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Will the Lions roar again in future?

Bryn Palmer | 13:34 UK time, Sunday, 5 July 2009

Johannesburg, Sunday

John Smit probably put it best.

Asked whether Lions tours are still relevant in this professional age, the Springboks captain was unequivocal.

"Without a doubt," he said. "It has been an amazing experience from start to finish,
and I still think it is one of the most prized spectacles rugby union has to offer.

"The spirit in which it is based, the toughness of the games, the competitiveness of the series, how close it was at the end of the day...wow, there are not a lot of top-notch games out there that can provide what a Lions series can provide."

Amen to that you might say.

But are the Lions merely the remnants of a great and noble tradition, or still the living embodiment of it?

This 2009 pride have worked hard and played hard, on and off the pitch. To a man they say it has been hugely enjoyable, the best experience available to a British or Irish rugby player.

Some may question whether enjoyment is important in itself, if winning the series is the bottom line, which ultimately they failed to achieve.

The team spirit fostered on the Lions tour has been something special

But friendship and camaraderie, on the field and in the stands, as well as a proud and competitive team, are traditionally the hallmarks of Lions tours.

The 2001 Lions were fiercely competitive in another thrilling series, but not many players look back on that tour of Australia under Graham Henry with any fondness.

Likewise Sir Clive Woodward's bloated 2005 operation will forever be regarded as a betrayal of the Lions' best traditions.

It is a delicate balance, one Ian McGeechan appears to have struck again in restoring credibility to the whole concept, even if he could not muster a series victory.

His overall record as head coach on four tours now reads: Played 12 Tests, won six, lost six. Two series wins, two defeats.

I asked him after Saturday's final Test if there was any chance we may see him on his eighth Lions tour in Australia in 2013. "Probably not," he said, with his trademark grin. Only "probably" mind, not "definitely".

He will be 66 by then, and could be excused anyway if he wanted no further part in the political machinations required to give the next tourists a "fair crack" in their preparation.

Coming within a last-second penalty of at least a drawn series might have organisers of domestic and European competitions wondering why the Lions need more time, when they have proved to be so competitive after just five weeks together.

But if they have done so in glorious defiance of the odds stacked against them, imagine how they might fair with even a slight wind in their favour?

"It shouldn't be outside the wit of those concerned to plan for it two years out from it, as you do for a World Cup, in season structure and everything else," McGeechan said.

"I think the Lions deserve that. These players have proved, if you look at how they see the Lions jersey and the support out there, that you should give it a fair chance."

A brief contemplation of which players the next Lions coach might be working with could be enough to tempt him for one (more) last hurrah.

This 2009 squad arrived in South Africa with arguably only one genuinely world-class player in Brian O'Driscoll, and still very nearly toppled the world champions.

They leave it with a clutch of players who, if not in that category already, will be close to being regarded so if they continue to build on their progress here.

Fitness and form permitting, it would be a surprise if Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Jamie Roberts and Mike Phillips were not in the Lions backline four years hence.

Welsh front-rowers Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees and Adam Jones all enhanced their reputations, while Alun-Wyn Jones, Stephen Ferris, Tom Croft and Jamie Heaslip should all be at their peak in 2013.

Young guns such as Luke Fitzgerald, Keith Earls, Leigh Halfpenny and James Hook should be also the richer for having experienced a Lions tour at a tender age.

Could the peerless Brian O'Driscoll be tempted back for the 2013 tour?

Even some of the older stagers such as O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell, inspired by the example of Simon Shaw, may be tempted to try to keep going for one last shot at a series victory.

But if the Lions are to roar again, they also need the country hosting them to treat them as a precious sporting commodity rather than just a money-spinning one.

Commercially, there is no doubt the Lions are a huge cash cow for the country they visit, and the dangers of over-exploiting have been brought home here.

The average attendance across all 10 matches in South Africa, including the three Tests, was just under 35,000.

But while the first four games featured a couple of close shaves and two try-laden wins featuring the majority of what would become the Lions Test XV, they were also notable for less-than-half-full grounds and host teams weakened by the absence of their top players, who the Springbok management kept under wraps.

Both detracted from the spectacle, and will form a key part of the discussions the Lions board will hold with the Australian Rugby Union before 2013.

Lions chief executive John Feehan admits it is "a case of persuasion rather than force" when it comes to the issue of whether the Wallabies stars will feature against the visitors in the provincial games.

"We will be pointing out to them that it is in everyone's interests - the Lions and the host union - to play the full range of players," he said.

Not only would it help the tourists in their preparation for the Test matches, it may also offer a greater incentive for local fans to pay the higher prices inflicted by host unions on supporters attending Lions matches.

It was only in the fifth match of this tour against Western Province, a week before the first Test, that an influx of fans made it feel like a 'proper' Lions match.

While 230 Rand (£18) a ticket for that game might seem reasonable to those of us attending sporting events in the UK, it was three times the normal price at Newlands.

When it came to the Test series, tickets were 1150 Rand (nearly £90), when the previous highest the South African Rugby Union had charged, for last year's Tri-Nations Test with New Zealand, was 450 Rand (£35).

