John Barclay column: 'Fiji is idyllic but we're here to do a job'

John Barclay

To paint a picture, Fiji is an archipelago of 333 islands of which 110 are inhabited. Most of the population of about 900,000 people live on two main islands and we are five miles down the road from the capital city of one of them, Suva.

We're in a hotel set on Lami Bay. I think the word normally used to describe a place like this is idyllic. I was in Fiji with Scotland five years ago and the welcome was good, but the welcome this time has been incredible.

Suva is a poor area but rich in culture, respect and humility. The people here would give you the shirt off their back, literally. The response we have had has been truly incredible. Kids with smiles from ear to ear come running from classrooms. There is nowhere like this in world rugby. Nowhere.

We had the privilege of spending Thursday morning in the local community visiting two schools. One primary school and the other the only school for the deaf in the South Pacific. These kids are often shunned from their society and, as a result, are unable to communicate until they land at these doors.

Yet all the children, like all the kids and adults we have come across, were bright eyed and full of smiles. To say it puts life into perspective is an understatement. Both schools performed for us and both left each member of the squad with fond memories that will last a lifetime.

Our team base is in an oasis of tranquillity. Apart from the snakes. And the giant bats. And the lionfish that sits underneath the rope bridge we walk across every day from the main restaurant in the hotel to the team room, a cabin literally built on the water.

It says online that a sting from a lionfish causes nausea, vomiting, fever, breathing difficulties, convulsions, dizziness, headache, numbness, diarrhoea and sweating - just some of the ailments that befell Scottish rugby fans as they watched the closing minutes of our game against the Wallabies last weekend.

Another thriller in a long line of thrillers, but this one with a different outcome. The win against Australia was special. Everybody stepped up. I said in the press conference afterwards that it wasn't a win just built on defence - although the defence was amazing.

It was a win that had a huge amount of skill in it. We scored three tries. Spacey's (Duncan Taylor's) intercept try was described by some as lucky. It wasn't luck at all. It was great awareness.

John Barclay celebrates as Scotland beat Australia
Barclay captained Scotland to an historic win over Australia on Saturday

Finn's try was also described as a fortunate charge-down. There was no fortune about it. Finn knew exactly what he was doing. The third try was outstanding. So many different sets of hands, so many players making good decisions under pressure.

We went back to the hotel in Coogee pretty quickly afterwards. The days of team banquets are pretty much over, apart from France. They still do a seven-courser over there. My first away international match was in Paris and I sat at the dinner with Simon Taylor and Jason White as tray after tray came out of the kitchen.

It was extraordinary. There was a mime artist and a glass blower. Mime artists may not be present in Fiji, but the warm hospitality has been here in abundance.

Our player of the day award in Sydney went to Finn, who didn't have a bad 24 hours in fairness to him. We put his clips from the game up on the screen and some of the stuff he did in that match was incredible. The off-loads, the passes, the tactical kicking, the defence.

John Barclay tackle statistics
No player made more tackles in Sydney than Barclay, who felled 15 Australians

If an All Black produced the kind of performance that Finn delivered against Australia we'd all be going 'Wow!' He deserves his Lions call-up and I hope he gets a chance to show everyone what he is capable of in the short time he has.

We left for Fiji on Sunday afternoon. One of the cabin crew came up to me on the flight and asked if I was the captain of the team. 'As a matter of fact, I am', I said proudly. She said, 'Would you like to follow me?' I said, 'It would be a pleasure'.

There was a spare seat in business class. I got there and there was actually two spare seats, so I walked down the aisle of the plane looking for Gregor. The boys assumed I'd been bumped and were revelling in it. I made sure to pull the curtain across before I sat back down smugly in my new luxury surroundings.

There was a four-hour bus journey from the airport to the hotel. The police escort took us along some narrow and bumpy roads at speed. We were bouncing around. Some guys were green around the gills by the time we arrived. Then, the wind-ups started.

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A snake appeared on a wall at the hotel on Monday morning and we all discovered that it was actually more venomous than a cobra. Then, one of the boys accidentally dropped a rugby ball in the water by the bridge to our team room and one of the hotel staff went in to get it. He came up with the ball in one hand and a snake in the other. Then that Lion Fish appeared. That caused a bit of a stir.

Ryan Wilson, my friend and room-mate, treated me to the first bout of his sleep walking for this particular trip. I awoke to him screaming and begging me to get the flies off him.

After a few minutes I managed to calm him down and push him in the direction of his bed. Needless to say, I didn't get too much sleep after that. Ryan told me in the morning he thinks it was because we tried to plant a moth the size of my hand in one of the boys' rooms a few hours earlier.

Touring is a unique experience as I mentioned in an earlier column. A team culture is built on hard work and camaraderie and amid the intense rugby stuff, messing about definitely has a part to play in that.

The lack of wifi and 4G - whilst frustrating at times - thankfully means iPhones are pretty much useless here. Old school games, singing and pranks take the place of technology and I know which I prefer.

Max Evans carries for Scotland against Fiji in 2012
Barclay, second right, supports team-mate Max Evans on Scotland's last visit to Fiji five years ago

Fiji are going to be dangerous on Saturday. They 're different. I watched Leone Nakarawa against Australia and he got 15 offloads. I have 15 in a season.

They attack from anywhere and they have more guys coming in from France for this game. These are quality players who are contracted to some of the biggest clubs in France.

The local papers have given big coverage to Peceli Yato, their openside. No wonder. He plays for Clermont, was a Champions Cup runner-up and then went and won the French league title.

This game will be hard. I want to sit down on Saturday night with the satisfaction of knowing that we've had a successful tour, but all of that goes out the window if we don't beat Fiji.

We can't finish on a downer. After the highs of Saturday, everybody is refocused and ready to go again.

Vinaka vakalevu! Thank you!

John Barclay was talking to BBC Sport Scotland's chief sports writer, Tom English

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