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British & Irish Lions
Shoehorns and broken vertebrae
Tom Hamilton in Hong Kong
May 30, 2013
Lions flanker Dan Lydiate enjoys the fans, Aberdeen Sports Stadium, Hong Kong, May 30, 2013
Dan Lydiate attempts to cool off in Hong Kong © Getty Images

The moment had finally come, I had landed in Hong Kong on the first stop on the Lions' tour. But before all that, I arrived at Heathrow and bounded up to the check-in desk with a sense of anticipation and optimism thinking upgrading to premium economy should not be a problem.

A delightful but misconceived pipe dream.

When I established my firmly economy seat was in the middle of the third row from the back of the plane I started to check the synonyms for 'shoehorn'. I feared for Row 50 relations.

Readers, not only am I of fuller figure, but the noise I make snoring is what I imagine - if he existed - 'Big Foot' would make when settling down for the night after a few too many local sherbets.

But that was an idle worry. Such is the beauty of the Lions tour that the large percentage of my plane all journeying to Hong Kong were going to witness the touring side taking on the Barbarians. It was a plane rammed with like-minded and built folk. All the talk concerned the well publicised heat that was going to hit us once we stepped off the British Airways flight in just under 12 hours time.

Once I had taken my perch in the cabin, in my immediate vicinity, was a group of fascinating and intriguing people. To my right, was a retired banker who was once taught by Gerald Davies at a school in West Sussex. I also established my fellow Row 50 comrade managed to fracture C1, C2, C3 and C4 in his neck a mere two years ago. Yet here he sat, probably regretting booking the seat next door to me, with full use of his neck. "The human body is a wonderful thing," he told me.

Saturday is a day which I anticipate to incorporate at least three showers and a shirt change routine that will cancel out most of the options I brought with me when I departed Heathrow on Wednesday

In the left two seats along with those incorporating seats A-C, were a group of men who were journeying to Hong Kong for four days to take in the match. The man in seat 50E, to my immediate left, grew up manning the old scoreboard at Welford Road. There was lots of familiar ground. Rugby is a wonderful uniting tool when facing 12 hours rammed closer together than would usually be socially acceptable.

As the plane journey progressed, those on both sides had stories relating to the Lions and to the Barbarians. The man to my right had seen the Baabaas in action during the 1970s and spoke of tales involving their wonderful Welsh contingent. To my left, we lamented over the first Test performance in Durban four years ago. Everyone was hoping for a better showing from the Lions this time around.

It remains to be seen whether Saturday's game lives up to the wealth of expectation on flight BA027. Heat will definitely play a key role in this match - June 1 is meant to be the hottest day in Hong Kong's year to date. Believe me, this is not your standard Great Britain 23-degrees tabloid front-page weather, this is a day which I anticipate will incorporate at least three showers and a shirt change routine that will cancel out most of the options I brought with me when I departed Heathrow on Wednesday.

And for those who wondered how my snoring went down in Row 50, despite my best efforts for about seven hours, there was never any danger of me dropping off. Instead, I turned to the various Lions-related literature I brought with me on the flight and it is difficult to stop yourself pondering whether this will finally be the moment when the tourists bring some pride back to the famous side.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

Tom Hamilton was brought up near the stands of the Recreation Ground and joined ESPN in 2011. He is now Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.
Follow him on Twitter @tomESPNscrum