"It is fair to say they got the strategy wrong," Feehan said. "Quite frankly, they over-priced it. I think they took for granted that since the Lions were here, the stadiums would be full. But most of our fans turn up for the last two or three weeks."

While accurate figures are hard to come by, Feehan estimates that "well over 30,000" Lions fans attended games before Saturday's final Test, when more arrived.

Lions shirts have been de rigueur for their fans in South Africa

With virtually every one of them wearing a replica shirt, the Lions expect to turn over a "reasonably significant" profit from the tour. " I am sure each of the home unions will be very happy to share in the benefits," as Feehan put it.

So should the Lions play more or less games than 10? The former seems unlikely given the increasing physical demands on players, so there may be merit in two-time Lion Keith Wood's suggestion of "a seven-match tour, all Saturdays, four big warm-up games followed by the three Tests."

Then again, you may share the view of Lions scrum coach Graham Rowntree, who believes removing midweek matches would "take away one of the true values and the actual spirit of the tour".

"The Lions must go on in its full entirety and that must include mid-week games," he said.

Whatever the future holds in terms of matches, one thing is clear. Wherever the Lions play, and however often, their crimson army of supporters will be there in droves.

As someone (hopeandrugby) said on this blog on Friday: "There is no other sporting event in the world where 30,000 supporters follow a team for three weeks solid no matter what the results are. Long live the Lions ethos and let's start planning for Aus."

Couldn't agree more. See you all again in 2013.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    "Long live the Lions" indeed! no true rugby fans could have watched the rugby of the last five weeks and fail to be moved by the occasion AND the sporting spectacle! for me there has been no drab moment in the whole tour, and I eagerly await 2013, when we play (and beat!) the Aussies!

    British and Irish Lions Forever!

  • Comment number 2.

    The Lions is one of the greatest sporting traditions of all time. Agree with Geech absolutely, it is right up there along with the World Cup. Over the last month we have witnessed a feast of rugby excellence, yes we lost the series but that's no reason to discontinue the fantastic event. We now see what raw and exciting new rugby talent we have in our 4 home nations, we should, under the right management give the Aussie's a run for their money. Yet again I cannot emphasize enough how impressed I was with Geech running the show. Regardless of what he says I reckon he would love the chance to lead the Lions in 2013, and I for 1 would be behind him all the way.

    British & Irish Lions Forever!

  • Comment number 3.

    Long live the Lions, I am looking forward to travelling with them in 2013. What an experience !!!!!

  • Comment number 4.

    Without doubt this whole series was great entertainment, and at the end of the day, that's what sport has to be or otherwise people will not bother to watch it on TV let alone travel to other side of the World and pay for all related expenses incurred. So the Lion's tour has definitely passed that test. However, it will only be entertaining if the games played remain competitive, who wants to watch a game that is a foregone conclusion. And it is on this point that I have concerns. After a very long and arduous season the players are meant to come together for a short period and perform well enough to beat a SH team that in normal circumstances has played together for a lot longer than any Lions team. These Lions have played above the expectations of many - just rewind to some of the blog posts here before the test got underway. In my humble opinion, if the whole squad had perhaps just a month longer preparation then they could well have won the series - the 3rd test win may well have been testament to the fact that by this time they had played together long enough to properly gel and play as well as they did. Indeed, I suspect that the management did not know their best team until the conclusion of the 3rd test. I am not saying that the team that played in the 3rd test was the best team that could have played because injuries had already ruled out some players that would have undoubtably featured. I know it is all 'water under the bridge' but that 3rd test left me thinking that the side chosen for the first test might have been quite different with the benefit of hindsight.
    In conclusion: wrap the squad up in cotton wool and give them at least another month of preparation, especially in the professional era when the rigours of a hard season takes such a physical toll.

  • Comment number 5.

    I don't even know why there is a debate. Have people looked into how difficult it is to win test matches away from home?

    Take the world champions, South Africa for example. Since the game turned professional post RWC95 they have played Aus and NZ 30 times away from home and have won.......... only 4 times. Thats a win percentage of 13%.

    The Lions have Played 12 matches in that time and won 4. Alright, its not perfect and we should have won more but thats a far better record than SA have in terms of winning percentage away from home against the other two traditional lions series opposition and the lions is not even an established side....

    The lions do not have the luxuries of time to build their side and relationships between players and management.
    This has been a great series regardless of the fact we lost the series. Long may they continue.

  • Comment number 6.

    After the series in New Zealand the was a danger that the Lions would become a defunct institution. But, even with a series loss this time round the players and the fans showed how the spirit of rugby is still alive in the professional era and I think most of the thanks goes to Ian McGeechan and Gerald Davies.

    http://therugbyunion.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    it raises the question why wouldnt a great britain football team work at the olympics. i meen there is still a healthy rivalry between the teams yet the can still perform well as a team.

  • Comment number 9.

    Obvious answer......... they will! And hopefully it will be an emphatic win against the Aussies!

