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Cross-border rivalry can help the Lions

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John Beattie | 18:41 UK time, Sunday, 9 January 2011

It would be good to have a balanced management set-up on the next Lions tour: would that mean a role for Dean Richards?

Or as I like to think of him: the man who got caught.

Crikey, I watched a strange game at the weekend where I saw one player actually motion to the referee that he thought an opposing player should be carded, and other assorted cheating going unpunished, and to think Dean Richards was the worst of the lot is a massive mistake.

He has much to offer the game. Anyway, that's not the sum total of today's topic.

Oh no, it's cross-border rivalry and what that means for the next Lions tour.

Former Harlequins director of rugby Dean Richards

Is Dean Richards worth a place on the Lions coaching staff?

A former internationalist dropped round my house the other day and said words to the effect that: "We have to re-examine the way we treat our English neighbours because, for some reason, they now dislike the Scots intensely."

Actually, he put it stronger than that.

Perhaps the annoyance is because John Logie Baird invented TV and Eastenders has now lost the plot.

Or maybe it's because John Loudon McAdam invented tarmac and John Boyd Dunlop invented the tyre and we now have a frustrating car park we laughingly call a road network.

It might just be because we have our own parliament now to create a little distance, or the fact that many MPs in Westminster are Scottish.

Worse still, it might be because we Scots claim to have invented everything from golf to penicillin and even the Bank of England.

Or maybe we celebrate wins over the English with too much vigour.

I have never hated an Englishman or anything English in my life. Your honour.

But, the next Lions manager is Andy Irvine, Ian McGeechan may get a call, Guy Richardson is to be logistics manager, the doctor must be Scotland doctor James Robson (born in Whitehaven) as there is nobody better in the world, and Andy Robinson, Scotland coach, will no doubt be involved.

Lots of Scots in management, and, of course, half the players will be Scottish. Which has to be followed full in the knowledge that, as Billy Connolly says, "Aye Right" is one of the few times when two positives make a negative.

But whatever the set-up of the Lions tour the management and coaching team has to be balanced and Andy Irvine has a task in selecting a blend of winners.

I know I sound old-fashioned but I like British and Irish people in charge of the British and Irish Lions.

There are fantastic coaches in England and Wales and Ireland, from Brian Smith and his attacking system (ex Aussie but capped for Ireland) at the international level to Richard Cockerill at the relentless Leicester. I love the way that team gets to the top of the league.

Coaches can't be in charge of an international side in the run up to a tour, so can I suggest a coaching manager role on the next Lions tour for Dean Richards.

Now remind me. Was the last winning Lions tour to Australia not in 1989? And who was in the squad? Ah, yes, Dean Richards.

So, let's hold hands across the Border, pinkie to pinkie and thumb to thumb... I'd like a coach who's an Englishmun.

Because, as they probably say every time Dean sits down to dinner, the steaks are massive.


  • Comment number 1.

    its a nice idea but i dont see it happening, at the moment all the best coaches and staff seem to be in scotland, now if we only had all the players to follow that up with...

  • Comment number 2.

    Interesting points John but there hasn't been a massive Caledonian influence on the last few Lions tours if we ignore the Doc and McGeechan.

    To be honest the idea of a Lions tour in 1989 is a far cry from whatever takes place in Australia next time. I can't help but feel there is not a great deal of mileage left in these trips.

  • Comment number 3.

    Great article John, all this in the week that Britain wins the ashes too! Bring on Deano!!

  • Comment number 4.

    Peterverdi - please, please, please, we must keep Lions tours alive. That last tour to South Africa was fantastic. J

  • Comment number 5.

    He may well be the man for the job John, you only have to look at the affect losing him had on Quinns and how long it has taken them to rebuild. Quality coach and think the RFU will be to worried by what the press will say to look his way. Though their lose could be the Lions gain.

    On another note was great to see your boy coming back yesterday he had a smashing game, just ashame about the result.

  • Comment number 6.

