What goes on tour doesn’t always stay on tour, not when www.lionsrugby.com is involved anyway.
Here’s a quick look at a few of the bizarre stories that didn’t make headlines when the Lions toured South Africa this summer…
With post and pre-match video analysis now old hat, skype was arguably the greatest technological advance on the 2009 tour compared to the trip to New Zealand four years before. The internet video system enabled the players to keep in touch with loved ones and avoid getting homesick.
But Harlequins wing Ugo Monye used the system for more than just a quick hello to friends. Monye conducted prayer meetings with his family while he was away. The England star also kept in regular contact with his Pastor at his local church, All Saints in Brompton.
No wonder then, when asked in his column in the Evening Standard what he would advise anyone who wanted to follow his example of playing for England and the Lions within eight months to do, he said: "Go to church."
The old boys were back in town
Lions spotting was a favourite past time of the hordes of fans who travelled to South Africa. Gareth Edwards, Gavin Hastings and Jason Robinson were there as HSBC Ambassadors, Willie John McBride joined them prior to the first Test and David Duckham was another big name roaring on Paul O’Connell’s men.
Ex Lions John Taylor, Paul Ackford and Eddie Butler were all part of the press corps, while Sky TV had a plethora of Lions among their panelists in Dewi Morris, Ieuan Evans, Jeremy Guscott, Will Greenwood, Stuart Barnes and Paul Wallace.
Former Irish international Roger Young, who now lives in South Africa, was a tourist in 1966 and 1968 and was seen having a coffee with his former Ulster team-mate McBride on the eve of the opening international, while Phil Vickery spotted 1993 tourist, Ben Clarke on the beach front.
Three times Lions tourist and 1974 coach Syd Millar was another star name on parade, but top marks must go to 1997 and 2005 hookers Mark Regan and Shane Byrne. They not only came to the Republic to support the Lions, but also got their kit on play for the Classic Lions against the Classic Springboks. Some old habits die hard!
Lion cub on the way
James Hook’s tour may not have ended with a Test cap but it did feature another reason to celebrate.
Shortly after kicking the winning penalty goal against Western Province in Cape Town, the Ospreys outside-half heard from his girlfriend, Kimberly, that he was to become a father for the first time in December.
James Hook deserved congratulations outside of his match-winning penalty
Sticks and stones
Nicknames are a standard part of every sporting team, but the Lions ran into a few problems separating Cardiff Blues and Wales prop Gethin Jenkins and London Wasps and England flanker Joe Worsley. Why? Both are affectionately known as ‘Melon head’ back home.
In the rough
Ronan O’Gara would love to have formed a new half-back partnership with Mike Phillips for the three-match Test series, but he wasn’t too impressed with the Welsh No 9’s golfing skills.
They paired up to take on the might of Matthew Rees and Andy Powell, but crashed to a humbling defeat.
Not surprising, really, given that Phillips managed to lose 20 balls during the round – and that was a conservative estimate! The penalty for the losers was the cost of lunch for four. Cue the lobster, said Powell!
Andy Powell enjoyed lunch courtesy of Ronan O’Gara and Mike Phillips
They may have gotten off to a slow start but the Lions music committee finally got the rhythm going ahead of the first Test against the Springboks.
Rikki Flutey and Jamie Roberts copped a bit of flak early on for their lack of taste, but they soon got the whole team jumping.
Returning from training in Port Elizabeth, they ordered the coach driver to do an extra lap of the team hotel because the players were still dancing to "Sunchyme" by Safri Duo. Not only that, they stopped the bus at some roadworks and invited a local worker to get on board and join them.
Bowe’s band of ‘merry’ men
The Tommy Bowe fan club grew considerably on tour thanks to some stunning performances. Ulster’s finest scored four tries and was widely regarded as one of the Lions’ biggest success stories.
But it seems some of his fans took things to extremes. Eight Irish fans from Omagh introduced themselves to Bowe in Cape Town where they produced the previous night’s bar bill.
It started with 90 gin and tonics and then went onto 20 whiskeys!