Bill Beaumont – "Preparation is Key"

Lions manager Bill Beaumont says the work the 2005 Lions do before they set off to New Zealand will have a key influence on the success of the tour. [more]

Bill Beaumont – "Preparation is Key"

Lions manager Bill Beaumont says the work the 2005 Lions do before they set off to New Zealand will have a key influence on the success of the tour.

For potential Lions players, the 2005 tour to New Zealand is still a long way off. For their manager, it has already begun.
 
When former Lions captain Bill Beaumont was appointed to head the party, in February 2004, he went straight to work on a range of tasks that will influence the success of the tour before its players even cross the equator.

The ex-Fylde and England lock describes his remit as "creating an environment in which the coaches and players can produce their optimum performance".

And the key to that, as Lions head coach Clive Woodward has already proved in winning the World Cup, is in the detail.

Beaumont has focused his initial energies on three areas: "The itinerary, the pre-tour training programme and the infrastructure we will have in New Zealand ."

Getting the right itinerary, he believes, is vital. The Lions were whitewashed in New Zealand in 1983 partly as a consequence of the punishing schedule they accepted, while even the last tour, to Australia in 2001, has offered lessons in planning for 2005.

Beaumont says: "One of the reasons why we have added the extra game against Auckland in the final week is because, in Australia , once some of the guys knew they weren’t going to get in the Test team they were then looking at playing two games in three-and-a-half weeks.

"That’s why we’ve insisted on midweek games all the way through the tour, to offer that challenge to everyone."

That need to keep the entire party focused will be another of Beaumont ‘s priorities once the tour is underway, particularly as the squad will be the largest ever.

He says: "I have to make sure all 44 players feel they have had their opportunities.

"That’s a big challenge and selection is down to the coaches, not me. I will have a word in the ear about having a look at so-and-so but ultimately it’s down to them because they are the guys at the sharp end, day in, day out.

"Some people disagree with the concept but I think it’s fantastic and I believe it will give every player the opportunity to perform at their best."

Beaumont believes ensuring the players have a positive experience of the tour, on and off the field, is paramount, which is one reason why he is keen to promote the Lions tradition of mixing with their hosts.

Again, he is guided by the lessons of the past, particularly his own experience of the difficult tour to New Zealand in 1977.

He recalls: "It wasn’t the happiest of tours and we became very insular, to the detriment of our performance in the Test series, which we should have won or at least tied.

"In South Africa in 1980, I wanted to make sure we had a united tour and that everyone enjoyed it. That is what we want in New Zealand in 2005.

"We also want the New Zealand public to feel the Lions are accessible and have given them value for money," he says.

"We want a tour that is a valuable experience for the players, the spectators and the supporters."

The ultimate focus, though, remains becoming only the second Lions team to beat the All Blacks. Beaumont is under no illusions about the scale of that task.

He says: "The hardest part of our job is winning the three Tests, because New Zealand is a tougher place to tour than either Australia or South Africa .

"That’s a fact of history, and it’s still that way now because New Zealand is the only country in the world where rugby is the national sport. It’s a very, very proud nation, very passionate about its rugby, and its people are extremely knowledgeable about and respectful towards the game.

"It’s also a sport in which they regularly feel they are the best; they are pretty isolated down there in the South Pacific and they have a real national identity through rugby which they don’t have in many other things."

Beaumont may have been on the losing side in New Zealand in 1977, but the country remains one of his favourite places to tour.

He says: "The thing I like about New Zealanders is that they are perfectly transparent and honest about wanting to beat you. They want you to enjoy yourself but they want to beat you; I like that honesty."

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