Lions’ pride restored says Back

Former Lions tourist Neil Back has praised the most-recent pride of Lions for the standard of their performances on the 2009 tour of South Africa. [more]

Lions’ pride restored says Back

Former Lions tourist Neil Back has praised the most-recent pride of Lions for the standard of their performances on the 2009 tour of South Africa.

Back, who toured three times with the Lions in 1997, 2001 and 2005, believes the tour as a whole was an overwhelming success despite the 2-1 series defeat at the hands of the Springboks.

"The victory and performance on Saturday was a fantastic way to end the tour for the Lions and looking back over the last six weeks, despite losing the series, I think those involved can justifiably call it a big success," Back told the Yorkshire Post.

"In the first Test the South Africans would probably point to the fact that they took off their key players when they felt the game was won but the Lions could have snatched that game at the death.

"They could and should have won the second Test and they produced a quality performance in the third Test. All the players represented themselves, their countries and their clubs with a great deal of pride."

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Having witnessed first hand the disappointment of 2005 when the Lions were whitewashed by the All Blacks, Back is convinced that the class of 2009 have reassured the doubters that the Lions should still take pride of place in the rugby hierarchy.

"There is definitely still a place for the Lions in the modern rugby calendar," added Back, who became the oldest-ever Test Lion four years ago.

"The last Tour to New Zealand was a disappointment as Clive Woodward took a different approach splitting the Test and the midweek teams, which I think was a big mistake.

"Ian McGeechan and his coaching team recognised those problems and made sure this was a proper Lions tour and they did a wonderful job. The task of bringing four nations together in a short space of time after they have spent the past four years kicking lumps out of each other is a tough task."

Back was a series winner the last time the Lions returned from a tour victorious back in 1997 and the Leeds Carnegie head coach believes the nature of modern-day rugby makes the repeat of such an achievement an even harder task.

But in spite of the difficulties facing future tours, he is certain that the manner in which 2009 tourists have represented Britain and Ireland will ensure that every player aspires to wear Lions colours for years to come.

"In 1997, like this time, we took on the current world champions but the professional era had only just begun. In the intervening 12 years, international teams are now much more organised and professional, and I think going forward it is more likely that the Lions will lose more Tests than they win.

"However, the tour is about more than just the Test series.

"What the tour provides is something that you cannot get at your club or for your home nation. It is a fantastic opportunity to rub shoulders with your peers. You get some downtime together and the chance to enjoy a beer and the guys involved in this tour will have made lifelong friendships and that is what the Lions is all about.

"It is a privilege to be capped for your country but the ultimate honour is to play for the Lions. Having been involved in the last three tours I was intrigued to see how this group would come together and although the series was lost the current group have put the Lions back on the map."

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