Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Lydiate not looking too far ahead

Dan Lydiate has not played at the Millennium Stadium for over a year

Dan Lydiate has already enjoyed one spectacular triumph over adversity in his rugby career - and Saturday's Millennium Stadium 'Judgement Day' could herald another.

Lydiate is just 40 minutes into his comeback after suffering a broken ankle six months ago. He will line up for Newport Gwent Dragons against the Scarlets in Cardiff, before facing two further RaboDirect PRO12 appointments prior to British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland's scheduled April 30 squad announcement for the tour to Australia.

Given that Lydiate made his Wales debut barely two years after breaking his neck in Perpignan and travelling home by air ambulance, it would be a fool's game to bet against him. "Because I was injured early on in my career and then picked up an ankle problem in the (2011) World Cup, I have learned you can never look too far ahead," he said.

"I realise I am not going to play forever, and I know I have to make the most of my opportunities. I feel fresh because I have not been beaten up every week like I had for the previous 18 months. Everyone gets tired, mentally and physically, but I feel refreshed and I am looking forward to finishing the season strongly.

"I was happy after the Ospreys game (last Friday) just to get through 40 minutes of rugby. My performance was almost secondary.

"I have that half of rugby under my belt, which gives me so much confidence. I now need to start getting my match fitness back, and over the next few weeks I am hoping just to get a bit of form. I am not sure how long it will take. It might be the last game of the season where I will feel as if I am back."

Lydiate, last year's RBS 6 Nations player of the tournament, missed Wales' successful title defence this season. The last time he played at the Millennium Stadium - scene of the double-header between the Dragons and Scarlets and Cardiff Blues and Ospreys - Wales beat France to be crowned 2012 Six Nations Grand Slam champions.

"It is exciting to be going back to the Millennium Stadium because it has been a long time since I have played here," he added. "It was over a year ago when I played against France, which was not a bad occasion! It has been savage watching Wales since, because I find it so hard not being involved.

"Everyone has up and down days and I am a pretty positive person generally, but it is when you miss out on chances that it hurts. After being part of a Grand Slam, but then not playing for Wales this season, it has been hard to take.

"I was there for the England game, and while I was chuffed for the boys, I found it difficult. The atmosphere was amazing, and not something I had experienced before, even at the Millennium. There is no bigger stage than the Millennium, and I am just looking forward to getting back out on that pitch."

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