For most players, representing the British & Irish Lions is the pinnacle of their respective rugby careers and it’s not hard to see why. For representing the Lions is not only an endorsement of your own rugby credentials but it’s also an honour. You join a special list of famous players, warriors who but their heart and soul into playing for that red jersey, often in the presence of tremendous adversity.
The rugby aspects apart, the Lions Tour is special in the relationships and bonds which are generated from a players participation. All of a sudden, so-called ‘enemies’ on a rugby pitch are now your colleagues, players who you must generate a social and on-field rapport with almost out of thin air.
Of course, the modern utilisation of social media means that players from Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland are much more likely to be in communication with one another but nevertheless, the challenges almost remain the same.
But it’s not just players who feel this special connection but coaches too. Ian McGeechan represented the Lions as a player in 1974 and 1977. He also coached the Lions in 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2009 (he was the midweek coach during the 2005 tour New Zealand).
So it’s safe to say that the Lions is in his blood. McGeechan knows what it means to wear that red jersey but his head coach role in 2009 was his last involvement with the Lions in a coaching capacity at least. For anyone who has seen the Lions documentary from that Tour – you will remember the emotional speech he gave to the players on the eve of their third Test against the Springboks.
The powerful, emotive lecture just sums up what the Lions means to McGeechan and to a hell of a lot of other people as well. In McGeechan’s column for The Telegraph, the 70-year-old explains the reasoning behind his emotions during that time.
The reality that this was my last time with the Lions had hit me. It meant so much, and I knew it was the end of a very special chapter in my life, an involvement spread over 35 years.
McGeechan sums up one of the most important attributes of rugby – emotion is key.
…I have always believed that emotion is crucial in rugby. You have to love what you’re doing and hate losing. Rugby has got to be emotive, it can’t be pure science.
And for me there is nothing more emotive than a Lions Test.
Great words from a Lions legend.
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