    Have to say the ideal seems to be Geech being selected for the next Lions tour in good time, ie. 2 years before.... hopefully, a few domestic and international duties could be amended in order to help the preparation of the Lions??

  • Comment number 10.

    Of course the Lions should go on. Most of all because I was thinking about going next time - and if Geechs can be persuaded to carry on then he should be given the job now.

    The Lions should be given precendence like the world cup - let the season fit around the Lions to give them the maximum opportunity and rest.

    As for the comment about BoD being the only world class player upon arrival - most people probably had Lee Byrne down as the worlds best full back and Shane Williams was the reigning world player of the year. Ok neither lived up to it but you were talking pre-arrival.

  • Comment number 11.

    I think this series has completely reinvigorated the Lions and proved they can compete with the worlds best even with little preparation time. The series could have gone either way and in fact either side could have won 3-0, so that shows the competition.

    Geechs and Davies have done an unbelieveable job and repaired the debacle of 2005.

    The Lions will live on.

  • Comment number 12.

    I understood this discussion after the NZ tour, which I felt was nothing short of embarrassing.
    But, what has been clearly evident throughout this tour, both on and off field and through media commentary, that the players still regard this as something very important- indeed the pinacle of their careers. The fans are passionate and united, indeed no other team could command such loyalty and passion for just five weeks every four years, irrespective of results! I believe that this is particulary important when you consider the possible negative effect Clive Woodward's circus of 2005 may have had.
    In my opinion, therefore, it is unthinkable that the Lions should be disbanded! Rather planning, as has already been stated on this blog, should start two years out- with, and to bring in another big rugby argument, a mini series against Argentina. This, I believe, would be beneficial to all parties involved and would provide the team with a platform to become as competitive as we all desire them to be.

  • Comment number 13.


    Lets not forget how difficult it is to go to the southern hemesphere and win a series, no matter who you are. What the Lions manage to do in a matter of weeks is amazing, and thats why people watch. History shows that on average the Lions win one series in four, which considering the last series win was in South Africa 12 years ago, means we are due a win in Australia in 2013. Look at the determination of the players, people who have put everything on the line to be there, the fans who have paid large ammounts of money, in a credit crunch, to travel to SA to support their team. I dont think these people want to see the Lions tour disapear to the history book.

    Dave

  • Comment number 14.

    oddly enough, the only time the concept of the lions is really questioned is following a series loss. this was a series that we could have and should have won, or at the very least drawed. for me its the greatest 4 yearly sporting event, eclipsing the olympics, footy and rugby world cup.

    the lions remains financially viable and has massive home and away support, both on the ground and via TV coverage. its such a special event for players and the fans of both sides. while this is the case the brand lions will live on.

  • Comment number 15.

    There seems to be a lot of people complaining about the domestic season being too long. This coupled with all the international events makes a Lions tour almost a chore at the end of a long season. Here's my solution for the years that there is a Lions tour, do we really need summer tours, on a national level as well? I would vote no. I do genuinely believe an extra 2 weeks maybe even 10 days in preparation could have made the difference this time. Taking away the summer tours would have given the guys plenty of time to recover in time for the new season as well.

    Thoughts?

  • Comment number 16.

    So another Lions tour ends. Some great games, some mediocre games with mediocre players and of course all the carping about "brutal Boks"etc etc. One question,considering that size for size, man for man, conditioning etc there was not a lot in it in terms of physical specimens, so why were so many NH players crocked?

  • Comment number 17.

    What really makes the Lions ethos appeal to me is the fact that the players spend a couple of months a year trying to tear each other's heads off and then, by combining in the spirit that shone through throughout the tour, demonstrate the true fellowship of the game. Caan you imagine a soccer Lions.....? No, I thought not!

  • Comment number 18.

    Fair enough No 10 (LiveFastTriYoung). I guess I was thinking of British and Irish players who would have been stand-out candidates for a World XV in comparison to the Boks, who probably had half a dozen (Matfield, Botha, Burger, Du Preez, De Villiers, Habana) at the outset.

    But agree Byrne is definitely up there among the world's top full-backs on the basis of his form over the last two years. Just a shame, after his three displays earlier in the tour, that we didn't get to see him at his best in the Tests, after his foot injury. But then Kearney wouldn't have come in and shown what a fabulous player he is too. One of several who really developed into serious players at the highest level. Great that Shane also belatedly showed the class that made him World Player of the Year.

  • Comment number 19.


    Most commentators are agreed that the Lions need to play better quality warm-up games. A 'home' Test against Argentina, Georgia or Romania, before departure is one idea.
    Another is to make a couple of stops on the way to Australia. Canada, the USA and the Pacific Islands would all love to play a Test against the Lions, and the Lions could do their bit for developing rugby.
    Perhaps a game in Japan, against a combined team from Japan, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji?

  • Comment number 20.

    What a series! This was the best rugby I've seen for a long long time, even if it got a bit dirty at times but that just illustrates the passion felt by the players.
    A friend and I have decided that we'll be attending the next Lions series in Australia, so we've started saving £30 a month towards it so that by the time it comes around we'll have enough to have a great couple of weeks.

