Ward says ‘Welcome back’ to traditional Lions values

Former Ireland outside half Tony Ward has welcomed the return to the more traditional values of the British & Irish Lions as promoted by 2009 tour manager Gerald Davies and head coach Ian McGeechan. [more]

Ward says  ‘Welcome back’ to traditional Lions values

Former Ireland outside half Tony Ward has welcomed the return to the more traditional values of the British & Irish Lions as promoted by 2009 tour manager Gerald Davies and head coach Ian McGeechan.

Ward scored 18 of the Lions’ 22 points in their first Test defeat in South Africa in 1980 and notched 48 in total in five games before injury wrecked his tour.
Now a highly respected TV commentator and journalist, Ward believes that a return to rugby normality this summer will help the Lions recapture the magic of their 1997 Test series success in South Africa.
“For those of us privileged to have worn the Lions colours and to have partaken in the unique touring experience, that debacle (the 2005 tour in New Zealand) saddened us. Few tears were shed at the overall outcome to that tour,” said ward in his Irish Independent article (www.independent.ie)..
“Clive Woodward the player was an outstanding Lion, but Sir Clive the Coach lost the run of himself, and with it the respect of Lions past and present. I toured with Woody in ’80 and he was Jack the Lad; the archetypal rugby tourist.
“For whatever reason, he lost that vital touring perspective in the build-up to and duration of that manic trip to New Zealand.
“Thankfully it was a line in the sand, with new Lions head coach Ian McGeechan and tour manager Gerald Davies intent on making Lions touring again what it once was. The appointment of the former Lions’ legends was as inspired as it was essential.
“I doubt there will be one shred of the Woodward blueprint replicated. What we will see is a return to the Lions’ traditional values.
“Right from the off in 2005 the message by way of an unprecedented pre-tour match (against Argentina in Cardiff) was mistaken. The Lions is a touring party only; if there must be a pre-tour match, then let it be well away from these shores.
“In bringing a party of 45 to New Zealand, Woodward devalued the Lions currency. This time there will be 35 or 36 players in a squad set to work together for the duration but allowing for the natural evolution of the Saturday and midweek sides.
“Donal Lenihan’s midweek squad of ’89 is often cited as the optimum example of first and second-team squads working in unison. Midweek success generated momentum and boosted morale going into Saturday games.
“The all-for-one principle goes back much further. In South Africa in 1980, once the tour evolved into distinct first and shadow XVs, the midweek side were acutely aware that our 1974 predecessors had gone through South Africa unbeaten.
“The stated objective prior to every midweek game was to do the same. As long as the entire party is working as one and made to feel each has a role to play, that honest and healthy environment fuels the collective performance, whether Saturday or midweek.
“Central to touring is camaraderie built up through getting to know each other off the field and training ground. Room-sharing is at the heart of that process but was abandoned in 2005.
“’If you want to know me, come live with me’ will be the mantra for South Africa. Apart from the Test matches in 1980, when the differing units – halves, locks, centres – roomed together, I don’t think I, as an out-half, roomed with another back. It was No 8 John Beattie of Scotland one week, Welsh lock Allan Martin another.
“As for preparing behind boarded-up training areas patrolled by armed guards, the less said the better.
“Rugby has lost its touring way in recent times. It is about taking the game to the people in the remotest areas, whether in New Zealand, Australia or South Africa. Winning the series is paramount, but it need not rule out returning to the way touring once was. “Visiting Rustenburg to play a Highveld XV in the opening match is as important as turning up at Ellis Park for the third and final Test.
“Perhaps McGeechan sums up the Lions philosophy best; ‘We need a tight group: players who can work together, coaches who can work together, with everyone getting the opportunity to make their mark.”

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