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banner Wednesday, 27 June, 2001, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Dawson: We are ready
Matt Dawson
BBC Sport Online columnist Matt Dawson on being picked as a replacement for the First Test against Australia on Saturday.

I found out this evening that I will be on the bench for the big game. Was I disappointed not to be in the starting line-up?

Well, if I'm honest with myself, I had expected Graham Henry to start with Rob Howley from the day we met up.

You get the vibe on these sort of trips, and with Graham knowing Rob much better than he knows me, Rob was always going to have an edge.

I've had a couple of opportunities and I played alright, and if I get an opportunity on Saturday I'll make the most of it.


Matt Perry may not have the raw pace of Iain Balshaw but he can attack from deep in the same way
  Matt Dawson
If I hadn't made the squad at all I would have been desperately disappointed.

Sure, my ultimate goal was to start in the Tests - but as that's not going to happen for the moment, I've just got to support Rob as much as I can.

Anyway, things can change so quickly on these sort of tours.

Clearly I would never wish an injury on anyone, but as the Lions tour of 1997 illustrated, the team can change very quickly.

Back then Rob broke his arm and I got my big chance.

This time around you only have to look at Martin Corry. He's gone from not even being in the squad for the tour to now making his Lions Test debut on Saturday.

On the bench you have to concentrate on the game just as much as when you're on the pitch.

I have to be watching how Jonny Wilkinson, Rob Henderson and Brian O'Driscoll are playing off each other so the moment I'm called upon I'm right up to speed.

Rob Howley got the nod for the number nine shirt
Rob Howley got the nod for the number nine shirt
In some ways you can get more anxious - at least if you're out in the middle the game's so all-engrossing you barely have time to worry.

I'm rooming with Matt Perry at the moment and he's obviously delighted to get the nod at full-back over Iain Balshaw.

He's had a very good tour on and off the pitch. Pezza's a very cool, calm customer.

Things never really went Balsh's way from the word go.

He got knocked a bit early on with the way he was trying to play - but I also don't think we used him as well as we might have done.

He's got a bit frustrated with the way things has gone and his form has dipped a bit at the same time as Matt's has improved.

Pezza's a class act. He may not have the raw pace of Balsh but he can attack from deep in the same way, and make things happen just the same.

It's not easy trying to impress when you're concerned about your form and place in the team.


We all know we can beat the Australians
  Matt Dawson
Sometimes the more you try the more pressure you put on yourself and the worse you play - it's a vicious circle.

I've also tried to help with a number of the younger lads like Balsh and also Ben Cohen.

I know what it's like from battling for the England scrum-half position with Kyran Bracken.

I've been reminding them both that their tours are far from over. They have to make sure they're ready to come in whenever the chance comes - and it will.

Looking forward to the big game, the mood in the camp is good.

We've found it difficult because there's been so many other things going on. The death of (Lions tour baggage manager) Anton Toia hit the squad pretty hard.

It's hard enough on a Lions tour anyway with all the pressure it brings without anything else going on.

The injuries have taken their toll too.

We probably did a little too much running around after a long season - we had three injuries in training which tells its own story.

But all that will be forgotten on Saturday.

We all know we can beat the Australians - and if the desire in the camp is anything to go by, we'll do exactly that.

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