Sam Warburton paints vivid picture of a Lions changing room just before a Test match
"I sacrificed 10 years of my life to go on that tour.
Sam Warburton was 24 when he made his first British & Irish Lions squad. The fact that he made it as captain, and led a team that included legends like Paul O'Connell, Adam Jones and Brian O'Driscoll tells you all you need to know.
Warburton was aged just 22 when he led Wales to a World Cup semi-final. He bounced back from receiving a red card in that semi to play a pivotal role in Wales winning the 2012 Six Nations Grand Slam.
He would go on to enjoy many more big days with Wales, but had his sights set on becoming a Lion too. In 2013, he made Warren Gatland's squad and was asked to lead the Lions against the Wallabies. It was only seven years previous that he had received a Lions jersey with No.7 on the back as a Christmas present.
Heading Down Under, he would wear the real deal jersey against Michael Cheika's side, who themselves had been World Cup semi-finalists in 2011. The Lions won that Test Series 2-1 and Warburton reprised his captaincy role in 2017 when they split a thrilling series with the All Blacks.
There was no better man, we felt, to sum up the emotions of Test match day than Warburton. His description of what it is like to be in the Lions' changing room just before a big Test is as vivid as you can get. You can tell how much it means to the man.
"I'll never be able to fully describe what it's like, when you're in the changing room before a game," Sam Warburton begins, before giving it a good shot.
"You walk in, off the bus, and all the Lions jerseys are there hanging up, beautifully, around the changing room.
"You walk over to your number. And there's two shirts there, as you swap one of them after the game. And I always used to change my jersey at half-time, so I had two match-worn shirts.
"You sit down for about 10 minutes and you have a look at the match programme. Then the physios go off to their corner and the coaches to their corner, and all the players gradually start getting ready.
"You look around at the quality around you, and you see the Lions badges everywhere. You see the quotes from the legendary [Lions] players all around you, and you're just in awe of being there."
The Lions' class of 2021 will be going through a similar process, and wave of emotions, before they square off against the Springboks in the Third Test.
For some, they will get another chance in 2025, when Australia is again the destination. For others, this will be their last Lions Tour involvement.
No matter what happens in the deciding Lions vs. Springboks Test match, those involved will all look back, some day, as fondly on those changing room moments of nervous anticipation and drink it all in again by simply closing their eyes.