Beware the adrenalin rush warns Barnes

It may have been 20 years ago, but Sky Sports commentator Stuart Barnes remembers it as if it were yesterday - the day he captained the British & Irish Lions on his debut. [more]

Beware the adrenalin rush warns Barnes

It may have been 20 years ago, but Sky Sports commentator Stuart Barnes remembers it as if it were yesterday – the day he captained the British & Irish Lions on his debut.

The former Bath and England outside half was given the honour of leading the Lions into their first game of the 1993 tour against North Auckland in Whangarai on 22 May. The Lions won 30-17.

But the game wasn’t without its difficulties and Barnes recalls the danger of trying too hard. So what advice would he pass on to the youngsters going into their first game in Hong Kong this weekend?

“The biggest problem in the first game is not nerves, but excitement. I found when I was captaining the Lions in the first game of the 1993 tour that so many of the players were so up for it that they were screaming and shouting – there was almost a lack of focus,” said Barnes.

“What we found in that game against North Auckland was that the players were so fired up that they almost overdosed on the adrenalin. We had a number of players who were struggling to keep the game going for 80 minutes.

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“Obviously, 20 years on, you can bring on substitutes, but the big problem then was too much adrenalin, lack of focus and an inability to be cool and to do the things that you had been picked to do.

“The heart will be huge but the technical issues come under threat. When you have a lot of young players, especially up front, that is a big issue because everyone wants to go out and do well.

“I found players I knew were 15 or 20% more hyped for a Lions game than an international or a cup final.”

Keeping cool will be difficult in every sense of the word in Hong Kong given the extreme conditions under which the game will be played. And Barnes believes the heat and humidity could possibly create even more problems for stand-in skipper paul O’Connell.

“The combination of adrenalin and a couple of scrums and you have a recipe for a disjointed first 40 minutes. Paul O’Connell has a big job to do to keep his side calm in the conditions,” said Barnes.

“You need to be very aware of yourself, stay cool and keep composed. If the pack I captained in 1993 played with the same intensity and adrenalin that they did then 20 years on in Hong Kong they wouldn’t have lasted 10 minutes.

“But it was a fantastic moment for me. When you put on the Lions shirt and join the club it is very special. You dream of playing for your country, but then you have a wild dream about playing for the Lions.”
 

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