Hastings backs current crop

Lions legend Gavin Hastings believes the 2009 tourists will be better prepared than any other Lions squad to have left these shores. [more]

Hastings backs current crop

Lions legend Gavin Hastings believes the 2009 tourists will be better prepared than any other Lions squad to have left these shores.

The continued development of the professional game, together with the presence of Ian McGeechan and Gerald Davies at the helm, leaves Hastings in confident mood that the Lions can return home victorious.

"Probably on Lions tours gone by, a lot of the initial weeks were spent on fitness and now you’re taking the fitness as a given," said Hastings, who captained the Lions on their tour to New Zealand 15 years ago.

"What you’re talking about is preparation time. I can’t help but think that the players are totally tuned into learning about new tactics, game plans, combinations, lineout calls, back row moves, backs moves and are prepared to learn very, very quickly."

With time in short supply in the build up to the 2009 summer tour, the Lions must make the most of the days they do have together before and after they depart for South Africa. Having toured twice with the Lions in 1989 and 1993, Hastings feels that today’s generation are better equipped to do just that.

"I don’t think it’s any harder for the players these days. In many respects, the fact that the players of different nationalities are playing week-in, week-out with each other in club sides, means that players will know what the deal is.

"The fact that they are professional and are able to commit themselves full-time to all the training must also help, undoubtedly.

"There’s probably no one more experienced in Lions tradition and history than Ian McGeechan, and I think the fact that Gerald Davies is there as well is extremely important. There is a huge amount of experience and integrity right at the top there.

"Every single effort will be made to ensure that the team are competitive and I just have a feeling that the lessons have been learned from the last tour and will be put to good use."

Gavin Hastings (right) with Andy Irvine at the adidas Lions shirt launch

Despite his faith in the coaching staff and quality of players available to the Lions, Hastings is under no illusions as to the size of the challenge facing the tourists in six months time. To record a series win in South Africa, a country where Hastings never had the chance to tour with the Lions, would be a truly remarkable achievement.

"Rugby at this level is tough," added Hastings who won 61 caps and scored 667 points for Scotland during an illustrious career which also included 10 appearances for the Barbarians and 66 points in six successive Tests for the Lions.

"It is a great, great challenge for the Lions. One week you’re competing against each other and the following week you’re part of a team. The definition of a team is not just a group of players who come together for a few days and then go out and play.

"You might say that a team works together for many years, as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa do, and that’s a challenge when you’re going into the backyard of three of the greatest powerhouses in world rugby. Trying to knock the stuffing out them after a matter of days together is a massive, massive challenge."

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