    Well done to the lads and let's look forward to the Oz series :)

  • Comment number 21.

    One of the world's least read books :

    Great communication skills and leadership qualities - by Peter de Villiers

    This - eye gougeing, yellow cards and the odd fistfight aside - The BIL tour was a great event here in SA. Fantastic rugby from corner to corner - congrats to Ian McGeechan and team for a good series. Rob Kearney is just brilliant! BOD and Riki Flutey fantastic !
    Marty - Stormers supporter

  • Comment number 22.

    I can't imagine the Lions NOT going on. Especially if someone can persuade Geech to step up yet one more time. He manages to gel the players from 4 nations so well, that even in such a short time, they gave the Boks a good run for their money. Fantastic stuff. If only he'd been in charge in 2005! Maybe not a series win in NZ, but at least a competitive series, as we had quite a few good players (that didn't make the test sides!)

    Next time though, give the lads a chance - no more should a good chunk of the squad be involved in European cup finals the weekend before the jet off, and arrive in the host nation to find them playing a big cup final there (so denting attendance and interest locally). All it takes is a bit of thought and planning surely!

  • Comment number 23.

    The Lions will go to Oz - and if Ireland and Wales keep strong and England keep up the progress AND Scotland find their spirit - they will be one helluva team.

    I have said before, if Lions want more games, perhaps they should look at taking in some Emerging Nations on the way. A warm-up with Namibia may have been good. Going to Oz via Pacific Islands/ Japan or Argentina/Uruguay...

    Takes a big move for the IRB to look beyond the big 8 though it would seem

  • Comment number 24.


    The Lions tour was brilliant. British and Irish fans were fan-tastic. I would love to have seen all the Springboks playing for their relevant sides. It is, however, slightly arrogant to tell home nations who they should pick. It is impossible. These days the home sides will go into camp, as do the provinces. You can not expect the top players then to flit between the sides and take somebody else's place and disrupting preparations. Certainly in SA there are a lot of political selections. It is bad enough juggling the national team around the present restraints.

    As for 4 years hence I can't see Aussie providing more than 4 strongish provincial teams. Where they will get the mid-week games from is anybodies guess. Could be a short tour!!!

  • Comment number 25.

    I think Ian McGeechan is such a fabulous leader in many ways. Not least his grace in defeat and his humility in victory. He was wonderfully mirrored by O'Connell, a super match-up.

    Anybody got any idears on the first 15 for Oz? Here's a starting point and it ain't looking too bad. There should be 4/5 breakthroughs between now and then, granted.

    15 - Kearney
    14 - Bowe
    13 - BOD
    12 - Roberts
    11 - Halfpenny
    10 - It's a lottery at this stage, maybe Cipriani/Sexton
    9 - Phillips
    8 - Heaslip
    7 - Help
    6 - Ferris
    5 - AWJ
    4 - Kennedy
    3 - Murray
    2 - Help (Don't say Ford)
    1 - Healy



  • Comment number 26.

    This was the most fantastic rugby playes by the Lions. Can't wait for th mext series. The Lions need to win the respect of the Southern hemisphere teams - that means winning. Lets face it - the Springboks won in spite of their coach. They were hammering the Lions in the 1st ets until they sent on their replacements. They used the 3rd test as a trial for the Tri Nations. Read their blogs. In Australia and NZ the Lions are not treated as serious competition. Read their blogs. The player base among the the Brits & Irish is far higher - yet the North has only won one world cup. The quality of the players down below is far higher. We need to close the gap. One way is to have the Lions tour every two years. By bringing the best players from the Brits & Irish ever 2 years the players can learn and test their mettle against the South, then bring back what they learnt to the North. Another solution would be to replace the International autumn tests - create the Lions team to play against the visitng southern hemisphere teams. We need to close the gap. Winning is what counts. This may not be romantic enough for the Traditionalists. The Lions have won 4 test series in the last 38 years - not good enough. The North have won one world cup in 6 attempts. Not good enough. Long live the Lions.

  • Comment number 27.

    'Lions chief executive John Feehan admits it is "a case of persuasion rather than force" when it comes to the issue of whether the Wallabies stars will feature against the visitors in the provincial games.'

    Why so? Argentina have already made clear they want to host a Lions tour, and I'm sure there are plenty of other teams beyond the traditional three that would jump at the chance. For us to say "no warm-up Wallabies, no tour" might be a bit unrealistic, granted, but we do have *some* leverage. And personally, I would love to see the Lions taking on other teams. This last month has probably been the most thrilling sporting contest I've ever seen, and I will continue to wear my red shirt with pride!

    Anyone else reckon this Lions team would've hammered the Aussies?

  • Comment number 28.

    I loved the Lions once again. It will always have a future. It must surely make money. And whilst the organisers and management did their hardest to undermine this time round it still came out a complete success. The BBC coverage was fairly pathetic as normal these days, but all these negatives didn't detract.

    I did not have access to Sky and watched the games live online through a South African tv station. So I got the Bok perspective and at the end of the final test, they had nothing but praise for the Lions tour - they loved it.

