One of the men plotting the downfall of the British & Irish Lions later today insists that the clash between the tourists and the Force is a huge honour for everyone involved in Western Australia Rugby.
Former Bath boss Steve Meehan has been on the coaching staff at the Perth-based franchise since the start of the season, with today’s match up having been something that grabbed his attention right from the outset of his move to the West Coast.
Meehan admits that the profile of Britain and Ireland’s elite hasn’t always been as high as you might expect in an area dominated by Australian Rules Football but he insists that the whole rugby community is now fully aware of just what it means to be facing Warren Gatland’s side at Patersons Stadium.
“When I was first offered the role here, one of the things I got really excited about was being involved in this game,” said Meehan.
“There are times over the last couple of months having had discussions with people here that I’m not sure they initially understood how massive The Lions are. It’s a fantastic occasion and everyone in Perth and within the rugby community now understands what an honour it is and how massive it is.
“The Lions generate fantastic interest with the history of the side and what they’ve done in the last couple of series here, which have been exceptional. It only comes around once every 12 years so it’s incredibly special.
“It’s a great honour and a great moment. Because we’ve got a game on Sunday (against the Waratahs) and because of the squad size, we’ve had to invite guys in to be a part of it and for them it should be like winning the Lotto. What a great opportunity to come in and get on the park with the British & Irish Lions – it will be a fantastic moment.”
Meehan watched The Lions kick off their 10-match tour with a 59-8 thumping of the Barbarians in Hong Kong on Saturday but he is hopeful that the Force will provide far stiffer opposition for the opening game on Australian spoil.
His side may sit towards the foot of the Super XV table but they’ve been hugely competitive in all bar one of their league fixtures and have turned over the likes of the Reds and the Crusaders so far this term.
“Apart from the game against the Brumbies which came out of the blue, in everything else we’ve been in with a shout,” added Meehan, who is impressed with the quality and skill set within The Lions squad.
“We’ve had some really courageous and good quality performances and every now and then we’ve taken a big scalp – we’re not far away.
“I was a little bit disappointed with what the Barbarians threw at The Lions – they didn’t quite test them the way I would have liked to have seen.
“They’ll be up against more and more competition over the course of the next few weeks, and I’m sure that’s what The Lions want and will feel they need.
“They are very big and powerful athletes but throughout the squad there are touches of class and great speed. It’s a formidable squad and you look at it say, ‘Who are you going to pick?’ To play the Test matches, there is so much competition for spots and so much quality, that for Warren Gatland and his selectors that’s the most difficult aspect. And I guess from a coaching perspective, that’s what you want.
“I hope that the way that our players have approached this game and with the systems that are in place here, they challenge The Lions and ask more questions of them than the Barbarians. We can then see where their attacking mindset is as a result.
“I’m sure our boys will be doing the very best that they can because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”