One of the heroes of the 1997 tour to South Africa believes his countrymen have done themselves plenty of favours on the current tour of the Republic.
Scott Gibbs was a leading light in the 2-1 series victory over the Springboks 12 years ago and, although that scoreline was reversed this time around, Gibbs has been impressed with what he has seen from his fellow Welshmen.
"The one saving grace after the disappointment of losing the series is that everyone who has represented Wales as a Lion on this tour has been fantastic," said Gibbs, who won a total of five Test caps for the Lions and 53 for Wales.
"There’s no doubt that they have made a mark for themselves not just in South Africa but around the world.
"For any aspiring rugby player who has watched the Lions this summer, the Welsh guys will have been inspirational I’m sure. It’s been a great tour for Welsh rugby."
Gibbs was expected to be a mid-week dirt tracker when he first toured with the Lions in 1993 but the then 22-year-old was so impressive for Britain and Ireland’s elite that he forced his way into the Test team for the second and third internationals against the All Blacks.
His direct style and powerful running kept the Lions on the front foot and created space and time for others around him – attributes another young Welsh Lion has since brought to the table in 2009.
Scott Gibbs was sensational for the Lions in South Africa in 1997
Cardiff Blues centre Jamie Roberts may have begun the tour as many observers’ second-choice inside centre behind England’s Riki Flutey but the medical student soon became a key figure in the Lions’ Test plans. At just 22, Roberts was named HSBC Man of the Series despite missing the third and final Test through a wrist injury.
His partnership with Brian O’Driscoll was hailed as one of the most impressive in recent Lions history, with both men feeding off each other to break behind the Boks’ first-line of defence in the first and second Tests.
The Boks continually struggled to halt Roberts’ progress whenever he took the ball at pace, particularly in the opening international when he was a constant thorn in their side and created the platform for Tom Croft’s first try of the match.
Is Jamie Roberts Scott Gibbs in disguise?
The versatile Newport-born Roberts has played wing, full back and centre for his country and travelled to South Africa with many critics still unsure of his best position. But the 10-match tour has left Gibbs in little doubt as to where the latest Welsh super star’s future should lie, with the ’97 hardman suggesting that Roberts has a far larger bag of trick than he himself ever possessed.
"It’s hard to single anyone out, but Jamie Roberts’ contribution has been huge," added Gibbs.
"He can come home, rest, and feel very satisfied with his first Lions tour.
"He has clearly enjoyed every minute of the tour and let’s remember that the Lions is all about getting the chance to play with better players. That has clearly brought the best out of Jamie.
"He has raised the bar now and the challenge for him now is to produce more of the same this coming winter.
"People have been making comparisons between him and me, but all I can say is that I wish I had half the talent and skill that he has. The world has opened up for Jamie now."