    A Lions tour needs great coaches and good blokes to help make the thing gel. I think that Richards can tick most of the boxes on both those criteria. The biggest problem would be that he and the team would have to face the Aussie media (and some of our own) dragging up "Bloodgate" at every opportunity and the tour management might feel it would be too much of a distraction. I can certainly see the value of having him involved in the preparations before they left the UK but, unfair as it might be, I think the negatives outweigh the positives in terms of a front line role on tour.

  • Comment number 7.

    As good as Dean Richards is as a coach, senior figures in the game are unlikely to let him become a part of something as honourable and prestigous as the lions. Deano humiliated the game of rugby in the eyes of alot of people within the rugby community. So its a good idea but i dont really see it happening unfortunatly.
    However Andy Robinson has to be involved, after the great work that he has done with Scotland really shows how good he is.
    Also John Barclay potential captain??

  • Comment number 8.

    John - Indeed it was BUT the Scottish influence on Lions tours has been virtually non existant since '97. I have to confess, and I'm not overly proud of the fact that I have found it extremely difficult to get up for a Lions test with such little Scottish contribution. Even when the Welsh and Irish were having there troubles in the 80s and 90s there were still a good deal of them involved. Tom Smith was the last genuine test player from Scotland and that was in 2001.

  • Comment number 9.

    Well, he's banned until late 2012, so he couldn't be appointed until then. So it'd be a late appointment for a Lions coach. And to be honest, I don't think the Lions would do it - taking someone who's just come back from a three year ban as the coach for the organisation that takes pride in representing the old values of rugby? Not going to happen I reckon.

    In terms of who though, it's a tough one - but Andy Robinson might be tempted to move on from the Scotland Head coaches job after another two 6Nations tournaments.

    At least this time I should be able to watch some scottish players in a Lions shirt. Mind you I thought that the last time...

  • Comment number 10.

    I'm a proud Scotsman born in Aberdeen. I support Scotland till the end! I live in England now and most of my friends are English! I enjoy the rivalry and banter but it ends on the sporting field. British Lions tours are about Britain! I'm proud to be British although i'm a Scotsman!
    I played rugby in the Texas, USA for a year and the Kiwis etc I played with slagged the English off. Now 'I' living in England and enjoying the sporting rivalry can give the English a hard time but it did annoy me when others from the otherside of the world gave them a hard time!
    I say long live the British Lions, a great tradition! On such a small island its great when we can get together. Look at ALL the successful tours in recent times and they have had a good mix of ALL nations! The last tour was a better one but there wasn't enough Scots in it! It needs a good balance!

  • Comment number 11.

    In answer to your question John; a definite and resounding, no.
    Dean Richards, as a legend and great player, had a lot to offer rugby, but he made choices for himself, and for others, which damaged him, his own future credibility and the careers of others. Just because rugby does not deal effectively with other forms of cheating prevalent in the game, does not lessen the fact Dean Richards is himself, a cheat, and a pre-meditated one at that. Nor is there any mitigation in the fact that Richards was the one who got caught.
    What message would it send on behalf of rugby if Richards was to even be considered for such a high profile role in the game. Not only that cheating is tolerated, but it is more than acceptable to win-at-all costs irrespective of who gets damaged and chewed up along the way.
    Rugby needs to be tougher on all cheats and try, even in this professional age, to promote a game where winning is born out of fair-play, sportsmanship and talent.

  • Comment number 12.

    John - good blog as usual. I think there's nae chance of that happening. As someone said earlier, it would be too much of a distraction when the Aussie media got hold of him.
    No place in the game for cheats. (also Jonnie Murphy and he did manage to get Richie Gray yellow carded....again....!)

    Rab - I agree with most of what you are saying. It's a shame more Scot's weren't on the last tour but in order to be there they need to have a good Six Nations prior to the tour, plus some good H-Cup runs. Neither happened sadly.
    One small point, it is the British and Irish Lions. I think BOD, O'Connell etc would agree.

  • Comment number 13.

    AbzAli apologies..... I have adapted my previous statement! Please see below......

    I say long live the British Lions, a great tradition! We are 2 small, close islands at the end of the day so its great when we can get together. Look at ALL the successful tours in recent times and they have had a good mix of ALL nations!

