Jonny Wilkinson insists the British and Irish Lions need togetherness in New Zealand, to avoid a repeat of the drubbing they received there in 2005.
Former England star Wilkinson played in two of the three test matches on that tour, which the Lions lost 3-0. He revealed there was misalignment within the squad twelve years ago, which led to the team being torn apart on the field.
He then warned the squad will need to stay tight this year, for this “one-off, amazing event.”
Talking to Sky Sports, Wilkinson said:
“If there is anything not quite aligned in the way that you are training, in the spirit of the guys or wherever your mind-set is – if there is something that is not aligned perfectly, it will get absolutely torn apart on the field.
“That is what happened on that Lions tour and it didn’t take that long because there were those divisions.
“This year, it just needs to be enormously tight – much tighter than New Zealand. The Lions need to come together for this one-off, amazing event. New Zealand have been together for years and years. Those will be the two journeys that collide.
“The Lions have to draw inspiration from the fact this is six weeks of just one dream and one goal and it is never to be lived again.”
In the same interview, Wilkinson also gave his view on the captaincy issue. Coach Warren Gatland is seemingly undecided on who to appoint captain, with much speculation surrounding the topic.
Several names, including Ireland’s Rory Best, are in the reckoning. However, some bookmakers have suspended betting on Wales’ Sam Warburton as they believe he will be given the nod.
Wilkinson feels that Gatland should delay naming a captain until he’s sure of his starting lineup. He also believes the coach will not know his team until a week before the first game.
On the subject of captaincy, Wilkinson said:
“In an ideal world, you want your captain on the field where the action is for as much as possible but at the same time, as I have gotten older, I am a firm believer that no position should ever be pencilled in.
“It is not until the week before the first game that you should know your team.
“If you have made up your team now then you are judging it on the basis of a different environment to the one you are going to play in.
“You need to get out there to understand that and that is why this is so, so difficult.
“I think maybe having three or four guys in there that you know can take the role of captain. You then have a tour captain maybe. You know then that of those three or four guys, however many of them end up in the team, they are capable of doing that job.
“You cannot go out there with this idea that you have one captain. You can have one captain who is named captain but you will need another leadership group of five or six who have the same inspirational effect and are treated as captains also.”
Obviously, everyone has their own opinion on who should be in the squad and who should be captain. We will all find out Gatland’s decision when he names his squad on April 19.
Peter Reynolds, Pundit Arena