Perfect prep says Irvine

British & Irish Lions tour manager Andy Irvine is convinced that this week's stay in Noosa has provided the perfect preparation for Saturday's series decider in Sydney. [more]

Perfect prep says Irvine

British & Irish Lions tour manager Andy Irvine is convinced that this week’s stay in Noosa has provided the perfect preparation for Saturday’s series decider in Sydney.

The Lions headed to the Sunshine Coast the day after the agonising defeat to the Qantas Wallabies in the second Test in Melbourne and left for New South Wales earlier today.

The squad have enjoyed some much needed R and R in the small beach resort and Irvine believes they couldn’t have asked for a better location in which to recharge the batteries ahead of such a high-pressure encounter at the ANZ Stadium.

“I've been on five Lions tours now and believe me, after the second Test the boys are physically and mentally exhausted. They need a break. This place has been absolutely fabulous. We've not had the best of luck with the weather but the lads have had a great time. They needed to recharge their batteries and where better to do it than up here,” said Irvine.

“When I think back to my time playing; between the second and third Test in South Africa you went on safari, in New Zealand you went up to the Bay of Islands or somewhere warm where there was a tourist resort. All we are doing is something very similar.

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“Sydney is a big city. To be stuck in Sydney for six days, in a concrete jungle – even though it’s an iconic city with a tremendous harbour bridge and an opera house and so forth – that’s not quite as conducive as what we’ve got up here.

“We came out here for a recce a year ago, we checked the training grounds and, to be absolutely honest, they weren’t really up to standard. But the local rugby club have worked really hard with the local tourist board and put a lot of money into it. The facilities are absolutely super and I couldn’t think of a better place for the players to be than up here.

“I can assure you that if we had our time again we would be back here. The locals have really taken to us, they've been incredibly warm in their welcome and the lads have had a great break. But it's down to hard work now because we've got one of the most vital matches the Lions have played in a long, long time on Saturday.”

Victory at the weekend would secure a first series success in 16 years and ensure the Lions head for home with exactly what they wanted, but defeat wouldn’t signal the end of the Lions concept as some critics are suggesting.

The world’s most-famous touring team have been written off on numerous occasions in the past but continue to go from strength to strength off the field and Irvine doesn’t see that changing any time soon.

But that belief in the certainty of the long-term future of the Lions doesn’t mean that the former Scotland and Lions full back is watering down the importance of the third Test, though. He knows just how vital victory is in the latest chapter of 125 years of Lions history and he can see the same attitude and acknowledgement in every single member of the current squad.  

“There’s been a lot of idle chat about the Lions' future, that we have to win this series otherwise the Lions are going to fall out of existence. This tour is possible the most successful ever in terms of interest, enjoyment and the number of fans following us. Last week's game wasn't a great game of rugby, let's be honest both teams made mistakes. But for pure theatre it was absolutely incredible. I haven't spoken to one Lions fan who didn't think it was the most magnificent occasion. They were obviously disappointed in the end result but as far as theatre's concerned, and drama, excitement and enjoyment, they would go back in a second,” added Irvine.

“We think Saturday's game is so important because, quite frankly, it's about time we won in the southern hemisphere. We haven't won here in Australia since '89, we haven't won in the southern hemisphere since '97. We were extremely close in 2009 and we've been extremely close on this tour. One kick succeeded on Saturday, one failed. All you needed was for one of those kicks to go the other way and we would have been two-nil and the series would have been in the bag. 

“The moral though is that they still had the chance to win the match. Their pride has been dented and they would loved to have won…but they are model pros and they will be really determined to still win this series.  We said at the very beginning that our objective, first and foremost, was to win the series, and we're determined to do that.”

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