  • Comment number 14.

    Yes it needs a good mix. I was in South Africa in 2009 and had a fantastic time. The lack of Scots was disappointing but I played the pipes anyway and had great craic with all 4 nations and made many new friends. I'll be on the trip to Australia regardless of who is playing or coaching....well I draw the line at Sir Clive ;-)

  • Comment number 15.

    Ha ha! Yep bring on the Australia tour!

  • Comment number 16.

    I agree with Paul at 11.

    It is a shame that no Scots were considered good enough to be part of the last Lions test side.

    Thanks to the work of an Englishman and an Antipodean we may have some playing representation in the next Lions tour.

  • Comment number 17.

    Rab you seem to have been living a mirrored life to me, born in Aberdeen, some rugby in Texas, now back in the UK. I too used to be fine taking the mick out of English pals, but took exception when it was the americans are or people from other far away nations doing so.

    Relating to the article I tend to agreee with the general consensus that is is much easier to fully support the British and Irish Lions when there are some Scots in the test teams. I would not like to see Andy Robinson leave the Scotland job but with the success he is having I can't see him staying too long past the World Cup

  • Comment number 18.

    TexR- it must be that secret tunnel that goes underground between Aberdeen and Texas!!!!!

  • Comment number 19.

    we now have some genuine contenders for playing spots now on the tour, as well as coaches. Lamonts, all scrum halves, Johnnie Beattie, Barclay and Brown, Kellock, Hines, Ford, Murray would all go if the tour had been picked now, barring injuries!!

  • Comment number 20.


    I think that the Lions jersey is far too special to ever have Dean Richards associated with it again.

    Cheating on the field in the spur of the moment or in the heat of battle has always happened and is getting worse

    But what happened at Quins was so pre meditated that he had to know about it

    Then to hold the poor medic out to dry was just wrong and showed no class

    I would rather loose 3-0 every series but be able to shake my opponents hand and look him in the eye knowing that it was a fair contest

    would Hastings Calder Smith Brown or Geech ever have done that

    Finally John would you accept him as a part of the squad if you were still playing

  • Comment number 21.

    So much of modern sport encourages cheating so why not be 'honest' and put Richards and others of his ilk in charge and we can cheat honestly.

  • Comment number 22.

    Totally agree with Paul(11), Richards was a great player, but his actions at Quinns was premeditated cheating and they all tried to blame one another in the most pitiful way.
    He now, in my mind, has no roll in any form of rugby after the shame and disgrace he brought on our great game. His ban should be life long in my opinion.
    As for the Lions tour I've never really had much enthusiasm since 2001 due to the lack of scottish players but that might change if some could break thru.

  • Comment number 23.

    Reinstating Richards is the sort of thinking that will set rugby on the slippery slope of football.An example the sort of thing I mean was when a blatent cheat not only got away with it last weekend in football, but was feted with the accolade, 'Man of the Match'! as well!
    I would hate to see the game I have loved since a boy, which I have played, refereed and coached descend to rewarding this sort of person.
    There is no justification. I can see someone doing something in the heat of the moment and can forgive it, but this was planned, premeditated cheating. When this becomes acceptable, I will turn my back on the game forever.

  • Comment number 24.

    In my opinion no other sporting event is on par with a Lions tour and is the greatest tradition in the sporting calendar. Look at all the controversy surround the Olympic football team at 2012 - who cares I say!

    Would be a little concerned with Richards being appointed and believe there are better coaches out there - but agree they must be British/Irish.

    Regarding Scotland's squad chances, I agree this is the best position they've been in for a long time and would agree with #19's names and maybe even include Max Evans. I would also put Al Kellock forward as captain of the squad, I don't think there is a more inspirational leader in the Northern Hemisphere and he would be the ideal choice to go into battle against the Aussies!

  • Comment number 25.

    I think on the coaching side the prime candidates are probably Gatland and Edwards, given their knowledge of the players available and their experience on the last tour. I think there will be a call to McGeechan, but I suspect the outcome may well be that he believes others should now step forward. I'm sure that they would also involve Howley. That would be a New Zealander (with Welsh and Irish + Wasps history), an Englishman and a Welshman at the helm. If they could persuade someone like Mike Catt or Gregor Townsend to join the helm, then I would rate that a decent team.

