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Lions Let Down By Their Minders ?

2nd July 2005 By Munster Rugby

Lions Let Down By Their Minders ?

Woodward must have hated to hear Laurie Mains crowing that this Lions side is the worst ever to come here. No, it’s just the worst managed and perhaps even the worst selected.

In the aftermath of the Test defeat in Wellington, the Lions players won praise for their whole-hearted performance and the manner in which they picked themselves up from the debacle that was the oening Test.

It was praise they fully deserved because the performance in Wellington was light years ahead of what we witnessed in Christchurch. The Lions gave their all, the difficulty was of course that they came up against an All Blacks side who were simply outstanding from about the 7th to the 80th minute.

On top of that, with seven newcomers from the previous week, eleven changes including posiotional. It was also an admission that Clive Woodward got it completely it wrong in the first Test. For the players it was a question of getting to know you in the course of the match. The Blacks on the other hand were playing their third consecutive game, more or less unchanged.

There is absolutely no doubt, that among the squad he brought to new Zealand, Woodward had the quality of player capable of taking on the home side. However, his selection for the first Test was roundly condemned, defeat brought wholesale changes, and an untried side suffered at the hands of arguably the best side on the planet at the moment.

The sad thing is that when he announced his side for the second test, there was huge optimism because there was an air of youth, a freshness to the side and the pity is that this side didn’t have the benefit of playing together even once before running out in Wellington.

All that aside however, when the players look back on the past three weeks they will perhaps be less than happy with the antics of their management and some of the tom-foolery they engaged in.

Prior to the opening Test you couldn’t pick up a paper without hearing Woodward talk up his own side and talk down the All Blacks. It was Get Carter time. Sir Clive told us he felt something big was about to happen

How right he was.

Then after that game and the horrible circumstances that saw Brian O’Driscoll injured, Woodward embarked on his Get Umaga campaign, by all accounts charging around with video clips sticking out of every pocket, visiting journalists in their hotels, directing a constant stream of invective towards the All Blacks captain – Kevin Mealamu’s role in the incident forgotten

Then, when Sir C ran out of steam, his assistant picked up the baton and delivered another broadside at Umaga, “We all have our own take on it, (the O’Driscoll incident),” Eddie O’Sullivan said, ” but this Lions tour will be remembered for this incident, whatever happens from here in, and that’s unfortunate.” – Hmmm ? Whatever happens from here in ? With two Tets still to go ? Now there’s confidence for you.

Then, just when the players might have needed a bit of peace and quiet, Prince William arrived and was paraded around the team hotel. – Perfect preparation one imagines for what was ahead. But at least Willie got to work on his kicking technique – Just in case he might be needed for the game against Auckland !!

In consecutive weeks, Woodward & Co. simply galvanised an already formidable opponent, each sentence uttered simply steeling the All Blacks resolve.

The person who is credited with formulating all this policy, for putting the words in Woodward’s mouth, is Alistair Campbell and Tony Blair’s former spin doctor came in for wholesale abuse in the media in the past week but particularly since the Wellington game.

The New Zealand Herald said, Campbell’s work underlines the Lions’ woes. Up until last night, the spin succeeded only in casting the Lions less as a rugby team, and more as a travelling circus, complete with clowns, monkeys, tightrope walkers, the bearded lady and a lion tamer who left his whip on the bus. Woodward must have hated to hear Laurie Mains crowing that this Lions side is the worst ever to come here. No, it’s just the worst managed and perhaps even the worst selected. There are players here who can perform at levels beyond that of the 1983 and 1966 sides. But we haven’t seen that because the coach and spinmeister have been so busy playing games of intrigue and deception that they forgot a rugby team needs game time, combinations and rhythm. It’s a cock-up of gargantuan, embarrassing proportions.

” but this Lions tour will be remembered for this incident whatever happens from here in, and that’s unfortunate.” is what Eddie O’Sullivan said.

He made this extraordinary statement on the eve of the second Test.

It’s extraordinary in that it suggests that Woodward’s assistant gave his side no chance. If the Lions had managed to turn it around in Wellington surely that is what this Lions tour would be remembered for.

If they were to turn the formbook upside down and win in Auckland, would that not be what the tour will be remembered for ?

It would appear that Woodward and Campbell have nothing to gripe about this week and the players can be thankful for that.

With minimum adjustment expected to the Test side – Shane Horgan and Ronan O’Gara introduced ? – there is a somewhat settled look to the side.

So, let Ian McGeechan and Gareth Jenkins prepare them and they can go out and show the world that they can play decent rugby.

With McGeechan and Jenkins in charge and with Carter and Mauger out, they have a fighting chance of winning.

Now if they did, wouldn’t that be what the tour would be remembered for.?


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