    And the next time the Lions in South Africa they will not have a clown in charge who dumbed down the tour as just another one. Removed the boks from the Provincial games, and the organisers jacked up ticket prices.

    But what a tour it was.

    However, the Lions should be given more of a chance - the Tours need to be longer. There needs to be better planning around the end of the season games, and access to players needs to be better managed.

    I would also like the BBC to actually have some Rugby coverage.

    But what this tour did show is that the Lions can be competitive, well supported, well accepted and completely unique.

    Long live the Lions.

  • Comment number 29.

    Firstly, long live the lions... I was there in Oz for the decider and it was an amazing experience. We'll be there again next time - if there is to be one.

    I believe Geechs to be a very good people manager. The team seemed to like him. But that's the feedback from those who played. I wonder what the ones who didn't get a chance feel.

    Squad and team selection had a v strong Welsh bias - not surprising with the Welsh management team and Gerald Davies on board.

    Given that Wales finished 4th in the 6 nations and their star players showed poor form leading up to and including the series, it left a sour taste in the mouth of fans everywhere... it was even an embarrassment for Welsh fans that S Williams had more chances than anyone else despite his woeful form - well apart from 20 minutes in the final test...

    I'd favour a panel of selectors from each country and maybe someone of more strength than Geechs.

    It seemed that most of the Welsh 1st team actually travelled and Gatland got a chance to work on his under performing stars and got them to train with players who did show form.

    I wonder, in this professional era, what the likes of D'Arcy, O'Callaghan and other more mature players who had good seasons, what must their personal and professional pride tell them about future Lions trips.

    No doubt the youngsters that travelled and got to experience the Lions will be better for it. If they're not discouraged because they got so few opportunities.

    I feel sorry for the Scottish lads who showed good form and were as competitive as they have been in the 6 nations for quite a long time... Where was their representation/voice.

    I'd be in favour of a development side also travelling to Oz alongside the 1st team. Put some of that hefty profit back into grass roots.

    There was the potential for a fantastic young team this time who would have benefited from a trip this yr and maybe even become 1st teamers for Oz in 4 yrs time...

    I realise I've got a really strong Irish bias above - which in a way proves my point... but I know there will be a lot of agreement that there were a lot of lads on really good form that got left behind or didn't get into the test team because this Summer was more about a Welsh training camp than winning a Lions series...

    I'd rather have had Irish boys that never stood a chance of playing training/travelling with the the Churchill Cup team to improve our boys, than to see how badly they got treated on tour.

    I've got a radical idea... how about the top 4 nations in the 6 nations taking on the Tri nations & Argentina in a round robin tournament every 4th yr. Or maybe top 2... Kinda of like a champions league.

    Unless the selection policy for the Lions improves, then I can't see a future for the Lions. This tour was a huge improvement on Woodwards English biased team in 2005, but further changes are necessary.

    Team for Oz... Ruggerblogger, I like most of your team, but how about these... Trying for 2 players per position for a squad... Again, i am familiar with the form of mainly the Irish/English lads - so few Welsh lads stood out this yr. So few actually that the Scottish lads left behind deserved better treatment.

    15 - Kearney/Byrne/Robinson
    14 - Bowe/Evans
    13 - Earls/Hipkiss/Evans/Henson
    12 - Roberts/Turner Hall
    11 - Halfpenny/Fitz
    10 - Sexton/Hook/
    9 - Dixon/Peel
    8 - Heaslip/Haskell/Ryan Jones
    7 - O'Brien/Strokosch
    6 - Ferris/Croft - How old is Jonathan Thomas?
    5 - AWJ/Toner
    4 - Kennedy
    3 - Murray
    2 - Cronin/Hartley/
    1 - Healy


    Struggling in the pack, but the backs have so many options. Imagine the team of youngsters we could have fielded this time around.

  • Comment number 30.

    The reason why I'd argue the Lions aren't relevant anymore is less because of the tour itself and more the politics associated with it joining together the nations of Ireland and Britain.
    There's a lot of tension between fans of both those nations, and they definitely aren't cheering on the Lions in harmony with supporters cheering their nations players and often times complaining at the inclusion of another nations players.

    I don't really think the connection between Ireland and the UK is what it once was and I certainly can't get my head around the idea of supporting a fusion of nations.

    If it was an all British team, I'd understand or all European team. At least there'd be common ground among all supporters for getting behind the team, but as is I don't think there is.

  • Comment number 31.

    I'd just like to go back to the points from Keith Wood and Graham Rowantree about future tour formats. Before I do that I'm sure most agree that its a given that host unions must make top class players available and that the tour itself should be planned 2 years in advance with domestic seasons shaped around the Lions. The absolute key is ensuring that the tour management have all been lions and have demonstrated that they completely buy-in and uphold the tradition and culture (coaching ability is also important!) so hopefully we can avoid any 2005 repeats.

    That said, I think a degree of change has to be embraced as Sir Clive attempted (but got horribly wrong). Sure mid-week games are part of the Lions tradition but the intense physicality of modern rugby is not. Players have to be given time to recover and so without recovery, you won't get the players and without the players...

