. I walked in and assumed it was a bedroom but it was just the cloakroom and I was thinking ‘what the hell’ We flew in on Friday and stayed at the Berkeley Court Hotel which is unbelievable for a 19-year-old.
A comfy bed, soft pillows — it’s a hundred miles from what we had in Poland. It was right next to the stadium, I could have jumped off the roof of the hotel and on to the pitch.
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I’m still new to all this so I tend to just follow what the other guys do. I go to bed a bit later before a game so I get a lie-in and nine hours’ sleep. The day itself is quite structured. You’ve got to get your diet right because you don’t want to be starving or too full of food. I have a big breakfast but then we eat three hours before kick-off. It’s usually pasta and chicken and maybe scrambled eggs. I usually don’t eat much.
I don’t drink coffee before a game because it would be like putting a sugar cube in a Coke can and shaking it. Aged 19, on game-day, with caffeine I’d go nuts! I saw my family the night before, then on the morning of the game. We went for a coffee but I was on water.
It was Shaun Edwards’ idea to bring in a tackle drill after the anthems. When you play Ireland there are three anthems and you’ve got to be introduced to important officials. I could feel my legs getting cold and I was thinking: ‘One sprint and my hamstring’s gone!’ It gets the blood going again before kick-off.
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I saw my dad waving from the top tier. Somehow after the final whistle I picked my family out the crowd. They were on the top tier, right on the edge above the players’ tunnel. We were doing a lap and I looked up clapping and just caught my old man waving. I couldn’t believe it. Fifty thousand people and I catch my old man.
The boys have been giving me grief about the ‘cat flap’. Before the game, Howley said to us: ‘We beat Ireland in the World Cup without offloads, so let’s not offload, let’s just take it to them.’
The idea was to use our physicality and pace and the next thing you know we scored two tries from offloads! To be fair he always says if it’s on you’ve got to throw it.
The ‘cat flap’ offload to Jonathan Davies was off one of the most basic moves we have in the armoury but I think our depth was too much for them to get up on defence. I thought: ‘There’s three guys on my feet, one on me and one coming short — there’s got to be space out wide!’
Leigh Halfpenny may be short but he’s a tank. He’ll rip your head off, he’s unbelievably strong for his size. I don’t even know how they cram him into that shirt.
The size of the back line is a big bonus but if you try to stop us physically then hopefully we can show a bit of skill to unlock you. We’re not just lumps.
Scotland should have beaten England and they are physical as hell. We’ll get smashed around but we just have to stick to our game.
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I ripped a massive hole in my jeans when we went tenpin bowling. I had to go shopping for a new pair with my girlfriend. We had a few hours off on Tuesday so we went bowling.
I bent down to bowl and my jeans ripped all the way down my quad. So the boys are winding me up saying my legs are too big for my jeans and they were all taking pictures.
The loser of the first game had to buy coffees, the loser of the second had to buy cake. Me and Jon Davies were trying to muscle the ball down and send the balls flying but we weren’t very good.
In the weeks between matches a lot of what we do is rehabilitation. We do some fitness work and weights but only really do one heavy contact session — we call it bone-on-bone. It’s usually four days before a game so there’s time to get over the bumps and bruises.
I brought my clubs but haven’t played any golf. Me and Sam Warburton went for a haircut and I was going to try to play a few holes after but it took us ages walking around trying to find a place.
We ended up going back to Warby’s local which was only 10 minutes away from where we’d started.
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We hang out in the dungeon. It’s the players’ area in camp, downstairs. You’ve got all the laptops, with footage of the games, and a line of food. We share rooms all the time — it’s done by squad numbers and changes every time we come back to camp. It springs up some funny pairings and it keeps everyone tight.
In Dublin, I was sharing with Alex Cuthbert. We’re similar ages so we didn’t have to listen to the old boys talking about ‘when we were young!’
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