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'The lads had me on their shoulders, on a King's Chair, in Copenhagen Airport'

Former Munster and Ireland flanker David Wallace tells us all about the nerves around Lions selection day.

The Irish Lions' contingent in 2001.
The Irish Lions' contingent in 2001.
Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

DAVID WALLACE HAD seen his brothers, Richard and Paul, travel on three Lions tours before he finally got to follow in their footsteps.

The flanker had four Ireland caps, and was part of an excellent Munster side, as the 2001 Lions Tour to Australia drew near but he tore ligaments in training when ‘someone fell on me at the edge of a ruck’.

“Anthony Foley had done his at the same time so we were brothers in rehab,” he told TheScore.ie. ”That put me on the back-foot and, eventually, ruled me out of the squad.”

Wallace was in Copenhagen on his way to Spala, Poland to the cryotherapy chambers that then-Ireland coach Warren Gatland favoured [and later made famous as Wales coach] when he learned of his call-up to the tour. He recalled, “I got a phonecall from ROG [Ronan O’Gara], who was over in Australia. ‘Did I hear you were coming out?’ he started. I hadn’t heard anything at that stage so ROG started to backtrack and saying he must be wrong, trying to change the subject.

Peter Stringer had seen me taking the call and nothing passes him. The lads all had me on their shoulders, on a king’s chair, in the middle of Copenhagen Airport. Luckily enough, the official call came through and I was off to Oz. It was brilliant – I had come from a situation where I was struggling to make the Munster team and I was now on a Lions tour, coming in for Lawrence Dallaglio.”

Despite playing in midweek matches in Australia, the closest Wallace got to playing in the Test Series was when Scott Quinnell’s knee flared up the night before the Second Test. Fortunately, for the Welshman at least, he recovered to start.

Injury and provincial selection troubles ruled Wallace out of the 2005 Tour to New Zealand. He jokes that he chose a good tour to miss out on as the All Blacks eviscerated the Lions. He was selected for the 2009 Tour to South Africa, starting two Tests and coming off the bench in the Third test victory in Johannesburg.

David Wallace fends off Frans Steyn in 2009. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

Despite his Grand Slam-winning season with Ireland, Wallace admits he was still nervous when Ian McGeechan was set to announce his squad. “Your heart is still in your mouth when the squad is announced,” he told TheScore.ie. “You have to watch the announcement on TV, like everyone else.”

Wallace will be watching the squad announcement, live on Sky Sports News from 11am this morning, and has high hopes for the inclusion of former Munster teammates such as Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony and Simon Zebo. He said:

Zebo has a lot of different strings to his bow. He is quick, has a great boot, has bags of skill and is deceptively strong. Tommy Bowe has come back in try-scoring form and Warren Gatland should have no qualms picking him, nor should he have with Rory Best, who would be a solid campaigner and a good tourist.

“Gatland will pick the guys to give him the edge in playing a physical and confrontational style game. He’ll need mobile, and possible younger, guys as they’ll be playing hard surfaces and an Australian team that will have no fear in throwing it about.”

Stay with TheScore.ie for all the latest from the Lions squad announcement from 11am today.

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Patrick McCarry

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