    So maybe Keith Wood is right? Being a hugely successful player he should know afterall. Something like the Lions can only survive if it remains true to its values and heritage but still refreshes itself so that it can remain relevant and fit in with the modern world.

  • Comment number 32.

    The Lions concept is certainly more relevant now than it was in the summer of 2005 after Woodward did his absolute best to destroy every part of the great tradition.

    Roll on 2013.

  • Comment number 33.

    Smurfsdabomb - I have to say, I completely disagree with you. Rugby does and should have very little to do with geopolitics. Following your argument, The Irish team should be split into 2 rugby nations.
    I watched the second test in my local Irish club and the atmosphere was electric, with people extolling the virtues of Shaw, Jenkins and other non-Irish players with no issue.
    Don't get blindsided by the opionions on the internet. Every fool in the world posts on the internet, but go and ask a true rugby fan about the Lions and you'll get a pretty unanimous answer.
    I'm not sure if you're a regular rugby follower, but every 6N game I've been to has involved great deal of camaraderie with the opposition fans. I've loved my days out in Edinburgh, London, Dublin and Cardiff. Look back to the likes of Ireland V England 1973 and see how the game of rugby can rise above political and myopic nationalistic rivalries. It's one of the reasons it is such a great sport.

  • Comment number 34.

    I'm a bit divided on the Lions. On one hand it's great to see the fans and players come together from the 4 unions. It clearly is a memorable experience for both players and fans alike and in one sense would be a shame to leave that tradition behind.

    On the other, it seems that we really are just celebrating mediocrity. 4 Series wins is a pretty poor return and I would bet my house on an equivalent Southern Hemisphere team picking up more then that in the same timeframe, even if they were to tour the strongest home union each 4 years. If we can barely get 1 union to win a series down south, how do we expect a mish mash of a team to do it whilst giving them less time? I know people will say thats the magic of the Lions but if you don't include the last test which was a dead rubber, the Lions have only 1 match that actually meant anything in the last 3 tours. I realise that winning isn't the be all and end all, but surely in a sporting contest it has to be a fairly important issue. I certainly feel the Lions have a place in the rugby calendar, not least because of the money they generate, and fully understand the sentimental value of the Lions tradition, but as a genuine sporting contest I just don't see what's so special about it. We may win a few tests here and there and may possibly snatch a series once in a while but by and large will finish second best. Heroic Failure is still failure after all.

    And Lee Byrne is world class? Not a chance. Just goes to show how that word is overused. My understanding of that world class is someone who would be considered one of the best 2 or 3 players in his position in the world. Hernandez, Traille, Muliaina and Steyn are all better IMO (and thats off the top of my head) and doubt anyone outside of Wales would include him in a world team. He is a fine player and may develop into a world class player but hes not there yet. (Cue Welsh hysteria)


  • Comment number 35.

    Well Just back from Tests 2 & 3. A couple of quick observations for the future. The money men nearly ruined this tour. Even McGeechan dissapointingly talkig about the number of fans making good business sense re merchandising etc. £200 for a ticket via England Rugby Travel compared to a £12 local ticket at Ellis Park sticks in my throat a bit. Stop taling the pi** out of us. On a better note the South Africans were, generally great and very sporting. So much so my boy now has a new rugby top and we have a new team to support once our own are out of a tournamnet. Ons Vir Jou Zuid Africa.

  • Comment number 36.

    I think that the Lions tour was an opportunity for a lot of people to remember rugby values from the pre-professional era.

    But I still think that the real problem with sporting performance in the UK comes from the fact that there is too much of a gentleman and players approach.. A few "odd" children of school age aspire to be players for various reasons- often from a family tradition- but the vast majority of the population aspire to be "gentlemen of leisure"..

    Every so often you can see it in some players at key moments, that moment of hesitation "Why am I doing this? Why am I giving myself such a hard time? Everyone else has got it right.. Why should I be bothered?"The people that I know just think that I am marvellous anyway because they think that I am much better than they could ever be...

    It seems that most of the SH countries have a much stronger outdoor and sporting culture than we have over here; and, though I have heard French players talk about the hard work put into training in English rugby clubs, the French now appear to have a much more varied passion for sport's activities than we do in Britain.

    I annoyed many people last year on the 606 Rugby site by asking "Have We Changed a Nation of Winners and Losers for one Just of Losers?- when I pointed out that the divisive nature of Thatcherism did seem to coincide with the production of the English generation that won the RWC and the Ashes.

    Mind you, this seems to go back a long way. Lord Montgomery wrote in his memoirs how he came back from Tasmania as a teenager as a "typical colonial"-- that is with a basic fitness from a healthy outdoor lifestyle. Having never played team games before, within a couple of years he was captain of both rugby and cricket at St.Paul's School. So it was quite natural for him , when given a command in England after Dunkirk, to insitute a compulsory fitness regime for all ranks.

    His philosophy was that you can not demand levels of performance and dedication from the men that you send into a conflict, when you do not make the same demands on yourself- at least proportionately.

