JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Wales lock Adam Beard will complete a remarkable turnaround in career fortunes on Wednesday when he runs out for the touring British & Irish Lions in South Africa as they take on the Sharks in their second tour match at Ellis Park.
The 25-year-old was drafted into the Lions squad as a late replacement for injured captain Alun Wyn Jones on the eve of their departure last week, and less than a year after being dropped by his country.
“It’s a massive honour to be called into the squad, a dream come true for myself and I’m looking forward to taking the opportunity,” he told a news conference on Monday.
“The first couple of days have been crazy to get a phone call late on Saturday night and then to get to Edinburgh the next day was a bit mad and I’ve had loads of help getting up to speed with all the plays and calls. It’s been really good.”
Beard had been capped by Wales under Gatland, and helped them to the 2019 World Cup semi-final, but was dropped for last year’s Autumn Nations Cup under new Wales coach Wayne Pivac
“It was obviously a huge disappointment to be left out of that squad firstly but I had some good coaches back in my club rugby to get me back on track.
“They just said to focus on your own game. If you play well enough in club rugby then you earn selection for the international window,” he explained.
“Pivac and those coaches as well, they gave me a couple of work-ons to go back and work on at the club and then I was lucky enough to be picked for the Six Nations and that was a pretty successful campaign for myself.”
He returned to the team to help Wales win this year’s Six Nations and got the call-up for the Lions when Jones was injured in the warm-up test against Japan.
“When we travelled out, I actually saw him the day I got to Edinburgh. I said ‘look, obviously disappointed for you’ and he said ‘you’ve just got to take this opportunity and lead from the front, do everything you can and do what you normally do’.
“He’s been huge for me and given me a lot of advice,” Beard added.
(Editing by Nick Macfie)