In conversation with three British Lions

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The British and Irish Lions Tour of South Africa promises to be one of the highlights of the upcoming summer of sport. With the squad announced yesterday, we talked to Alun Wyn Jones, Mike Phillips and Andrew Sheridan.

Esquire What does it mean to you to be selected as a British Lion?

Alun Wyn Jones (Wales, second row): As a professional rugby player, you want to first play for your country and that’s the first port of call. As you get more experienced, you look for greater things and obviously the Lions is the next step. I think for me, it’s the jewel in the crown of achievements.

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ESQ Is it strange to suddenly be on the same team as players you were knocking lumps out of a few weeks ago?

Andrew Sheridan (England, prop): It’s no different from playing for your Premiership teams and then you all meet up for England. Once you get into the training and the preparing for the games everyone sort of gets together.

Mike Phillips (Wales, scrum half): I think rugby players are all pretty similar, we have similar interests and we’re all very passionate people on the field, but as soon as you play rugby with someone at any level, you become very quick mates, you have to play with and look after your team mates, there’s an instant bond there.

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ESQ What are your experiences of playing South Africa, and how tough do you think they will be as opponents?

Andrew Sheridan I played against South Africa in 2000, my first and only experience so far, and it was a great place to play rugby. They are very intense and passionate about the game.

Alun Wyn Jones I’ve been quite fortunate, I’ve played against them four times in the last two years, the best showing was against them at the Millennium stadium, but it contributed to our subsequent victory over Australia.

ESQ Who is the biggest hitter you have faced?

Andrew Sheridan Trevor Leota, when he was at Wasps – Samoan guy, 5’7’’ and about 20st. He was like a missile; he’d just launch himself at you.

Mike Phillips Probably Andrew (Sheridan) really, he hit me when we played England last year at Twickenham last year, it was a good hit, I told him after the game, I hadn’t been hit like that before.

Alun Wyn Jones I remember playing two years ago, I got a hospital pass, and was sent five metres back by Sebastien Chabal, but five minutes later we scored so it wasn’t such a bad thing.

ESQ What will be the one thing you couldn’t survive without on a long Lions tour?

Andrew Sheridan My guitar. I love country folk, Bob Dylan, that sort of thing. On the whole I write my own songs.

ESQ What are your favourite memories of watching the Lions?

 Andrew Sheridan I saw the 1997 tour when the Lions won. That would be main one I can think of. Personally, the only one I’ve been on – the 2005 tour, it just took over New Zealand. It was really intense out there and I enjoyed the whole experience.

Andrew Sheridan My guitar. I love country folk, Bob Dylan, that sort of thing. On the whole I write my own songs.

Mike Phillips Probably Scott Gibbs running over the top of the South African prop Oz Durant and I think he set the tone for the game and being a Welshman, his performance was superb. And just really just watching the Welsh play for the Lions, you know, Neil Jenkins, Scott Purnell and the celebrations after we won.

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