Mid Wales' Dan Lydiate determined to make most of rugby career after plight of retired Lloyd Burns
GRAND SLAM star Dan Lydiate has revealed how the end of his pal Lloyd Burns’ career has told him to live in the moment again.
Wales flanker Lydiate vowed to make the most of his own career when he recovered from a broken neck nearly five years ago.
And he said the plight of his international and Dragons team-mate Burns has reinforced his desire to leave no stone unturned in his quest for excellence.
World Cup hooker Burns was forced to retire last month because of a heart problem – and the sad news left it’s mark on Lydiate.
“When one of my best mates has been told he can’t play rugby again and it’s all he wants to do, it shows that it can happen to anybody,” he said.
“While you are here there’s no point in messing around, you have got to take things head-on.”
Chop-tackling sensation Lydiate has certainly done that with his devastating performances seeing him named the official Six Nations player of the tournament this season.
Yet incredibly the 24-year-old’s career was almost ended by the neck injury he sustained after colliding with a Dragons team-mate during a Heineken Cup encounter in Perpignan.
“My first thought was ‘would I be able to walk again? Would I be able to lead a normal life?’” explained Lydiate. “Everything was going through my head and rugby went to the back of my mind.
“I didn’t think about playing rugby again until I was told I would be all right to do so.
“As soon as it was established I could and there wasn’t any reason why I couldn’t, you start to think about the next step on the recovery trail.”
It’s not, however, the only career-threatening injury he’s had to overcome as he suffered serious ankle damage two seasons ago.
Lydiate has also seen elder brother Jack, a promising forward at Ebbw Vale, forced to quit after badly breaking a leg.
“When you have a couple of serious injuries, it makes you realise no-one is going to play forever,” he said.
“Playing rugby is not a job for life. I’m just a farming lad from Mid Wales and that’s what I’ll be doing full-time when the rugby ends.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a perfectionist but rugby is a short career, so you have got to try and make the most of it when you are here.
“Hopefully, I’m still developing as a rugby player and I’m working on certain aspects of my game to become better.
“It’s everything really because if you stand still you are going to get overtaken.” Country boy Lydiate keeps his feet on the ground by returning to the family farm at Abbey-cwm-hir, near Llandrindod Wells, as often as possible.
He helps his father John and brother Jack feed the 650 sheep on their 500 acres in the Cambrian mountains – and is able to reflect on the most memorable year of his life.
Wales reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in New Zealand, only to be agonisingly edged out by France and eventually finished fourth after losing to Australia.
Typically, Lydiate had to battle back from adversity, damaging an ankle against Samoa and getting up every two hours in the night for 36 hours to ice it.
His dedication, determination and diligence enabled him to make a miraculous recovery and shine in the quarter-final triumph over Ireland.
“The World Cup was a brilliant experience,” he said.
“But I felt we could have done much more out there and the Six Nations was special.
“Beating England at Twickenham to win the Triple Crown was a massive highlight and Grand Slams don’t come around that often even if Wales has done it a few times lately.
“We were just going onto the pitch full of confidence whoever we were up against.
“When I finish playing rugby I suppose I will look at the Six Nations award on the mantle piece and think it was really good.”
Lydiate’s motto is “you’re only as good as your last game” but barring injury he will be at the forefront of Wales’ bid to beat Tri-Nations champions Australia in their own backyard next month.
“It’s going to be a massive challenge,” he said.
“Not many teams go to the southern hemisphere and get results.
“But we will definitely be up for it and looking forward to getting stuck into them.”