|World Cup warm-up: England v Wales|
|Venue: Twickenham Date: Sun, 11 Aug Kick-off: 14:00 BST|
In his latest BBC Sport column, Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes talks about World Cup preparations, rooming with ‘The Lane Train’ and getting ready for fatherhood.
It’s been a brutal summer of training with Wales but there’s a pretty big carrot at the end of it in the form of the World Cup.
We had four weeks of holiday at the end of last season so the boys who came into camp earliest have been here for 11 weeks.
We had three weeks here at the Vale in Cardiff then the training camp in Switzerland, which was intense but also a very scenic, beautiful place. There was still snow on the mountain tops but we were walking around in a vest because it was so hot.
The boys enjoyed it but it was tough. We were working hard, staying at altitude, training in the heat. The coaches said they’d push us and they certainly did.
As backs, we’re pretty good to each other when we train but I’ve watched a few forwards’ sessions and they look very tasty, so I’m happy to be a back!
We’re just doing stretches and looking over to the pack as they do their driving lineouts and ruck drills and we’re thinking ‘wow!’
There’s a bit of an edge and sometimes it can come to pushing and shoving, but everyone’s still mates. It’s all forgotten pretty quickly.
My roomie is usually Gareth Anscombe but in Switzerland I also had Owen Lane, also known as ‘The Lane Train’!
He calls himself ‘The Lane Train’ so it’s stuck. He’s a good boy, I enjoyed rooming with him.
We had one afternoon off in Switzerland. We climbed right to the top of a mountain, where we had a barbecue, which was pretty nice as we could look out across the glacier. I think we were 2,800m up – the views were amazing.
We were in shorts and t-shirts while the hikers were in their full climbing gear. There was an option to have a beer if you wanted to but it’s been pretty quiet on that front recently. It doesn’t really help at the end of the day and everyone’s working really hard for what’s ahead over the next few months.
The World Cup means it’s been a different sort of pre-season. Normally before a Test match we get a week to prepare, so it’s been nice to get more time together.
When Sunday’s first warm-up match against England comes around, hopefully we’ll be in a really good place.
Renewing old rivalries
It may be a pre-season game at Twickenham but everyone wants to win and it’s one of the oldest rivalries around.
As soon as you start worrying about getting injured, that’s when it happens. Ultimately, it’s a Test match and it’s a Test match against England.
One thing I’ve learnt over the years is that the rivalry between the two countries over the Severn Bridge is very much intact. The boys who get the opportunity to play over the weekend will get the first chance to put their hands up for selection for the World Cup.
We want to go out there and produce a performance the fans can be proud of.
It’s awesome the amount of depth we’ve built over the past few years, with the Argentina tour, the autumn and the Six Nations. The depth in the squad is really good and everyone’s pushing each other in every position.
It’s good to have that internal competition, as well as external competition.
Weddings and fatherhood
Everyone’s looking forward to getting back to the action after a summer of intense training, but we’ve enjoyed our time off too.
During the holiday period at the end of last season, a good crew of us went over to New Zealand for Gareth Anscombe’s wedding.
Lloyd Williams, Alex Cuthbert, Cory Allen and quite a few of the boys went over, so we had a good catch-up, played some golf and went to Waiheke for the big do.
It’s also been a big few months for my wife Suzy and me because we’ve found out we’re going to become parents for the first time.
We actually found out the Monday before we beat Ireland to win the Six Nations, so that was a pretty exciting week for us!
We had a short holiday in Lake Como last month and then, after we got back home, we had some friends around for a barbecue to celebrate the news.
We don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl yet – we’re going to keep that a surprise – but the due date is 20 November.
Suzy and I are really excited and a bit nervous as well. It’s a new chapter and we’re very much looking forward to it.
There are a fair few dads in the squad, and they’ve been telling me to make the most of the sleep when I’m with Wales!
Hadleigh Parkes was speaking to BBC Sport Wales’ Dafydd Pritchard.