    On the question about Dean Richards, I think he would do the job well, but I agree with those query whether he'd be offered the job. I have sympathy for what has happened to him, and his coaching credentials are superb, but there would be question marks over the appointment and whether his previous tallies with the spirit of the Lions.

    As for Scottish players getting involved, there should be more than last time, but we'll still be the nation with the least representatives I suspect.

  • Comment number 26.

    Hi John

    I know scrums are th bug bear of the game at the moment and wondered what you think of Brian Moores ideas that he posted during a twitter conversation with Jonathan Davies.... interesting reading. Includes points he made to a referee forum.

  • Comment number 27.

    being a proud welshman who went on the last lions tour, i agree there should be a good balance but only if players are good enough, with the exception of prob max evans who else from scotland derserved to go.

    andy robinson may be a good coach but that does not mean there should be an influx of scots just for the sake of it, if they contiune to play well then fair enough.

    long live the lions tours awsum time.

  • Comment number 28.

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

  • Comment number 29.

    Dean Richards on tour-what as-drama and special effects coach?
    And dear oh dear, people on this post are actually using the word "Great" when referring to the work done with the Scottish team by Andy Robinson! "Decent" maybe, but "Great"?
    At present, still no players in our set up good enough for a Lions tour I'm afraid (They can't score tries and have forgotten how to win).

  • Comment number 30.

    Great blog; made me chuckle!

    Not sure Dean Richards is the best role model unless he has truly mended his ways. Though John Barclay too needs to keep his cool (1872 cup) Finmac. I am concerned at the increasing and obvious cheating taking place in rugby matches it may win games but will damage rugby's reputation. Agree with Paul at 11. Let's keep rugby as a sport for all to enjoy and maybe some folks need to take up boxing instead.

    Certainly would be good to see some Scots in the British Lions. There seems to be a lot of talk of losing Andy Robinson post World Cup, when he has instilled confidence, self belief and passion back into the Scotland team. Roll on the 6 nations...

  • Comment number 31.

    Yes Andy Robinson has the team playing well but am I the only one who sees the same Scotland team as under Hadden? Right lads, don't worry about scoring tries just get close enough to the posts and get us a penalty Chris Patterson (under Hadden) or Dan Parks (under Robinson) can kick it, what we do have is a far more dogged defence so perhaps more of the credit should be going Graham Steadmans way?

    Andy did have great success with Edinburgh so I have no doubt he is a top coach but I just don't see the massive difference other folk seem to, a bit of difference but not the night and day sort of change other people seem to be mentioning

  • Comment number 32.

    John, Please talk about grass roots everyday rugby rather than the high brow name dropping guff you bring to your bloggs. Forget your cross border high flying chat. Get our house in order before talking up Scottish international rugby. We punters who pay our £10 to watch amatuer rugby week in week out are switching off to the 2 poorly managed pro teams. Your we boy will have 100% more supporters watching him play than any boring Glasgow / Edinburgh durge. Get Reai !

  • Comment number 33.

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

  • Comment number 34.

    Jim Malinder, for a coaching role guy is an amazing coach.

    Bit dissappointed that Richie Grays name hasn't been mentioned more, still a bit off but come 2013, all going well he should be a real force.

    Lets be honest Scotlands best case for inclusion player wise in the tour will be our forwards and scrum halves. Backs don't really stand a chance our try scoring record speaks for it's self.

  • Comment number 35.

    Stuart Barnes has John Barclay down for captain of the Lions tour - which sounds quite a brave statement - he is certainly the best openside in the N.Hemisphere but whether he will be captain we will have to wait and see!

    butchy09 - your point about coach bias in selection is a good one, when Henry picked far too many bad Welsh players for the last Australia tour because he knew them well - probablly cost us the series!

    I'm sure Robinson wouldn't make the same mistake - some Scottish players would be starting in any other home nations teams it's just unfortunate that others wouldn't even make the A teams (mostly the backs), that's why Scotland aren't as good as they can be.

