Fer­ret fa­natic and 61 first cousins - Lee is back

The Daily Telegraph - Rugby World Cup - - Sport Rugby World Cup 2015 - By Tom Cary

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

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