McGeechan returns from SA

Lions head coach Ian McGeechan returned from South Africa this week having spent five days continuing his preparations for this summer's highly-anticipated tour. [more]

McGeechan returns from SA

Lions head coach Ian McGeechan returned from South Africa this week having spent five days continuing his preparations for this summer’s highly-anticipated tour.

McGeechan was joined by other key members of staff for what he described as his last visit to South Africa prior to the beginning of the 10-game tour which starts in late May.

“The purpose of the trip was to make sure that we have everything in place for the tour,” said McGeechan, who will be searching for his fourth series success with the Lions.

“We’ve been looking at stadiums, hotels, training grounds and the travel arrangements around the country to make sure that it is all in place for when we come out here with the players.

“When it comes to travelling over here for the tour itself, we want to make sure that we can just concentrate on the rugby and that everything else has been taken care of.

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"We’ve underpinned everything we wanted to do and as far as I’m concerned I won’t be back until I arrive with a group of Lions rugby players.”

The group visited all seven stadiums in which the Lions will be playing their mid-week and Saturday matches and McGeechan was impressed with what he saw.

"We’re pretty much all sorted but we’ll be keeping an eye on some of the stadiums, which are being revamped for the 2010 Football World Cup to see how they progress.

"We were in Port Elizabeth last Friday and they’re confident that the stadium will be completed and handed over by the end of April, which is six weeks before we are there. It’s a wonderful facility.

"It’s been interesting looking at the alterations and I’ve been very impressed with some of the changes that have been made.”

The 2009 tour of South Africa is the shortest in Lions history and McGeechan is aware of the unique complications that his players and coaching staff will need to face head on. 

The Lions play six warm-up fixtures as they build for the first Test against the world champions in Durban on June 20 and McGeechan admits that getting the squad to gel as quickly as possible will be one of the most important elements of the tour.

“There’s two challenges for us – coming to terms with playing twice a week through the whole tour and obviously getting things together quickly because time is against us for preparation for the Test matches,” explained McGeechan, who steered the Lions to series glory the last time they visited South Africa 12 years ago.

“We’ve got a good group of management who are good friends, know each other well and have worked with each other before and now the key will be to get the players to come together quickly as a group. I’m delighted to be involved with that.

“A Lions tour is the biggest challenge you can have. I think a South African Lions tour is unique – different to all the others – and a lot of the magic of the Lions is around the South African tours.

“The grounds and environment are different and I think it is a much bigger challenge for British and Irish players. I do believe there is a complete uniqueness about South Africa, South African rugby and being part of it; which you are as a Lion.”

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