    After all what we have seen in many sports is that you just cannot pay professional players enough to play their hearts out in international matches. Especially in rugby and cricket, the intensity levels that players encounter is much higher than in other competitions. .. I await to see whether our South African pair at the crease for England can save the Test match tomorrow.

  • Comment number 37.

    Good discussion generally.

    I was at the 2nd and 3rd Tests which were tremendous social occasions before during and after the games. A lot of relieved SA fans, many who wished their coach to be changed.. politics me thinks.

    In between and after enjoyed 5 fabulous days of golf in the midst of the SA winter .... which brings me to my point..

    I believe one of the major factors between the Southern and Northern hemispere in sports terms..... are the weather conditions.

    I believe that in general our Southern hemisphere brothers get much more advantageous conditions to train and learn their sports .. I'm talking particularly about SA, Aussie and NZ of course, where they can get better training weather for a much longer period each year.

    Hence also possibly one reason our cricket is also sadly lacking. (I'm looking at the ashes scorecard last day...

    There was no splits between any of the nationalities on tour... all mixed very well together.. so that's a bit of a red herring.

    Would contend that 7 weeks on tour is more than enough for any team, but the idea of doing a mini tour en-route to the likes of Argentina, USA, Canada and Japan has a lot of pluses in that it broadens the brand, gives the opportunity for warm ups and trials and could be a huge boost to developing further rugby in those countries.

    Also not playing mid week games could make life rather boring for a lot of players remembering there is more than one and ahalf 'squads' to get match practice.

    Up the Lions - See you in Aussie.

  • Comment number 38.

    On the SA pricing policy - which along with not picking stronger Provincial teams had a disastrous effect on local support, particularly for the warm up matches.

    I believe the SA authorities tried to engender additional club support by their pricing policy.. whereby if you became a club member aligning yourself to your 'local' team then you were able to obtain much cheaper tickets than the general price available for Lions fans - or any casual SA fans which I believe was Sterling 90 per ticket.

    If you was charged 200 a ticket who is the one ripping you off - the travel agent or the SA Rugby Union.

    I believe their may have been some concessions made on price to SA fans for the last test at Ellis Park (Coca Cola Park!!!) because with the series won their would not have been too much enthusiasm to fill the stadium at 90 per head.

    I note that in the Concaf Soccer finals played at the same stadium the day after the 3rd Test, the ground was full to capacity for both the SA 3rd and 4th place play off with Spain - and then again with a separate set of supporters for Brazil v USA final.

    The support was there - but it seems they may have screwed up on implementation. It would be interesting to note how many "New Members" clubs gained as a result of the Lions tour.

  • Comment number 39.

    The lions tour is one of the truly great sporting events to be played. It must be amazing to be at a venue when the lions play. Not forgetting that all lions matches are away fixtures and yet we still manage to beat most of the opposition of the world. Long live the Lions.

  • Comment number 40.

    long live the lions

  • Comment number 41.

    This is the first lions tour I've been following religiously and I've loved it. The others during my lifetime I've taken an interest in but never really followed it as I have this one. I couldn't imagine there not being another one. Just imagine the kids watching there first lions tour at home with their parents and loving it, then there never being one again. Plus those people who have always wanted to go to one bujt never had the chance for one reason or another. I don't think the concept should be taken for granted.

    The only people who don't want it to continue are those that don't truly understand it. The lions tour was top quality rugby and the more top quality rugby the better I say.

  • Comment number 42.

    I disagree with everyone. I have to question the place of a team like the lions in todays modern game. The last three tours have only helped increase the reputation and ego's of the southern hemisphere teams. All rugby player have to do today is train and play, and they are paid very well for it. I think we should be expecting the individual countries in the UK to travel south and win by themselves. France did it this summer. The southern hemisphere teams would never make a combined team to come and play us, they rate their individual teams to high.

  • Comment number 43.

    You do indeed, flyingrobcardiff!

  • Comment number 44.

    Have now been on the last 4 x Lions Tours and, to be honest, after 1997 I thought to myself "why have I never done this before?". It is a fabulous and unique tour bringing together all the supporters of Wales, England, Scotland & Ireland regardless of the representation in the squads. Long may it continue....already weighing up the camper van options for Oz.

    Only ever gripe is that, having to go through a stringent application process via my local Weslh rugby club for 6-Nations (or other) tickets, how can these so-called "official" rugby travel agents get away with charging the prices that they do?

    I have never used any of these agents for any of the 4 x Lions tours I have been on and it has always worked out cheaper than the prices they project for me and my compatriots to plan & book everything, including match day tickets, ourselves.

    Surely the respective rugby unions can intervene and control the ticket allocation and just leave these rip-off agents to deal with travel, accommodation and their hand-holding tours when they get there.

    I love the travelling and meeting of fellow rugby fans from all corners of the British Isles, not to mention our hosts, and thrive on the Lions spirit that is apparent everywhere except in ticket distribution.

  • Comment number 45.

