July 5, 2009
Posted on 07/05/2009
Air Force Scrum brings Lions home
As with the end of any tour, be it mini rugby or the international stage, this one ended with players and coaches embracing and offering thanks in one final, emotionally charged act of what has been a rollercoaster of a tour. Those fans lucky enough to share their flight did their best to catch one more memento on their cameras and mobile phones and the Lions were just as obliging as ever.
And so the curtain falls on the 2009 British & Irish Lions' tour to South Africa - a truly memorable experience. I've been lucky enough to travel the world writing about this sport for the last ten years but this was my first Lions tour. Tour veteran Brian O'Driscoll recently remarked that playing for the Lions is "like a drug" in the fact that you can't get enough and I have to say that having witnessed this latest tour at close quarters I can understand his sentiments.
There remains something special about the Lions and I wouldn't mind betting that those who question their place in the modern game have not had the pleasure of following their fortunes at first hand. The spirit of the Lions is infectious and now wonder head coach Ian McGeechan urged the doubters to embrace the Lions just once.
"I just wish more of those people who don't want to make time for the Lions would come out and actually experience a Lions tour," said McGeechan.
But it is not as if the Lions as a brand are dying. Estimates have varied but it is safe to say at least 30,000 fans made the trip to South Africa and with that kind of commercial clout the Lions will be back bigger and even better in four years time. Let us not underestimate the role played by the Lions' fans in keeping the brand alive. The Lions' shirt is often cited as the greatest prize for British and Irish players and it is that same famous red jersey that appeals to the fans. They admire the players that go into battle wearing it but they come and go through the years - it is the shirt itself, and what it stands for - the history, the tradition - that has the masses hooked.
The 2005 tour of New Zealand was a failure in many ways and although this year's quest also ended in a series defeat the latest batch of Lions managed to repair much of the damage done to their reputation on their last outing. For that, huge credit must go to McGeechan and his tour manager Gerald Davies. They promised to return the Lions to their traditional roots and they did just that - and in doing so made new friends and repaired strained relationships.
I hope you have enjoyed the insight I have been able to offer and that you too have been bitten by the Lions bug. The Lions are back and I for one can't wait for Australia in 2013.
Lions Tour 2009 Awards:
Player of the Tour: Brian O'Driscoll
Moment of the Tour: Ronan O'Gara's second Test cameo
Rising Star: Heinrich Brussow
Try of the Tour: Shane Williams, Lions v South Africa
Tackle of the Tour: Jean de Villiers, South Africa v Lions
Quote of the Tour: "I don't think it should have been a card at all."
Posted eddy o on 07/10/2009
odriscoll only has to turn up to get awarded something. Did you even bother to check the test stats before bleating about his superb defense? No one missed more tackles than BOD , yes, that's right... no-one! But of course, the media and it's bandwaggoners(of which you are one) have this unwritten rule that one must disregard all errors madde by the great man and ignore everything that goes wayward. in terms of media coverage, here's a tip, if you're just like everybody else,what do you have to offer. BOD man of the series......surprise surprise.
Posted Graham Jenkins on 07/10/2009
Thanks for contributing to Scrum.com.
In regards the selection of O'Driscoll as Player of the Tour I make no apologies for my choice. The views of the players and coaches I spoke to only underlined my own impressions having watched him in matches and training throughout the tour. And I also believe O'Connell's observations to be very telling. Stats do not tell the whole story.
Posted Garrett Nolan on 07/11/2009
"Tour veteran Brian O'Driscoll recently remarked that playing for the Lions is "like a drug" in the fact that you can't get enough and I have to say that having witnessed this latest tour at close quarters I can understand his sentiments."
Graham, was this before or after the great man had ditched the sinking ship and headed home, though when I read some of the stuff written about BOD, I can understand how he wanted to get himself home to where he would be treated like a mere human.
In case you didn't notice Graham, Brian O'Driscoll missed the only test the Lions won!