The rise, fall and rise again of Samson Lee

Pic by Richard Early

by Matt Slater

SAMSON Lee has been rewarded for his good form by being recalled to the Wales squad, 14 months after his last appearance.

The tighthead prop will be playing his 42nd  game in the red of Wales, seven years after making his debut.

But his international career has not all been plain sailing, with injuries the cause of his many setbacks.

The Rise

The Scarlet was called into the full international squad for the first time in 2012 for the Autumn International Series at the age of 19.

But it was not until the following year that he made his debut against Argentina as a second half replacement in a 40-6 victory.

Lee became a regular for his national team after replacing veteran, Adam Jones, as the number 3. Back in 2015, Jones was incredibly impressed by the quality of the young prop.

“We’ve got a gem on our hands,” he told BBC Sport.

“As much as I’m disappointed to lose my place I think we’ve got a once-in-a-generation tight-head in Lee.

“Hopefully, Wales will look after him and wrap him in cotton wool for the next 10 years.”

This quality mentioned was backed up by Lee himself after he was named in the RaboDirect Pro12 Dream Team – and was on his way to becoming one of Wales’ best forwards.

The prop went on to represent his nation at the 2015 World Cup and appeared in every game of the campaign. Wales only managed to reach the quarter finals after a 23-19 defeat to South Africa – but it was a successful campaign for him, nonetheless.

But in the following year, Samson Lee was in the headlines – and not because of his rugby.

During the six nations clash versus England, Joe Marler, the opposition loosehead prop called Lee a ‘gypsy boy’ and an altercation followed on the field. Marler was charged with misconduct by World Rugby and subsequently banned for two matches and fined £20,000.

With the Scarlets, he won the Pro12 playoffs after finishing third in the league that year. All was going well for Lee – and then injuries struck.


The Fall

But injuries dogged Lee.  His shoulder, back, hamstring, knee and achilles have all played a part in side-lining him during his career and stopped him from reaching his full potential.

Lee’s first major injury came in 2015, and even though he recovered in time for the World Cup, many were critical of his fitness.

In 2016, he suffered a serious knee injury in the Pro12 final against Munster and missed Wales’ summer tour.

A year onwards, Lee was not selected in Warren Gatland’s Wales squad as he had not recovered fully.

With that, and the rise of Tomos Francis, Lee found himself second best for that year’s Six Nations.

In 2019, he found himself dropped from the team, again, by former head coach Warren Gatland after claims that the prop was not ‘durable’ enough.


The Second Rise

But after continuous doubts of the scrummager’s fitness and durability, he finds himself back in the national team again.

It has been said that Lee the prop has put in a significant amount of work into his passing and technique in an attempt to force his way back into the line-up. And it has worked.

It is the first time he has appeared in the Welsh squad under his former Scarlets head coach, Wayne Pivac.

Former Welsh centre, Mark Ring, is happy that Lee has been recalled and highlighted his importance to the team.

“His good form this year proves that he is back in the right place. I think he will be key this weekend because of the scrum.

“He can take the game away from France because of the scrum and against the tighter oppositions like France, Samson Lee could be the difference.”

But 2020 has also been a milestone year for Lee in domestic rugby also. He received congratulations from the world of rugby, and a champion boxer, for making his 150th cap for Scarlets.

Two-time World Heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury, publicly applauded the prop for his achievement just a day after being recalled to the Wales team.http://

Fury is also a member of the travelling community and sent the message through the Scarlets’ Twitter:

“I just want to say congratulations to my Gypsy brother, Samson Lee, on having 150 caps for the Scarlets — the first and only Traveller Gypsy in history to have any caps for a country in rugby.

“God bless you, Samson. Well done.”

The injuries that Lee has faced throughout his career could well take a toll on his longevity and consistency – but he should, and he will hope, will, be in and around the squad for the foreseeable future.