‘Don’t waste the moment’ – Gatland

Warren Gatland believes that winning the second Test in Melbourne on Saturday night could be a "life-changing experience" for his British & Irish Lions team. [more]

‘Don’t waste the moment’ – Gatland

Warren Gatland believes that winning the second Test in Melbourne on Saturday night could be a "life-changing experience" for his British & Irish Lions team.

The 23-21 first test triumph in Brisbane last weekend has put the Lions in the box seat in the series and a third successive Test victory – the Lions won the third Test in South Africa in 2009 – for the first time in 39 years will clinch the series.

The last time a Lions captain was victorious in a Test series was when Martin Johnson led the 1997 tourists to victory in South Africa. He found himself in the same position as Sam Warburton four years later in Australia after winning the first Test, but then lost in Melbourne and Sydney.

Warburton’s men, including the sole survivor from 12 years ago Brian O’Driscoll, are ready to go in for the kill and clinch the series with one game in Sydney left to play. It is their date with destiny.

"Potentially, for a lot of them, winning on Saturday has the potential to change a lot of their lives in a positive way, the opportunities that may create in a lot of different avenues,” said Gatland.

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"We just need to make them aware of potentially how important Saturday is and the Test series is. It's that close.

"It is something we are well aware of, but you can't let that weight of expectation dominate your performance in the game. It can't consume us, and it's important it doesn't do that.

“We need to have that clarity of being mentally strong. If that weight of expectation is too heavy, you can sometimes go into your shell and it can constrict your play.

"We have to make sure we get the balance right between identifying that, talking about that, but also giving the players the freedom to play, go out there and express themselves and win this Test series."

Gatland has invested two years of his life in planning to get to this point and the Lions tour itself has cost around £14m. No stone has been left unturned in trying to find the winning formula to beat the Qantas Wallabies and take the Tom Richards Trophy back to the UK & Ireland.

The Lions came close to beating the then world champion Springboks four years ago, and they ended on a high note in that series with a record equalling win in Johannesburg, but it will be a 20 year wait for a series win when they go to New Zealand in four years time if they don’t triumph in Australia.

"We are all well aware of the positive consequences going forward in terms of the Lions as a concept and touring, and the right preparation. The interest that has been created has been absolutely massive,” said Gatland.

"People are aware of the positive impact the Lions can have on the future of the game, going forward. These players want to be part of a successful Lions tour.

"I spoke to Brian O'Driscoll at training this morning (Thursday), and he just said he's a little bit worried. Having come out here as a 21-year-old and been part of a series that was close and just losing, and 1997 was still fresh in the mind.

"He thought he would get another chance, and he is sort of on the cusp of this being his last chance to be part of a winning Lions series. He wants to be able to communicate that to the players.

“He want to be able to say 'don't leave this opportunity behind' because it can be you don't get that chance again. Don't waste the moment is the message to our players.”

"The Lions is different because it is not like a normal touring side. It's a machine that travels around, the media and the commercial responsibilities, we are moving a lot of people and a lot of equipment around.

"We had some of the continuity from 2009 with a lot of staff being involved then, and I think it has helped. We've freshened up with new people coming in, and they have added to the environment as well.

"The people that were involved in 2009 we've learnt a lot from that experience. I think we have been able to apply that in terms of not having to reinvent the wheel every time a Lions squad comes together.”
 

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