Sir Ian McGeechan says that form and fitness will be key when it comes to Lions selection next spring.
Britain and Ireland’s elite are off to Hong Kong and Australia in 2013 and squad selection is already on the lips of supporters and journalists up and down the Home Unions.
McGeechan has more experience of choosing the cream of the crop than any other man in the history of the world’s most-famous touring team having been head coach on four separate occasions.
The former Scotland centre, who also toured twice as a player and once as part of the backroom staff, insists reputations have to be put to one side when decisions are made on who will wear the red jersey Down Under.
“I think you’ve just got to see who’s playing well,” McGeechan told Sport 360 Degrees.
“What you can’t afford is to take injured players or players who might have a good reputation but have had a loss of form because the Lions is so instant you have to have it right and work it over five weeks.
“That’s what we tried to do in 2009 and we made some serious progress very quickly because all of the players were involved.”
McGeechan was in charge of the Lions when they made their first trip to Australia as a sole destination in 90 years back in 1989 when rugby was still very much an amateur sport.
Critics suggested the Lions would soon be forgotten in the professional era but McGeechan believes the opposite has happened and the brand has simply gone from strength to strength.
The honour of representing the Lions remains the pinnacle for English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh players, while All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies are desperate to add the tourists to their list of achievements.
“I think in players’ eyes, which people happen to forget, it’s still the biggest jersey they can wear and they still see it like that,” added McGeechan.
“I think we probably didn’t see how big it would grow to and it’s almost grown bigger in the professional era.
“They are so motivated to put the jersey on. That’s how important the jersey is and the players in 2009 were fantastic in that respect and really did do well.
“Players went back in 2009 to South Africa, back to play against the Lions. The opportunity to play against the Lions for them is only once every 12 years, so that’s what makes it so special and so unique for both teams.”