Jonathan Davies says the magic of the Lions won’t be diminished even if the Wallabies come out on top this summer.
Britain and Ireland’s elite travel to Australia looking for a first series win in 16 years and seeking revenge for their heartbreaking 2001 defeat to the then World Champions.
Since that 2-1 reverse Down Under at the start of the 21st century, the Lions have lost out to the All Blacks and the Springboks but former Wales fly-half Davies is convinced the unique nature of the Lions means the world’s greatest-touring team are here to stay regardless of results.
“There are some Lions doubters who wonder whether there is a place for the concept in the professional era especially if they don’t win series. I personally think that view is ridiculous,” Davies, who left the 15-man code just months before the 1989 tour to Oz, told Wales Online.
“I didn’t play for the Lions and that is one my biggest regrets ever because I went North to rugby league.
“But even as a non Lion it remains an important part of the calendar for me. It is a fantastic occasion every four years that fans from around the rugby world look forward to.
“Apart from England a few years ago maybe, when northern hemisphere sides go to World Cups you don’t expect them to win a tournament. But when the Lions become a collective unit, it is a realistic opportunity to beat the top three sides in the world.
“That is what makes it such a great concept. When you put the four Home Nations together, it is still such a tough thing to win a Test series.
“But one of the special traditions is trying to gel those four countries together successfully quickly. People want to see the best players in the UK and Ireland taking on the best players in the southern hemisphere.
“Hopefully this time it will be the British and Irish players who come out on top.”
Davies is convinced head coach Warren Gatland is the right man to ensure that the Lions are celebrating come July 6 and he also believes the Lions have plenty of reasons to be cheerful as Gatland gets ready to name his touring party on April 30.
Strength in depth is a major plus according to the dual-code star who isn’t concerned about the supposed lack of a heavy favourite for the captaincy.
“Warren knows about the Lions, having been a member of the coaching team in South Africa in 2009,” added Davies.
“He was the stand-out candidate and deserves the honour on the back of what he has done for Wales.
“There’s also the fact there seems to be a good team spirit in the Welsh camp, plus Gatland has worked in Ireland and England.
“It has been a good build up over the last few weeks and Gatland will be buoyed by that. The Six Nations was competitive and the Welsh boys have really put their hands up with their performances.
“Selection is really competitive in the back row and midfield areas with the Lions. It will be difficult to finalise the squad whether he picks 35 or 37 players. Warren will have to consider combinations and whether he is going to go for specialist or utility players.
“It is very difficult to pick a Test captain at this stage and Warren is right to select a tour skipper.
“If you look at the starting side now, it is hard to name many players who will definitely be involved. There doesn’t seem to be a standout player at the moment, a figure like a Martin Johnson or Brian O’Driscoll in his pomp, who is guaranteed a starting spot.
“If Warren picks a tour captain he will hope that player is in the Test side. But if he is not, and a lot can happen between now and then, he will just have to select a different captain and there should be enough experience in that party to cope with this.”