    There is no way that the Lions should ever be discarded. In these days of big money sports where tradition takes a back seat to sport, the Lions tours continue promote all that is best in sport. That players from 4 different countries can come together and produce such heart-warmikng displays should make us all proud to support the greatest game on the planet. I would just add that it should be noted that the only test won in South Africa was the only one in which a Scot played. To Ian and the rest of the selection commitee - you need Scots to provide the passion in these games!!! Hopefully this lesson will be learnt for Oz.

  • Comment number 46.

    I don't understand how any rugby fan would want the Lion's tours to be abandoned. The recent tests have produced the most exciting rugby for years - better even than the world cup. I can't help but feel that the most pressure to stop these tours is coming from the English press - this hasn't got anything to do with the lack of English players fielded in the test sides has it?

  • Comment number 47.

    I am a rugby fan and think that the Lions are a thing of history, a great history. However this tour should be the last, the professional game has moved rugby to a place where there is no room for Lions tours. Let them go and lets remember how great a game rugby was before money and all that got a hold of it.

  • Comment number 48.

    The only other sport that has a spectical of this scale is Golf and your don't hear calls for that being stopped as the players are paid too much, Rugby has some way to go to catch up! It quirky, historic, doesn't fit in with the way the seasons are structured, but we have GOT to keep it!

  • Comment number 49.

    With the ten-match schedule, the Lions still did not get their best team on the pitch for the first test (wrong in up to 5 positions), so some mechanism would have to be put into place pre-tour to aid selection if it were to be a seven-match tour. Haven't a clue what that should be - don't fancy the idea of the forwards battering hell out of each other for Brownie Points......

  • Comment number 50.

    To read these posts does anyone out there actually realise that we lost the first 2 tests and therefore the series before the waste of time third test ??? Boks had whitewashed us so no wonder didnt turn up for last test; saving their main players for the awesome test match v All Blacks last week. Dead rubbers mean nothing.

    On top of losing all 3 in NZ 4 yrs ago and the last 2 in Oz 8 yrs ago we need to go back to first test in 01 for us to win a test that matterred - yes I was there in Oz.

    Geech wasn't a success; his bizarre selections and inability to change the disaster that was Vickery in first test showed he's well past his sell by date.

    Expect another beating in 4 years time - however it will be a great trip as Aussies best hosts and it's an amazing country - just dont expect to see a winning test match (that matters) ever agin.

  • Comment number 51.

    I for one would love to see the Lions playing more regularly - perhaps every second season. As things stand, they won't be back in RSA till 2021, a ridiculously long timescale.

  • Comment number 52.

    After having read all of the above posts, the case for the Lions continuing is overwhelming. Everyone loves the excitement of the picking of the team: who will make it from MY country? And when the squad is picked, it's OUR team - everybody gets behind them. Phil Vickery is a case in point: he messed up. Was substituted. Was slated as past it. Injuries reared their ugly heads over the horizon, and back he came! Did a great job! Lions spirit.. Ask every pro rugby player what they dream of: injury-free career/success at club or regional level/international honours/participation in the World Cup/Lions Tour! Long may it continue!

  • Comment number 53.

    Now that SA have beaten the All Blacks in two tests in a row and by a bigger margin than they beat the Lions, should the press be calling for the disbandment of the Pacific Island team that is the All Blacks, as they are too weak and don't have enough time to come together for international rugby!!!!!

  • Comment number 54.

    The Lions is the pinnacle of British and Irish rugby. It will be a sad day indeed if it ever goes. The Lions proves and confirms that while rivalries exist within rugby, the brotherhood that exists between all players and fans is the real force. Long live the Lions.

  • Comment number 55.

    Having been lucky enough to travel to many major sporting events around the world including World Cup Finals, World Championship boxing in Las Vegas and various other events, I have to say the 2 British & Irish Lions Tours i've been are the best and most enjoyable events i've ever had the pleasure to witness. The atmosphere not only at the games but around the towns and cities for the duration of the tour is only matched by the camaraderie of the 4 home nations coming together and cheering on our team.

    Long may the Lions continue

  • Comment number 56.

    Do we care about England, Ireland Scotland and Wales as our national rugby teams? If we do and we want them to be potential World Champions, then they must take precedence over Lions teams. If there must be Lions tours then select the up and coming stars from all six nations to face individual Southern Hemisphere sides - every year if you like. That would really convice me that all you 'Lions fans' really believe in the brotherhood of Rugby. It is demeaning and negative for potential World Champions to be involved in this fiasco. It might be good for Scotland, Wales and Ireland who in a 100 years will never win the world cup unless they play as many games as possible against indiviual Southern Hemisphere sides - especially away from home.

  • Comment number 57.

    The only team to have benefitted from the Lions tour is South Africa. They have had a great series to sharpen their rugby whilst the "Home Nations" have benefited how?

  • Comment number 58.

    I don't think there's any doubt that the Lions tour should remain, every player wants to be selected to play for them and it allows less complete players to learn from more experienced counter parts when they would never have the chance otherwise.

    I do feel however that the number of games should be cut and specifically the midweek matches.

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