So far, so good. From the outside, living with the Lions hasn't looked like the normal barrel of laughs. No nights out, no mingling with fans, no sightseeing or safaris, no visits to townships or even sponsor's gigs. Yet for first-time tourists, especially such as Jack Conan, it's been a blast from day one.
The highlight? “Hard to put your finger on one thing,” he says.
“The whole experience really, to become a Lion and to wear the red jersey and share these experiences with lads you’ve only played against or never even met before and then sit down and then build those relationships. It has been really fantastic from day one and we have all worked incredibly hard for the last five weeks so it has been great.”
Then, reflecting on his Lions debut against Japan, he adds: “Running out at Murrayfield with my family there for the first time in a long time was really special and something that I will hold onto for the rest of my days.”
Maybe it’s helped that players have become accustomed to living in a bio-secure bubble and all the restrictions therein, while this expedition is at least fresh and different.
"It's actually been all right. Everyone makes an effort to hang out, obviously socially distanced and everything else, and all the Covid protocols. Even this morning we had a bit of a coffee morning, and Jamie George and Elliot Daly slinging a few coffees around and Josh Navidi got a little 'dj' deck with Tadhg and Tom and we were blasting out a few tunes.
“We’re definitely making the most of a strange situation but it’s kind of been an enjoyable few weeks and I think it’s helped everyone kind of bed in and get to know each other a little bit, the fact that we’re kind of stuck here together and we only have ourselves to entertain each other.
“It’s been great and I think that’s kind of shown on the pitch. The lads are working so hard for each other and that kind of team ethos and atmosphere that we’ve been able to build so quickly. So it’s been good on the pitch and off the pitch.”
Since playing the full 80 against Japan, Conan was a replacement for the final quarter in the first win over the Sharks, and played almost the first hour in the sequel. Often used in the wide channels, he’s carried well – beating four defenders and making 90 metres off 14 carries, and scoring a try – and passed well, offloading four times while also winning three turnovers. He’s also made 25 tackles and missed none.
Conan says he’s been happy enough with his level of performances.
“Some of those games are a bit stop-start and you probably don’t go through as many phases as you would like to get into your proper shape and to build a bit of momentum and to show what you’re really about. A lot of it is the off-the-cuff.
“Look, it’s just about continually putting your hand up every chance you get and there’s always more to do but I’m happy enough with how it’s gone.”
Conan has never played against the Springboks, per se, but watched keenly on Wednesday night in Cape Stadium when the Lions suffered at the breakdown, particularly during the first period.
“They are a quality side so you can’t give them the leg up that we gave them in the first 20 minutes. They went very hard at the breakdown, slowed down our ball a bit and we found it difficult to get into our flow. We are really happy with how we went in the second 40. They have big threats at the scrum and the maul and we dealt with those well. A few decisions didn’t go our way and hopefully on another day they will. There are lots of positives to take and lots of work-ons as well.”
The game against the Stormers marks Conan’s third Saturday start, with the first Test to come seven days later. Any player would be forgiven for becoming consumed by such matters but Conan is an intelligent lad who seems able to compartmentalise thoughts of how close he may, or may not, be to the team for the first Test.
“I don’t know, to be honest. You never really know with the coaches and it’s not something I’ve spent too much time worrying about. All I can do is do my best. I’m happy enough with how it has gone so far. You can always do better but hopefully I get another 80 minutes this Saturday and if I’m selected great, but it is what it is.
“Once I look back and I am happy with my performance, you can’t really ask for more.”