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'It’s a massive opportunity. It’s the last game before the first Test selection'

Wales lock Adam Beard has impressed since getting a late call-up to the Lions tour.

Beard was a late call-up to the Lions squad.
Beard was a late call-up to the Lions squad.

THERE WAS AN early maul penalty concession from Adam Beard soon after he came off the bench for the Lions last night, but it didn’t take the Welshman long to find his rhythm.

The 25-year-old lock worked well with Maro Itoje at the very next South African maul to swarm in on the ball, Tom Curry joining them in forcing a big turnover for the Lions.

Four minutes later, Beard bullied his way past Coenie Oosthuizen to wreck another maul from South Africa A and then he came clean away from another with a steal of possession soon after.

There were timely reminders of one of the key skills that the 6ft 9ins Beard brings to the party. He was excellent for Wales in this year’s Six Nations, so when Lions captain Alyn Wyn Jones suffered a shoulder injury in the pre-tour clash with Japan, seemingly ruling him out, Warren Gatland got on the phone to Beard.

He has done well in his three appearances so far and gets another chance to impress with a start in Saturday’s clash with the Stormers, the final game before the Lions’ first Test meeting with the Springboks.

“It’s a massive opportunity,” says Beard. “It’s the last game before the first Test selection. No better way to put my hand up than put a big performance in on Saturday.

“I will just do what I normally do. Everything around the set-piece, attacking-wise and defence, defensive mauls and trying to put pressure on the opposition, and work-rate around the park.”

The Ospreys second row is a big unit but his size is matched by good handling skills, as well as that maul defence quality.

“That’s probably one of the better parts of my game, I have worked on that over the years,” says Beard.

adam-beard Beard impressed off the bench last night. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“But also I think I can play a bit with the ball in hand as well. I think I have got quite a good skillset for a big guy like myself.”

Beard has strong competition in the second row, of course, with Maro Itoje, Iain Henderson, and Jonny Hill all having shown up well on tour.

The return of Alun Wyn Jones has also shaken up the picture completely, with the 35-year-old named on the bench for Saturday’s game as he looks to get minutes in his legs before the Tests.

“When everyone heard he had a slight chance to get it back, they knew he would be here because Alun is a true professional,” says Beard.

“He would have done everything in his own will to get himself back on the tour. He has got to take credit for all the work he has done.”

Unsurprisingly, Beard has picked up a huge amount from Jones in Wales camp.

“You learn so much from a player like that in every aspect of rugby really. How to be a true professional, the work-rate you need to put in, then the small details you need to put in at the set-piece and around the park.”

Beard also has a good working relationship with Gatland, having debuted for Wales under the Lions boss.

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“I have to say I am lucky he gave me that opportunity when I first got my cap. It’s a massive thank you really for believing in me and giving me that opportunity.

josh-adams-celebrates-after-the-game-with-adam-beard Beard with Josh Adams. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“The first thing when I turned up, he said, ‘Look, you have been brought in now, don’t just make up the numbers, you’ve really got to put your hand up and push for that Test spot, otherwise there’s no point being here’.

“He said do what you always do, work hard and if you play well enough, the opportunities will be there for you.”

Beard has delighted in being part of this squad, recalling how the Lions’ 2009 tour of South Africa was the first one he watched. He’s proud to be a Lions and represent his family back at home.

“It has been amazing support from my family and my friends,” says Beard. “FaceTiming every day with my fiancee and my little ones just to see them. They had their kits for the first game and I was sent pictures with their Lions kits.

“There is no better confidence boost than seeing my family and parents and my brother they have been amazing. All my friends were down the local rugby club watching the first game and they have been sending me pictures when I came on the big screen.”  

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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