England centre Jonathan Joseph says he never gave up hope of securing a place in the British and Irish Lions squad to tour New Zealand.
Joseph has scored an impressive 16 tries in 33 Tests for his country. But he was thought to be one of the last names confirmed in head coach Warren Gatland’s party ahead of the squad announcement four weeks ago, while media speculation raged beforehand that he had not made the cut.
The Bath star will be among a 41-man group charged with toppling the world champion All Blacks across a three-Test series, with seven other games – five against Super Rugby opposition – making up a ferociously difficult assignment.
“It was tough,” Joseph said. “I was getting a lot of messages and stuff on social media. But through my time in rugby, I have learnt not to listen to that too much – control the controllables – and for me I just had to wait for selection and wait for midday (on April 19).
“I had not given up hope. I was prepared for both scenarios. As a player, you are never certain of what was going to happen. I was prepared.”
Joseph, 25, was among 14 players taking part in a training camp in Wales this week, with almost two thirds of the squad absent due to domestic and European play-off commitments. A second get-together takes place in Ireland next week, before the Lions head for New Zealand on May 29.
“It is new to a lot of us, but it has been a great week getting to grips with the calls and getting to know everyone,” Joseph added. “It has been productive and hard work.
“We have that advantage of learning how things work and that extra week of fitness and getting to know the systems and the way we want to play.
“I want to focus on making myself the best player I can be, on the training and doing the homework. I will do my best to put my best foot forward.
“We are all different players and have different strengths. I will do what I can, but it is up to Warren the style we go with.”
He added: “We haven’t spoken about how we want to play. It has been a week of conditioning and getting up to speed and the hard graft it takes to win out there.
“It has been easy to integrate. We have a great group of boys. We started bonding straight away and learning things off each other.
“We had a great sing-song, which has been great fun, but we will keep the song choice a surprise!”