Scott’s second chance

Scott Quinnell viewed the 2001 Lions tour of Australia as a second chance - a second chance he was determined to make the most of. [more]

Scott’s second chance

Scott Quinnell viewed the 2001 Lions tour of Australia as a second chance – a second chance he was determined to make the most of.

The former Wales No8 had returned from Rugby League prior to the 1997 Lions tour of South Africa with the primary goal of representing Britain and Ireland’s elite.

Quinnell achieved that ambition in style, earning squad selection and then becoming a favourite for a starting spot against the Springboks.

But injury robbed the former Wigan star of his next goal – that of becoming a Test Lion.

The then 24-year-old was forced out of the tour with a hernia problem after taking the brave decision to pull out for the good of the team rather than push on at no where near 100 percent just to pursue his own ambition.

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From that very moment, Quinnell made himself a promise – he would do anything and everything possible to become a Test Lion in 2001.

It was a promise he somehow kept, despite being faced with a number of potential setbacks along the way.

“2001 brought a second chance for me as far as the Lions were concerned,” said Quinnell in his autobiography The Hardest Test.

“I’m immensely proud of the fact that I stuck to the vow I made in 1997. I’d set myself that goal and overcome some pretty huge obstacles to get there and be selected.

“Not long into my second spell at Llanelli I had found out that rheumatoid arthritis had set into left knee. This made training and playing extremely difficult. I was pretty much told my days were numbered. Of course I was in no way ready to except this. I had some unfinished business to attend to.”

That business came to a head on June 30, 2001 in Brisbane, when Quinnell finally achieved his dream.

Even for a man steeped in rugby history thanks to his father Derek, uncle Barry John and godfather Mervyn Davies, the lead up to that moment was something out of the ordinary.

“Before I knew it, I was in Brisbane with the Lions and 35,000 travelling fans,” added Quinnell.

“I remember being at the hotel before the first Test. My father rang me to say he was on his way over to collect some tickets I had for him. After we met, I decided to walk back to his hotel with him, just to get away from the rugby environment for a while.

“Little did I know what would face me as we walked into the lobby of the hotel where he was staying! The first person I saw was ex-Wales fly-half Jonathan Davies signing in at reception. Then there was Llanelli legend Phil Bennett sitting chatting to a group of fans from Felinfoel. Next I was called over by a gang from the snooker club back home where I’d regularly call in for a couple of pints after a game.

“It was hard to believe. Even my dad’s old mate Dai Twin, who I hadn’t seen for years, was there. It was like walking into a hotel in Llannelli. Wonderful and surreal at the same time.”

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Scott Quinnell enjoyed a dream Test debut for the Lions in Brisbane

And if the build up to that momentous occasion at the Gabba was nothing short of mind blowing, the game itself was an even more memorable experience for Quinnell and his fellow Lions.

A four-try hammering of the World Champions in their own backyard provided the perfect start to the Test series and, with the man himself grabbing one of those scores, making his Test debut for the Lions was everything Quinnell had ever hoped it would be.

“The Gabba in Brisbane is a strange old venue for rugby. It normally hosts cricket, so it was odd to see the rugby pitch plonked in the middle of this giant oval.

“We warmed up inside, nerves jangling. Martin Johnson said a few last words, but I don’t think any of us needed any more motivation. It was wild running out on to the field in front of so many British and Irish fans. They apparently outnumbered the Aussies three to one.

“The game kicked off at a ferocious pace with Jason Robinson going over in the corner. Rob Howley was immense throughout the game at scrum-half and Brian O’Driscoll showed the Aussies what all the fuss was about.

“I even managed to get over from the base of a ruck to score myself. By that time we were up 29-3.

“Lots of people still ask me about that try. Well, not so much about the try itself, but the nod I did after touching down. They say it’s one of their enduring moments of that tour.

“All I can say is that it was a bit of a personal sign. There, with the ball under my chest on the Gabba turf, I’d finally achieved my goal. Everything had come together.

“More than that, it had taken over 250 people to achieve that goal. That nod was for all the medical staff, coaches, fellow players, friends and family who’d been there for me when I was down. Without them none of it would have been possible. It was no longer just a personal goal.

“We went on to win the game 29-13 but were to lose the series 2-1. All the same, Australia 2001 will always be the stuff of dreams to me.”

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