Sunday, July 10, 2005

Letter in "The Observer" 10th July 2005

Letter published in "The Observer" 10th July 2005


Sadly, after more than 100 years, I feel that we must now accept that the concept of the British Isles Lions touring team has no place in the modern game of International rugby. The first two Lions tours of the professional era, under two of the world’s best Rugby managers (Graham Henry and Clive Woodward) have proved beyond doubt that a team of players, however good, thrown together just for an overseas tour, will be no match for a fully professional National team. In the amateur rugby days of the past it was the case that there was far less team building than is the norm in the modern era. So whilst New Zealand, Australia and South Africa were somewhat more familiar with one another as a team than their Lions opponents, there was not the focused permanent squad system that characterises the modern professional age. So the Lions could often compete on almost equal terms with their opponents. Today, as the events in New Zealand have proved beyond doubt, a scratch team such as the Lions will be no match for a fully professional top International team like the All Blacks who are totally familiar with one another.

Clive Woodward I think did his utmost to try and create both team awareness and a sense of unity in his Lions squad. He should not be criticised for failing because (with the benefit of hindsight perhaps) it was never going to be possible for him to match the All Blacks as a team. The same would apply to any future tours and I would envisage that the Springboks or the Wallabies would have as little trouble in beating a Lions team as the All Blacks did.

The future of Northern hemisphere rugby has to be based only on the National teams. It is Wales, Ireland, England and Scotland who should in future be the standard bearers for British Isles rugby not the Rag, Tag and Bobtail combination of players unfamiliar with one another and gathered together only for a few weeks every four years, that is the Lions.

Patrick S Briggs