Hadleigh Parkes column: Hoping for a special night in Paris

Hadleigh Parkes column
Six Nations: France v Wales
Venue: Stade de France, Paris Date: Friday, 1 February Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC One Wales & S4C, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

In the first of his Six Nations columns, Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes talks about his second tournament, visiting Paris and who is in charge of the entertainment committee.

If someone had asked me as a kid growing up would I play in the Six Nations, the short answer would have been no.

It is such a special part of the rugby calendar and I still have to pinch myself that I am involved in this remarkable tournament.

This will be my second competition. I never take this for granted and am very proud to wear the Wales jersey.

Back in New Zealand as a kid, I remember getting up in the early hours of the morning after my Dad woke me up.

I would take the duvet downstairs and watch the game with my Mum and Dad. It was just us because my brothers were away at boarding school.

I remember the likes of Stephen Jones and Martyn Williams for Wales, Rory Underwood and Jeremy Guscott for England and Keith Wood and Brian O'Driscoll for Ireland.

What you don't realise over in New Zealand is how special the away fans can make the occasions.

I am sure the Welsh supporters will be there in fine voice in France on Friday night for what should be another special occasion.

What a city Paris is. I managed to get there for non-rugby matters just to visit and it is huge.

My wife Suzy and I had a good look around and covered all the landmarks like Champs Elysees, Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and it makes you realise how much history these places have.

We were also able to discover those little markets and find some amazing baguettes.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Romain Ntamack? I remember his old man on Jonah Lomu Rugby, says Hadleigh Parkes

On the field I have played in Paris a couple of times for the Scarlets. A few years ago we were hammered 64-14 by Racing when Dan Carter had a field day.

It was closer a couple of weeks ago when we played Racing again and suffered a narrow defeat.

I have never played at the Stade de France and hopefully I will be involved this time around.

I watched the game two years ago that lasted 100 minutes and France won it right at the end after all those scrums.

People have told me how passionate the crowd are, especially to start with. France will come out with a hiss and a roar and get into you, to try and physically dominate Wales.

It is up to us to weather that storm and negate that home crowd advantage.

It will hopefully not be just my first time at the stadium. My parents are coming over from New Zealand for the first two games, so it will be exciting to meet up with them again.

They missed my first cap against South Africa in December 2017 but came over here for the first three Six Nations games last year.

It has always been my Mum's dream to watch a game in France and my Dad tags onto the trip because he loves the travel!

I hope to see them before the game and catch up with them because they will be staying in central Paris.

The last time I saw them was just after my wedding in New Zealand (in June, 2018). We had just under a week down at the farm after the wedding which was very relaxed.

Wales fixtures

The hardest part of living over here is that feeling of not seeing your family on a regular basis.

Suzy and I are both family orientated and you can't just on a Sunday night pop over for a roast.

FaceTime is brilliant but not quite the same. I am lucky to have a couple of New Zealand coaches who I am able to talk about things with.

I have known my Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac for a number of years so he understands and Wales boss Warren Gatland is family orientated.

Warren will always stand up at the beginning of a campaign and say family comes first and will always try to accommodate your needs.

There is a great feel good factor within the squad at the moment after a successful 2018.

It is a nice record to have of nine wins in a row but you want to create your own history as players.

Also you want to achieve things for the management because for a lot of them, this will be their last Six Nations campaign.

When you come to training it is very switched on and focused but there is down time as well.

The off-the-field jobs allocated to the boys at the start of a camp is very important.

Liam Williams and Hadleigh Parkes celebrate victory over South Africa in November 2018
Liam Williams and Hadleigh Parkes celebrate victory over South Africa in November 2018

One of the most crucial roles is the entertainment position and Liam Williams is in charge of that, with the help of a couple of others.

Sanjay (Williams) has done a good job the last couple of times but he is under pressure and a lot to live up to because I hear Jamie Roberts and Gethin Jenkins were pretty good in this role previously.

There are a good couple of playlists developing with some interesting songs being sent through by certain individuals.

You have to send through two songs into our WhatsApp group and Samson Lee has come up with some good ones.

Cards are also a good way of passing the time. Gin rummy is the game of choice and we play for coffees and sandwiches.

It can be competitive but that just helps build the team spirit among the boys. That spirit will be vital over the next two months.

I just can't wait to get going.

Top Stories