Lee Byrne has declared his intention to make the 2013 British & Irish Lions tour to Australia after being forced to return home early from the current South Africa trip through injury.
Full-back Byrne had enjoyed a successful tour until a recurrence of an old foot injury forced him off the field during the first test against South Africa, and although he had been on course to make a complete recovery and was in consideration for a place in the line-up for the second test a week later, a dislocated thumb suffered in training that week ultimately ended his tour prematurely.
He was back at the Ospreys' Llandarcy HQ on Friday for a medical once over, and despite the obvious disappointment of missing the final two tests, he says that nothing can take away the pride he feels at being part of the touring party and being involved in the first test:
"I really enjoyed the whole experience, it was absolutely brilliant.
There was a good bunch of boys on tour and it was great to get to know players that you play against regularly in international rugby. I roomed with players I didn't know, like Brian O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara, Gordon D'Arcy, Jamie Heaslip and Simon Shaw, and I think that is one of the best things about being a Lion, getting to know these players and seeing how they work.
"I think that it went really well for me generally. The goal for everybody on the trip was to be selected for the test team and I achieved that, so even though I've had to come home early I can look back and be pleased with how it went for me personally. The final week of my tour I felt pretty devastated out there. Obviously I was disappointed to come off in the first test but I was back in training, my foot was okay and I was looking forward to the second test when I dislocated my thumb just doing routine training which meant I wouldn't be fit.
"I flew home last Saturday, the day of the second test, and it was pretty gutting, but I can't be too upset about it. There are plenty of good players who would have loved to have been on the tour but were injured before we went, before the squad was named even, so didn't make it, at least I got out there and played in a test match. I got to enjoy the experience and I definitely want to do it again, it may be four years away but hopefully I can manage it."
Despite his disappointment at having to fly home early, Byrne is in agreement that he wouldn't have made the best spectator if he'd stayed in South Africa, and he says that he is now focussing on being in peak condition for next season with the Ospreys:
"I'm one of those players who doesn't really enjoy watching rugby if I can't play so it would have been a nightmare to have just been sitting around, getting in the way so it's probably for the best that I flew home. Now I'm back, I've got six weeks off to rest and make sure I take my mind off rugby completely. I've had a full year of rugby and there's been plenty of hard work along the way, but now I'm going on holiday to switch off and refocus. When I come back next month I'll be raring to go again, fully fit and ready for the hard work ahead of the new season with the Ospreys."
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