|2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final: Wales v South Africa|
|Venue: International Stadium, Yokohama Date: Sun, 27 Oct Kick-off: 09:00 GMT|
|Coverage: Full commentary on every Wales game across BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru, BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.|
In his latest BBC Sport column, Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes describes the build-up to their World Cup semi-final against South Africa, including another brush with royalty and being rejected as a “roomie” by newly-arrived Owen Lane.
This is a special week. We’re in the semi-final of a World Cup and we’re all chomping at the bit to get going.
These opportunities don’t come around often. The last time we were in a semi-final was 2011 and you want to do all you can to be right and ready for the game.
Everyone takes things up a notch in weeks like this. The excitement is there – Gats (Warren Gatland) and Alun Wyn Jones are like that for any Test match – but everyone knows we’re 80 minutes away from achieving something special by getting to a final.
Looking back at the quarter-final, we weren’t happy with the way we played but we got the job done and that’s the only thing that matters at this stage of the tournament.
If we play the same way against South Africa, we’re not going to win.
I’ve also got to say that’s the best the French have played in a while, and you’ve got to give credit where credit is due. They scored a couple of good tries at the start and they’ve got a lot of talent, so you’ve got to look at it that way as well.
The three times I’ve played France we’ve always been chasing the game. In the Six Nations this year, we were 16-0 down and the year before they missed a few easy shots at goal and we only won by one point.
I don’t know what it is but we’ve just never played well against France since I’ve been involved.
But the main thing is we got the job done, we know what the South African threats are and we’re preparing well for what will be a massive game.
Prince Charles and the Lane Train
Owen Lane has been called up to the squad this week and that means it’s the return of my old room-mate, ‘The Lane Train’!
We roomed together for the training camps over the summer and some of the warm-up matches, but ‘The Lane Train’ hasn’t asked to room with me in Japan. He actually asked to be with someone else, which shocked me to be honest. I was gutted!
But Foxy (Jonathan Davies) and I are roomies and Foxy’s a pretty good one. We get on well so that’s pretty easy.
Seriously, though, I’m absolutely gutted for Josh Navidi that he’ll miss the rest of the tournament because of a hamstring injury.
But I’m stoked for Laney as well – he’s got a massive future for club and country. He brings a bit of excitement and he’s got some good banter as well.
It was pretty special for him this week getting his World Cup cap from Prince Charles, who was a really nice bloke.
It was nice of him to pop along because he has a pretty busy schedule going on so it was very cool that he came into training.
I’ve had a photo with Prince William a couple of times when he came into training. He’s another lovely bloke. Sanjay (Liam Williams) and I had a nice photo with him after the Grand Slam.
Laney’s a good boy and I’m super excited for him. Two weeks in Tokyo and a semi-final and hopefully a final for him to look forward to.
Hoping Foxy will be fit
I’m pretty fortunate that I get on so well with Foxy, who’s my room-mate off the field and my partner at centre on the field.
He’s a big part of this squad and I know he and the medical staff are doing all they can to make sure he’s fit to play against South Africa.
It was a tough decision for him to make last week. As much as you want to play and get out there and say you’re okay, to be able to turn around and say ‘no I’m not actually’ was pretty big of him to put the team first.
Owen Watkin had a great game last weekend. He stepped up really well, is a young boy, and has a big future.
Foxy has been around a bit longer and I know him a little bit better because I’ve played with him for Scarlets and Wales.
He’s very important both for Wales and the British and Irish Lions as well. He’s had a couple of very successful tours there.
He’s a good leader within the side. In attack he’s got a good voice and a hell of a fend as well. He set up a nice try against Fiji and he’s a left-foot kicking option.
Defence is what he’s renowned for and, reading those plays out the back, he’s made a lot of crucial tackles.
He also has quite a bit of strapping on his leg. You might have read in my previous column that I’ve been called Robocop because of the tape and bandages on my body.
But the thing with my strapping is that it’s all visible. A lot of the boys, it’s on their ankles, their backs or their shoulders so you can’t actually see it.
So I’m the one taking the heat, but I don’t even use the most. I won’t say who the worst is but Foxy does use a fair bit, so he’s taking a little bit of heat off his roomie!
Memories of South Africa
We’ve got a good recent record against South Africa, having won our last four matches, and it will always be a special fixture for me because I made my Wales debut against the Springboks.
That was back in December 2017 and I managed to score a couple of tries as we won in Cardiff.
I remember being very nervous. The most nervous I’ve ever been. That and my wedding day.
I was probably more nervous walking down the tunnel to do the anthem than anything else.
I had to put in a few hours trying to learn it and luckily I had Rhys Patchell to help me with that. I recorded him doing each line by line and then recorded him doing the whole verse and learnt it that way.
It was just an amazing occasion to be at the Principality Stadium and to get the win as well was pretty cool. I just went out there and tried to do the small things right.
Hopefully we can do the small things right again on Sunday, make sure we prepare well and give ourselves the best chance to achieve something special.
Hadleigh Parkes was speaking to BBC Sport Wales’ Dafydd Pritchard.
Article courtesy of BBC Sport