By Paul Jones
There are probably few bets to be made over what job Dan Lydiate decides to do next when he packs up professional rugby.
The Wales flanker – one of the daddies of the pack heading to the World Cup at 33 years of age – is firmly odds-on to become a full-time farmer, a lifestyle he has embraced to varying degrees since he was a boy.
But there might be more scope for a wager over whether or not he will make the starting XV when Wales face Fiji on September 10.
Will coach Warren Gatland find room for the old stager in a back row that could include Taulupe Faletau (if fit), Jac Morgan and Aaron Wainwright?
The former Ospreys and Racing 92 star, who has rejoined the Dragons for next season, says: “I still love it but I know it’s not going to last forever.
“When I do finish playing, I know I will have no regrets – I’ll have a real job then in farming!”
Lydiate, who farms in Powys, is renowned as the player who loves talking about tractors more than rucks and mauls.
🏆 𝘿𝘼𝙉 𝙇𝙔𝘿𝙄𝘼𝙏𝙀: 𝙒𝙊𝙍𝙇𝘿 𝘾𝙐𝙋 ✅
Congratulations to Dragons RFC's Dan Lydiate, who has been named in Warren Gatland's 33-player Wales World Cup squad. 👏
— Dragons RFC (@dragonsrugby) August 21, 2023
It’s a testament to his staying power that Lydiate could be there for Wales in Bordeaux, since this is a player who broke a bone in his neck during the Dragons’ Heineken Cup pool match in Perpignan back in November 2007.
The 70-cap forward is determined to claim a place in the starting line-up, which would be some achievement given he made his World Cup debut against South Africa 12 years ago at the 2011 World Cup.
He adds: “When we have trained, we have had two competitive packs going at each other tooth and claw, literally every session.
“It can only bring out the best in us. There will certainly be some headaches for the coaches when they do the final selection.
“There is uncertainty in not knowing where you lie in the pecking order but it’s not a bad thing because it brings out the best in players.”
Rugby or farming?@dan_lydiate can do both! 😅
— BBC ScrumV (@BBCScrumV) April 23, 2023
Meanwhile, while Wales have finished their tournament warm-up games, both Fiji and Australia – their pool rivals – are in action.
Fiji take on England at Twickenham, where Courtney Lawes will captain the Red Roses on his 100th cap, while hooker Theo Dan makes his first start.
Lawes, 34, lines up in the back row alongside Jack Willis and Ben Earl, who starts at number eight in the absence of the banned Billy Vunipola.
With Owen Farrell also suspended, George Ford is at fly-half.
Jonny May starts on the wing despite not being in the World Cup squad and Alex Mitchell is named at scrum-half.
Lock Will Skelton will lead Australia for the first time when he captains an inexperienced team against hosts France in the Wallabies’ final warm-up fixture in Paris on Sunday, a daunting prospect for a side yet to win this year.
Coach Eddie Jones has ditched his established players for the World Cup and pinned hopes on the exuberance of youth after Australia lost all four games since he returned to the helm for a second stint in charge this season.
The starting fifteen has 258 caps between them while 12 of the matchday squad of 23 are sitting on less than 10, the perfect illustration of their lack of experience at international level.
“We are a young side, who is ambitious and in the process of developing our game,” Jones said.
“To play against the tournament hosts in front of a massive crowd at the venue for the (World Cup) final is perfect preparation for us.
What can we expect from Wallabies v France in their #RWC2023 warm up match? Eddie Jones weighs in from France. 👀
— Stan Sport Rugby (@StanSportRugby) August 25, 2023
“We’ve had an impressive preparation this week. Improving our physical capacity has been a priority and our rugby fitness is rapidly improving and we will look to use it against France.”
Jones said previously giant second row Skelton has been selected as captain for his ‘lead by example’ style. He will be partnered at lock by Richie Arnold.
Hooker David Porecki will have props Angus Bell, returning from a foot injury, and Taniela Tupou either side of him, while Rob Valetini is at number eight, and Tom Hooper and Fraser McReight the two flankers.
Carter Gordon gets another run at flyhalf with Tate McDermott in the number nine jersey. They have been the halfback pairing for the previous two tests.
Lalakai Foketi is back at inside centre for the first time since he scored a superb try at the same venue against France in November last year, only to later leave the field injured. Jordan Petaia is his midfield partner.
Andrew Kellaway gets the nod at fullback, with Suliasi Vunivalu and Mark Nawaqanitawase on the wings.
Uncapped prop Blake Schoupp and scrumhalf Issak Fines-Leleiwasa are on the bench and set to debut.
It has been a difficult build-up to the tournament for Jones, who has had a testy relationship with the media over his trumpeting of the team’s improvement, which has yet to be reflected in victories.