  • Comment number 36.

    To be honest I think big Dean has been hard done by.
    As has the physio! Both careers have come to a halt while
    the plonker of a winger Williams is still playing for Harlequins!
    And its not a bad idea- nobody is putting their hand up and McGeechan
    has had his time- its time for some new ideas!

  • Comment number 37.

    Steely 260 - I have done a couple of blogs on scrummaging, I will go away and see if I can read that now

    LAwther420 - that's my point, Dean was caught out cheating.

    slackerslifestyle - it is important that there is no selection bias

    Chalmersredcard - I shall plan ahead, this blog was after a conversation with a former Lions captain who is a Scot.

    HAwkeyethejock - special effects in rugby, that's an idea

  • Comment number 38.

    If your main goal on a Lions tour is to win the test series, then you need the best coaches. I believe Martin Johnson was hired as England manager before the whole bloodgate saga. Huge mistake in my opinion. Should have been Dean Richards 100%.

    With regards to the whole Bloodgate nonsense. Yes, Dean Richards was a fool and deserved every thing he got. However, once he has served his punishment he has every right to be part of a Lions coaching team. Also, if they were to win, I'm sure we'd be willing to forget it. Just look at Dallagio.

    Regarding the Lions tours themselves, there bigger now than they've ever been. There not going any where. In fact, they may get bigger with time and include games against France, Argentina and Pacific Islands as midweek/Saturday games.

    One thing that could kill the Lions is the quality of the midweek/saturday opposition. Whilst I understand that the Australia, New Zealand and South Africa don't want there players getting injured before the test series, their best players have to play in warm-up games to make the whole tour more exciting, fill the stadiums and build up even more suspence towards the test series.

  • Comment number 39.

    The last Lions tour was a fantastic test series but the warm up games were a disgrace and I felt that the opposition had been told to break as many Lions players as possible. I also suspect had Euan Murray not hurt his ankle in the game before the first test he would have played instead of Vickery and the scrumms would have been quite different. The stark fact is that we have not had that many players good enough to play for the Lions. The tour is two six nations and one world cup away so a lot can change but I am not holding my breath that we will have that many representatives.

    Re Dean Richards. It just will not happen. He is a great coach but.........

  • Comment number 40.

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

  • Comment number 41.

    Whilst this blog does provoke comment it is extremely scottish based and somewhat unbalanced in suggesting Scottish players would make up a significant number of the squad. Whilst they have improved I wouldnt suggest that in any way they will make up most of the coaching team and playing roster.
    As for the British Lions, I feel that though it is a tradition it is now passed its sell by date and much like the barbarians something that was good in the amateur days but wasnt really something for a professional era.
    On the comments regarding England and scottish rivalry, I think the Scots make more of this than the English, its just a game and whether win or lose it doesnt make much difference. The focus should always be on winning the 6 nations and above that winning the world cup. A defeat to Scotland, Wales, Australia etc isnt a concern outside of these events.

    As for Deano being involved with the Lions it would never happen due to his history at Harlequins. Not sure who should be the lead coach as there are no real stand out selections at the moment.

  • Comment number 42.

    I hear you say you dont dislike the English John. I have read your views on NZers here before. Of course it is a very special thing to beat them isnt it? Oh, I forgot, you never have. Is this why you havent mentioned Warren Gatland as a coach?

    The last BIL tour to Oz was blighted either by having a kiwi coach or by having big headed team members who thought they were above team standards. I suspect the latter. (AH& MD and their big headedness)

    Gatland will need to do wonders with the boyo's to merit a big job with the team. If he does he should be head or senior coach. Even Jake White needed a foreigners help to win the last RWC.

    Please do keep the Lions Tours alive. Apart from the butchery to the brand and history by Sir Clive it has been fantastic sport all my life. Unlike the Olympic games it is not a 4 year wait we have till next time. It is 12 years till they come back. It would be madness to let it die out. If any future tours are half as good as the last South Africa tour it is more than worth while. I would spend my money travelling to see the games.


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