DAN BIGGAR: Aki Bundee is the enforcer on the South Africa tour

DAN BIGGAR: Don’t get on the wrong side of the debt collector! Aki Bundee is the enforcer handing out fines to the Lions squad as we prepare for the South Africa tour… Warren Gatland has been working us hard ahead of our Japan warm-up game

  • Courtney Lawes and Anthony Watson are the only English Lions players
  • Hamish Watson wore his retro Scotland kit to watch the Wembley draw
  • Louis Rees-Zammit has a new nickname based on his dating history
  • There is also a four-man choir committee with one player from each nation 
  • On the pitch, Warren Gatland has been working us hard with double sessions
  • Gregor Townsend has emphasised the need to strengthen bonds in the camp

Friday night was our first chance to have a beer together as a squad. We had the England-Scotland game up on the big projector screen in the team room and Warren Gatland ordered a few bottles of lager on ice.

Courtney Lawes and Anthony Watson are the only English guys in camp so far, so they were a bit outnumbered. 

Hamish Watson came down in his retro Scotland jersey and all of those boys were ready to get on it after a 0-0 draw at Wembley. 

Hamish Watson donned his retro Scotland kit ahead of the 0-0 draw with England at Wembley

Warren Gatland ordered a few bottles of lager on ice for the highly awaited Euro 2020 match

It wasn’t quite like the scenes down at Trafalgar Square, though, where they were all sliding around in kilts. 

Gregor Townsend is a proud Scotsman, but he was doing a two-screen job and watching Finn Russell in the Top14 semi-final.

There are a few big football supporters in the Welsh group here. We were all feeling pretty smug after beating Turkey in the week. 

Louis Rees-Zammit has been walking around wearing his Wales bucket hat and all the guys call him ‘Scholesy’, because he used to date Paul Scholes’s daughter!

In our first choir practice on Tuesday, the English boys picked ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ as their tour song. 

That didn’t go down too well with Neil Jenkins, who’s a massive Manchester United fan. 

We’ve got a four-man choir committee: Courtney for England, Zander Fagerson for Scotland, Jack Conan for Ireland and Wyn Jones for Wales. 

Zander used to be a choirboy, so there will be big expectations on him when he leads the Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond. 

Our other songs are Calon Lan, which is interesting for the non-Welsh speakers, and The Wild Rover.

Louis Rees-Zammit has been called ‘Scholesy’ because he used to date the player’s daughter

We’ve not spent the whole week singing and watching football, though.

Warren has been working us hard. He scheduled a lot of double-day training sessions in the heat, which was a shock to the system for some of the guys who haven’t worked with him before. 

We’ve been starting the days at 7am with altitude training on the watt bikes. It’s been tough going.

Our opening game against Japan will come around quickly, so we’ve spent a lot of time out on the pitch. 

We’re building a team from scratch, so there’s a big focus on learning calls and getting to grips with our playing patterns.

Gregor made it clear in our opening meeting that this first week was building connections and relationships, rather than building up our playbook. 

Gregor Townsend has emphasised the need to build relationships ahead of the Japan game

Firstly, you need to familiarise yourself with little details, like whether certain ball carriers prefer the ball early or late and how different scrum-halves operate.

There’s been plenty of homework. We were sent an email a couple of weeks before we got into camp with a bit of a playbook. 

There were videos of different shapes and patterns, with clips from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. 

You’ll see guys with their heads in the laptop 15 minutes before a meeting, doing some last-minute cramming.

There’s loads of detail but the coaches are conscious about overloading us early on, so we’re taking it step-by-step. 

A couple of scrum plays one day, a few lineout plays another day. Gregor and the coaches are really open to suggestions from the players. That’s really refreshing because with some coaches it’s their way or the highway.

Scotland and Ireland faced Japan in the 2019 Rugby World Cup in the East Asian country

A few of the Scottish and Irish guys played against Japan at the World Cup and we’ve already looked at some of their footage. 

Japan will want to play a fast and unstructured game, which is always dangerous. In the World Cup quarter-final, South Africa did the basics of strangling and suffocating them. 

If it becomes frantic and 100mph then it suits Japan. We’re a team that’s only just come together, but we’ve got some of the best players around so the biggest challenge is gelling.

The big man Bundee Aki set the tone early in training this week. He put in a heck of a shot during a drill and that made the boys stand up and take note. 

I’m just relieved I wasn’t on the receiving end of it. I think half of Jersey felt it! That’s the kind of physicality we’ll need against South Africa.

After that, we decided that Bundee’s the best person to be in charge of the fines committee. 

Bundee Aki has been the enforcer on this tour – with ‘the debt collector’ handing out fines 

If you wear the wrong kit, turn up late or your phone goes off in a meeting, then you’ll have Bundee to answer to. 

There’s not much to spend your money on in the bubble, so the fines will be done on a credit system that’ll collected at the end of tour. We’re calling it Bill’s Bucks… a bit like Bit Coin!

Bundee’s the debt collector and you won’t want him knocking on your door. Everyone’s trying to get on the right side of him — Bobby Stridgeon has been offering to do his washing up!

My own committee role is the head of laundry. It’s been my role for the last 10 years with Wales so my credentials are second to none. 

Alun Wyn Jones put himself on the laundry committee with me. He was trying to look like a man of the people, with his 150-odd caps, but it was a shrewd tactical move because deep down he knew that I’m the laundry pro who’ll do all the work. Organising timing, drop-off locations, finding missing items; I’m all over it!

The biggest role is head of entertainment and it’s safe to say that Huw Bennett has been organising more activities than Liam Williams so far.

Gareth Davies spent Wednesday in bed after the second round of Covid-19 jabs in Jersey

Huw sent around a list of Jersey activity options at the start of the week, offering things like boat trips, rounds of golf and tours of the war tunnels. 

Wednesday was a bit of a down day when we all got out and about… apart from Gareth Davies who spent the day in bed after our second round of Covid jabs.

The weather’s been cracking and it took Rory Sutherland two minutes to strip down to his budgie smugglers. 

Fingers crossed the sun will be shining at Murrayfield next week. Hopefully we’ll all turn up there with smart new haircuts. 

Toby Faletau and Prav Mathema, the head of medical, are running a barbershop on Wednesday and getting the clippers out. What could possibly go wrong!

 I’m hoping to do you proud in South Africa, mum

I would like to use this column to mention my special mum, Liz. She passed away a few weeks ago and we had her funeral last Wednesday.

From the day I started playing rugby, she was always my biggest supporter. She was always there. This week has been strange. 

Normally, she would always be on the phone asking who I’ve been spending time with and wanting to know the ins and outs of what I’ve been doing. We would speak all the time and it was a big comfort for me. It’s been hard.

Mum watched the Lions squad announcement from the hospital and she was so pleased when my name was read out. 

At the time, when we didn’t know what would happen with her health, she told me to go to South Africa whatever the circumstances. 

That summed her up: always putting other people first. I usually keep my job separate from any emotional things back home, but I hope that I can use this tour to do her proud.

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