Ferret fanatic and 61 first cousins - Lee is back
Samson Lee hardly needs any extra motivation to keep fit. After six months out with a ruptured Achilles, the Scarlets tighthead will be desperate to come through tomorrow’s opening Pool A fixture against Uruguay unscathed and stake a claim for a starting spot against England next weekend.
Lee has, though, admitted he is hoping his timely return to fitness on the eve of the World Cup may result in some additional fringe benefits. “If I’m back playing, then I can get out in the fields and catch a few rabbits,” the 22 year-old said with a smile yesterday. “My goal was first to get back playing, and then back into ferreting after that.”
Samson’s fondness for the rural pursuit - which involves ferrets flushing out rabbit warrens - is well documented. Robin McBryde, the Wales forwards coach, revealed earlier this year that the 18 and a half stone prop asked to be excused from team celebrations following the historic win against South Africa last autumn so he could go ferreting.
“Samson’s nature speaks for itself,” McBryde explained at the time. “He is a character who takes everything in his stride and doesn’t try to be anything that he isn’t.” Lee was certainly on fine form yesterday, talking about his long road back to fitness and his hopes for the coming weeks.He admitted that there were days when he wondered whether he would make it back at all. There’s always been that doubt,” he said. “It’s been a lot of hard work, but the physios have been unbelievable. It was step by step. I went running and felt good, got back scrummaging and that felt good, and that’s where I am. It wasn’t a smooth run-in, I did have a couple of off days, but I just kept pushing and pushing.”
Lee has been rewarded with a starting berth against Uruguay tomorrow and Wales fans will be crossing their fingers and toes that the Llanelli-born player emerges injury free from the match with the unheralded South Americans, who, while they may be severe underdogs, do have some pedigree in the front row. Unlike Lee. One of 61 first cousins – “I’m quite tight,” he joked yesterday, “I don’t buy them all Christmas presents” – his family had no real link to rugby but, since breaking into the Scarlets team as a teenager, his rise has been meteoric. Lee made his debut for Wales two years ago and has long been seen as the longterm replacement for Adam Jones. His continued fitness is seen as crucial to Wales’s chances of success in this World Cup.
If appearances are anything to go by, Wales fans need have no fear. Lee appears to have spent his time out profitably. He became a father nine weeks ago to a little baby girl – an experience he described as “great, although trust me to get a crier” – and he has bulked, up in a good way.
“[An Achilles injury] gives you a chance to work on other parts of your body, your upper body strength, your neck,” he said. “You don’t want to lose your neck strength for scrummaging, so I’ve been working a lot on my neck.
“I’ve got stronger. I don’t think you can get a much bigger neck than I’ve got. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been.”
Still, he will not be taking any risks over the coming weeks. As much as he would like to, there will be no ferreting during the World Cup. “The last thing I want is to slip in the field and rupture my Achilles again,” he said. “So I’m trying to keep off it. No rabbits.”
Fit for action: Wales prop Samson Lee is out to push his claims for a place against England next weekend