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Dan Lydiate

Dan Lydiate will be back in Dragons colours in the first regional derby of the season

Lydiate aiming for third tilt at World Cup

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Dan Lydiate’s World Cup debut was against South Africa 12 years ago and now the returning Dragons RFC back row man is hoping to stay the course for a third tilt at the global tournament.

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The 33-year-old has made more comebacks from injury than Frank Sinatra did to the stage. His resilience has been remarkable, his determination exemplary and his desire to carry on playing for Wales unwavering.

Where other stalwarts have fallen by the wayside, Lydiate has gone to the well one more time to try to make amends for missing out on the 2019 World Cup.

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Harking back to that one-point defeat to the Springboks in 2011, Lydiate is one of four survivors from the Wales team that day in the New Zealand capital, Wellington. Back row colleague Taulupe Faletau is one of them, George North and Leigh Halfpenny are the others.

They’ve all reached 100 caps for their country, while Lydiate is on 70 . . .and still counting

The granite like flanker has missed Six Nations title winning and World Cup campaigns due to a multitude of injuries on the rugby pitch. He knows how it feels to miss out, what it takes to get back and is freely available for consultations should any Welsh players miss out on France due to injury.

Lydiate could be forgiven for wrapping himself in cotton wool if he lines up against the Springboks today, but shirking away from a challenge is the last thing on his mind.

“If you go into a game thinking of being injured, you’re probably not in the right head space … you can’t think like that as a rugby player because you wouldn’t stay long in the game,” he stressed

“I have had my fair share of injuries – you’re always one injury away from being involved or out for a long time.”

The former Ospreys and Racing 92 star, who has rejoined the Dragons for next season, stressed the importance of today’s clash with the reigning World champions Springboks.

“We are at the business end of pre-season with a big game to come at the weekend against South Africa. It’s massive in terms of where we are and who we are up against,” he added.

“There’s going to be a lot of edge and emotion around the camp. Our goal is to win our next game and make sure we get it right this weekend.

“There are no easy games in international rugby. They’re coming here as world champions – there’s probably no bigger challenge for us but, for the boys lucky enough to wear the jersey, they will be relishing the opportunity to stick their hand up for the World Cup.

“It’s a last opportunity for those who play. If you’re on the periphery of the squad, you can certainly make a statement and vice-versa.”

Lydiate hasn’t put a deadline on how long he wants to continue playing professionally.

“I still love it but I know it’s not going to last forever. When I do finish playing, I know I will have no regrets – I’ll have a real job then in farming!” quipped the man who loves talking about tractors more than rucks and mauls.

Gatland was parachuted in to Wales following last autumn and the departure of Wayne Pivac and has been desperately trying to rebuild the squad he inherited and restore confidence.

The knock-on effect means there’s still a number of positions up for grabs in his squad for the World Cup with Lydiate acknowledging he’d never known Wales to be in such a position during his tenure in the Test arena.

“It’s probably the most uncertainty in not knowing where you lie in the pecking order but it’s not a bad thing because, when we have trained, we have had two competitive packs going at each other tooth and claw literally every session. It can only bring out the best in us. There will certainly be some headaches for the coaches when they do the final selection,” he predicted.

Lydiate insists Wales can make a mark on the World Cup, starting against Fiji in Bordeaux on September 10, with Gatland having steered them to two semi-finals and a quarter-final during his first stint in charge.

“We won’t go into the tournament expecting to lose,” he said. “There’s been turbulent times in Welsh rugby but, whenever Wales perform well, it certainly brings a smile on the faces of the Welsh public.”

Asked what makes Gatland, who handed him a Test debut against Argentina in November 2009, special, he replied: “It’s the million-dollar question!

“I don’t think it’s down to one thing he does, but his record speaks for itself. What he has done since I have been involved in international rugby is win Six Nations Championships and Lions Test series. What he has done well is bring in people he trusts. Everyone has had a part to play.”

Lydiate said Wales’ debrief following last weekend’s 19-17 loss to an England side – Wales had accounted for them 20-9 in Cardiff the previous weekend – which was reduced to 12 players at one point following the dismissal of Owen Farrell and the sin-binning of Ellis Genge and Freddie Steward “wasn’t great”.

He said: “Twickenham is a hard place to win at the best of times but it felt like we could have got a pretty big result there. There’s no-one more critical of the players than themselves. You almost don’t need to be told if you have messed up.”.

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