One of the stand-out players on the recent BARLA GB Lions tour of Fiji was Lock Lane forward Craig Savage.
Such was his influence at hooker and loose forward, he started each of the Lions three games and earned great respect from coaching staff and team-mates alike.
Following on from an excellent domestic campaign that saw him pick up both player-of-the-year and players player award at Lock Lane, Savage scored one try and created another, however, his desire and attitude shone through in sometimes testing circumstances.
“It felt good to be selected, especially for the internationals,” he said. “Luckily enough, I started the two Test games, which means a lot to me.”
“We were so close against the Australians and people at home won’t understand just how close that was. We lost by eight points but if we’d been smarter in certain areas and not made a couple of errors, we’d have taken that one.”
Fiji is Savage’s second tour.
“I loved it,” he added. “I went to South Africa three years ago which was good for different reasons and aspects.
“When you come to Fiji, there are parts you expect and parts that you don’t.
“Taking into account their culture, their way of living and the experiences we had such as visiting Cloud Nine, the island and the village. You can’t buy that!
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Picking through his highlights took a bit of thought, but he quickly answered: “Playing the games, obviously, that’s why you come on something like this. To test myself against the best. I’ve since spoken to a few of the guys and I don’t think we’ll play against anyone as good, certainly as the Fiji Bati, however, there was a lot of other things going on in that game!”
He also highlighted the close bond amongst the touring party. He added: “I’ve never been away with lads who are so close-knit, which is a credit to the backroom staff, coaching staff and physios.
“I’ve been away before and you’ve had your Cumbrian players or people from Leigh Miners that will sit there or vice-versa, sometimes I felt like I didn’t fit in, but on this tour I could walk into a room with anybody and feel comfortable sitting there talking to them about family life or any troubles back home. I learned from South Africa and wanted to make all the younger lads that are new to tours feel as good as I could.
“It’s been a really tight group, a lovely tour, a lovely place, lovely people and tough rugby.”
From a personal point of view, Savage also appreciated spending a day on the South Sea Island.
“Coming up to that was like something from a movie. I’ve never seen anything look as good as that in my life!”
Now back in West Yorkshire, Savage is enjoying being reunited with his girlfriend before preparations for another year with Lock Lane ramp up in a couple of weeks.