Dan Lydiate has revisited the terrible moment his return from the Test level wilderness with Wales last month ended in an excruciating ACL injury just minutes into his Guinness Six Nations comeback against Ireland. The 33-year-old was making his first Test appearance since November 2018.
However, his time on the field in the championship opener was cruelly limited as he injured his knee chasing down a kick. He initially attempted to play on, packing down for a scrum when play restarted. But he was then hooked at the next stoppage.
The excruciating pain of the damage he had done then set in, so much so that he exited down the Principality Stadium tunnel and spent the entire remainder of the match in the changing room unaware that Wales were going on to beat 14-man Ireland.
Appearing on the latest RugbyPass Offload show in the company of ex-Wales colleague Jamie Roberts and former England rival Dylan Hartley, Lydiate recalled: “There was a kick chase and I was trying to get up for the ball. It felt like someone brushed against me and my next step, I just felt something snap in my knee.
“I was like, ‘Jesus Christ, that’s not good’. Then the pain hit and the medics ran on. They tested the stability in my knee. It was sort of a shock, my muscles weren’t allowing my knee to move.
Only twice in Wayne Pivac's 13-Test tenure have Wales been able to pick the same No9 from one game to the next… and they now have to change again for Italy ? #SixNations #ITAvWALhttps://t.co/ZE3CAAt8ih
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 4, 2021
“I was like, ‘It doesn’t feel too bad, let me stand up’. I could put weight on it and I could stand up so I was like. ‘Let’s strap it up, see if I can run it off’ – the old classic. Then we had a scrum, Ireland exited and the medics were running on because they were watching it back, had seen the replay and had seen my knee obliterated.
“As the doctor came on I put more weight on my leg and it just buckled. I was right in front of them and he said, ‘Look, you have got to get off’. I should have come off straight away but I was ten minutes into the jersey after being two years out from the Welsh team and I was like, ‘I can’t go off now’.
“Because of the start of the game adrenalin was flying, a couple of big collisions early on and you’re like, ‘I’m into this now, I just want to get after it’. Then it’s shepherd’s crook, I’m off and literally as I hobble off the field every step my knee was giving way and I was going straight to the tunnel. They took me into the changing rooms and I stayed in there for the whole game so I didn’t know what happened until the end of the match.”
Lydiate has since had surgery on his knee and while Wales went on to clinch the Triple Crown with last Saturday’s round three win over England, the veteran back row candidly admitted it was a gutting experience watching them be so successful while he was unavailable through injury.
“It’s sort of a weird experience, ten minutes,” he continued. “It goes down in the record book but you almost don’t feel part of it because I was there for two weeks pre the first game and ten minutes into the Ireland game the ACL goes. You don’t feel a part of it. Watching on the weekend you want the boys to do well but you are gutted at the same time because you just want to be there. Anyone who says they are not gutted would be lying.
“It’s early days yet,” he said about his rehab. “Physios are popping out to my house a couple of times a week. I’m basically doing it myself at the minute, just trying to get rid of the swelling and just trying to get the knee moving.
“It [knee rehab] is very slow to start with, but the surgery went well. I went up to the big smoke in London to get it done, where everyone goes to see big Andy Williams, so he sorted me out and we just take each day as it comes now. I have got my little routine and my little exercise to do every day. It’s pretty boring but you just get on with it.”
Reflecting on his fleeting time back in the Wales set-up, Lydiate, whose first appearance in a 65-cap career came in 2009, described his recall after 27 months out as making his debut all over again. “I probably got more emotional driving into Cardiff for that game (against Ireland) than I did for my first. It was like being called to Wales for the first time. It was a bit mental. For the two weeks I was with the Wales camp I was loving it but that is the way it goes.”
"There will be things from that (Wales vs England) game he will be hard on himself as well"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 4, 2021
Asked about his rapport with current Wales boss Wayne Pivac, whom he didn’t work with previously, Lydiate said: “I was only there two weeks, I didn’t have a lot of time with the guy. Literally, as soon as I walked into the team room he made a beeline for me, he was like welcome and can I have a word?
“I was like sound, we sat down and he made me feel really welcome. He was, ‘I haven’t picked you at your age to be a bag holder’ and I was like, ‘Thank Christ for that’. He said just bring what you have been bringing in your club rugby, we want to get the best out of you and you’re here to do a job.
“If there is anything you need just come to us and I found that with all the coaches, you could go over to them at any time. It’s a good environment but it was only a brief two weeks I was there. The boys felt it was a lot different than in the autumn internationals.”
Comparing the Wales set-up to what he had previously known under Warren Gatland, Lydiate added: “More than anything the way he is trying to play (is different). Days were pretty much similar, very much run the same. There is a lot of the same backroom staff but the details were different how Pivac wants to play.
“It’s a good mix, to be honest. They have done it really well – and the food that was the best bit in camp. It has gone up ten levels since I was last in there. Once I had my scan to say my knee was gone, I went back to the Vale and stayed there the night and it was like the last supper. They had a mixed grill on and it was like an elephant’s graveyard by the end of it, bones everywhere.”
RugbyPass Offload EP 19 with Dan Lydiate ?
Christina, Dylan and Jamie are joined by Welsh and British & Irish Lion back-row Dan Lydiate this week!
We review all the Guinness Six Nations action, refereeing decisions & the France rugby situation.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 3, 2021
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now