The Three Amigos
Tom Hamilton in Canberra
June 17, 2013
Christian Wade, Shane Williams and Brad Barritt line up alongside each other © Getty Images
They arrived in the past 24 hours from three different continents, but tomorrow Shane Williams, Brad Barritt and Christian Wade will all be playing in the same backline. It's the beauty of the Lions, or the beast depending on your perception of the scrambled XV that will take on the Brumbies in Canberra.
In 2005, Sir Clive Woodward took 44 players to New Zealand. He was ridiculed suggesting the squad was far too big, individuals knew they were never going to make the Test side and once that mindset settles in, then it is very hard to rid the camp of it. Warren Gatland's crop of 2013 is now up to 44 after a suspension to Dylan Hartley and a raft of injuries over the past 10 days.
But in sport, someone's loss is another's gain. With worries surrounding the fitness of George North, Tommy Bowe, Jamie Roberts and Manu Tuilagi ahead of the weekend's game, the backline will include five players making their first start of the tour. Rob Kearney has been with the squad but has been injured while Billy Twelvetrees is almost part of the furniture having been called up last week. But elsewhere Williams, Barritt and Wade have not had time to adjust to time differences, or climate before being thrown into a Test-match environment on Tuesday.
Shane Williams in action in 2009 © Getty Images
For Williams coming into a Lions camp is nothing new. He featured on both the 2005 and 2009 tours and scored two tries in the Lions' last Test win, which came against the Springboks in Johannesburg four years ago. But the past couple of years have seen him leave his beloved Swansea for the Far East. The last game he played of anything close to Test intensity came in 2012 for the Barbarians against Wales. But he was in the right place at the right time as he was preparing to leave Japan for Australia where he was planning to fulfil some media duties.
"I had the phone call at 11pm on Saturday night. I had just finished playing myself and it was asking whether I'd be willing to come and help out. Rob Howley phoned me in my hotel room, asking if I could play on Tuesday and help the Lions out. There was no way I was ever going to say no. I'm happy to be here and enjoying myself.
"Four years ago in Johannesburg was a great day for me. I came off the field immensely proud in what I thought would be the final time I wore the British & Irish Lions shirt. And I thought that for the last four years. To be given this opportunity again is a dream come true. It's completely out of the blue, I knew nothing about it but I appreciate the Lions have had a tough series and if by me playing tomorrow helps them recover then I am very proud of it."
For Barritt, the last match he played was for Saracens in their Heineken Cup semi-final against Toulon. He was on holiday with his wife in Los Angeles when he saw the call from Andy Farrell come through and he knew it was time for him to rush to the airport and get the next available flight to Sydney.
Brad Barritt making some hard yards © Getty Images
"It's just great to be here, it is the pinnacle. My last game was some time ago but I knew I needed to keep fit just in case on the off chance something did happen. Credit to the guys at Saracens they stayed with me until June 5 where I continuously trained and did my rehabilitation. So I've only had a couple of weeks off.
"Luckily we have a brilliant backroom staff here with the Lions. Where there's a will, there's a will. They make the impossible happen. I had my boots delivered this morning and luckily I had a gum guard in my washbag."
And then there is Wade. He cleaned up at the end-of-season Rugby Players' Association dinner and made his long-awaited England debut in Argentina on Saturday. That was a massive box ticked for the immensely talented youngster, it is hard to remember sometimes that he is just 22. Now he will play for the Lions.
"It's a massive honour to get the call to come over. It's been a bit of a roller-coaster few days and I'm happy to be here and get stuck in. I'm starting tomorrow and that's the first step. I need to come to terms with the calls and if I do get handed the opportunity to play in the Test then I'll be happy to take it and it'd be the proudest moment of my life."
Doing what Christian Wade does best © Getty Images
Whatever happens to the three players for the rest of the tour is only in the realms of fate and imagination. But the mere fact that the trio are in the same line-up tomorrow, having been in the country for 24 hours is wonderfully unique. Some may deem it to make a mockery of the original squad-naming, others may believe it to indicate that Gatland got it wrong when he named just a 37-man squad, but perceptions aside, for those three tomorrow it will be one of the pinnacles in their career.
When they run out onto the Canberra turf, jet-lag will be put to one side and Williams summed up the whole situation perfectly earlier today. "We don't want to let anyone down. We need to do our homework and make sure we are fully prepared mentally for this game.
"We will give this 100% and if we don't do that we will be letting ourselves down. Yes, it's going to be tough but we are fully prepared to give it our all. But we will play the way we play and that's the reason why these guys have been chosen to do their stuff tomorrow."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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