With the new season almost upon us it’s strange looking back at another World Cup year and seeing what feels like a perennial season over!
A season that started with summer training camps in Poland, that took us to arguably the most successful World Cup campaign in Welsh rugby World Cup history, through to a Grand Slam and eventually a final domestic game in the Royal Dublin show ground, where the Ospreys were expected to be the sideshow and Leinster were expected to complete the double! Of course, it wasn’t the perfect finish for them but a fourth Celtic title in the Rabo Pro Direct for the Ospreys was a surreal end with the turbulent season of comings and goings of coaches and players.
With the regular season over, the summer schedule kicked just a week later. You can look at it from both sides; the lack of time off or the available momentum gained from domestic success, but either way no-one would turn down the opportunity to represent their country in the Southern Hemisphere. This was a tour that saw a re-introduction of a three test, classic series plus a pre tour game v the Baa-Baas and a midweek game against the ACT Brumbies, the kind of schedule seen on a Lions tour but not on that of national team tour for a long time.
We had two wins, one via the Baa-Baas, where Martyn Williams, a legend of the game, signed off for his country from the bench finally winning his deserved hundredth cap! Now I’m not one to be particularly happy when substituted but, on this occasion, I was not going to grumble when the man replacing me has given so much to the game in your country.
The second was the midweek win over a young spirited Brumbies side, with a young Welsh side including a clutch of new caps from the Baa-Baas game. The test series itself saw us lose three nil by a total of eleven points over the three games. This was an obvious disappointment after the success we had earlier in the year, and needless to say the journey home was a long one having been so close yet so far!
On returning home from Australia rest and relaxation was in order. It was a case of doing nothing unless you have to and make the most of the four weeks off before returning for pre season or pain season in some of the boys’ cases! I took a ten day holiday to Dubai where, again, staying away from anything too active was supposed to be the plan. However, as holidays go on, the temptation to go to the gym increases as you realise your team mates at home are back in training and that, along with being aware that I'm a slow starter, I always feel the need for a head start even if I’m at parity on retuning to the rigours of pre-season.
Lift off, July the 23rd and it was straight back into the fray. Numerous sessions, passes, catches and few knock-ons later and pre-season winds down just as quickly as it came around. The first competitive game of the season is imminent. Treviso away, with an 8pm kick-off and an anticipated 32 degrees heat, which, according to Treviso’s Antonio Pavanello, who I met in the recent Rabo Pro12 launch in Glasgow, will be a lot cooler than earlier in the day.
With the start of the season here there’s a time every now and then when I look back and realise what was packed into last season and I feel a sense of achievement that quickly gets eclipsed by the excitement and desire to do it all over again and more!