Wales’ Lydiate can’t wait for the Top 14 to start

Welsh flanker Dan Lydiate says that he can’t wait to get his first tasts to Top14 Rugby with his new team Racing Metro in Saturday’s match against Brive.

Racing, bankrolled by multi-millionaire owner Jacky Lorenzetti, have set out their stall and shown their ambition to win honours by signing top stars, including two other British and Irish Lions — Wales centre Jamie Roberts and Irish fly-half Jonathan Sexton.

Lydiate, 25, says that with such talent to call upon, the club should be firmly in the title mix and also a contender for European glory — plenty to keep his thoughts away from his other love of farming.

“It shows the calibre of players that they’ve gone after and the calibre that’s already here. I’m just really looking forward to getting stuck in and hopefully playing some good rugby,” Lydiate, signed from Newport Gwent Dragons, told reporters

Asked if he has set a specific goal for the season, he laughed and said: “Try to learn a bit of French!”

In a more serious vein, he went on: “To try to be involved with the squad as much as I can.

“The last few seasons Racing have got to the knockout stages of the competition (in the European Cup) and this year’s no different. We want to be there at the end of the season. I am really excited about playing in the Heineken Cup.

Last year Racing lost in the quarter-finals to Toulouse.

Lydiate dismissed fears his Welsh career would necessarily suffer by being based in France.

“Obviously you are maybe at a slight disadvantage because the coach is not able to watch you every week but I just hope if I am playing well enough they’ll still pick me.

“It’s a massive onus on myself to make sure I am playing well out here

“If Racing are successful as well there’s a bigger chance I’ll still be selected for Wales.

“I spoke to (coach) Warren (Gatland) before coming out here to make sure I was still available for Wales.

“I am looking forward to playing with a new set of players. I try not to look too far ahead,” said Lydiate, who knows how precarious the game can be having suffered a career-threatening neck injury against Perpignan in 2007 which required spinal surgery.

“I want to play against the best opposition and this league has definitely got that. There’s definitely quality within the squad but just because it’s there on paper doesn’t min it’s a given (to win trophies).

“I’m certainly excited to be working with this whole group and this club.”

Asked to comment on number eight Toby Faletau’s decision to remain with Newport rather than follow the increasingly well-trodden road to France, Lydiate said of the star three years his junior: “Toby’s a bit of a closed book — he likes not to give too much away.

“He’s a young guy, he’s got a lot of rugby ahead of him.”

As he guns for glory with Racing, Lydiate will have to forego for now his interest in working the family sheep farm near Llandrindod Wells, central Wales.

“I’m from a farming background and I do miss it all the time. But rugby is only a short career, so maybe I’ll have a chat with the ground staff so if I’m feeling a bit homesick maybe they’ll let me jump on (the tractor) and have a drive!”

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