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Calder recalls the calm before the storm

Calder recalls the calm before the storm

It takes all sorts of characters to form a winning British & Irish Lions squad – and 1989 skipper Finlay Calder remembers how the dressing room dealt with the pressure ahead of the pivotal second Test in very different ways.

It takes all sorts of characters to form a winning British & Irish Lions squad – and 1989 skipper Finlay Calder remembers how the dressing room dealt with the pressure ahead of the pivotal second Test in very different ways.

Reeling from a heavy defeat to Australia in Sydney and with the spectre of 1983’s whitewash in New Zealand still looming large, the Lions were at a crossroads.

But in Brisbane, the tourists started the journey that saw them become the only Lions team to ever come back from 1-0 down and win a series so far.
 

Dean Richards

And while the Scots in the party were doing their best to gee up the troops ahead of the game, Calder recalls that a mild-mannered Dean Richards needed a moment to himself before delivering one of the performances of his career.

“There was such desperation in the changing room before the Second Test that it was palpable. It was indescribable – very, very tense,” said Calder in Behind the Lions: Playing Rugby for the British & Irish Lions.

“It was a Scottish-type environment, with David Sole, myself, Scott and Gavin Hastings getting everybody up and building adrenaline, which is what we were used to doing to survive – because we didn’t have the power to match the likes of England.

“And then there was this slightly surreal moment when Dean Richards came up to me – he might have been the hammer of the Scots but he’s just a lovely, gentle person – and he said, ‘You know Finlay, I don’t really like all this noise, would it be alright if I went and stood outside?’ I said, ‘Of course, of course.’

“There was no point in him standing there feeling awkward. And if he wasn’t man of the match that day then he was dash close to it.”

The 19-12 triumph may have looked comprehensive enough on paper but it was anything but, as the Lions trailed by three with just four minutes to go – despite dominating the Australians for much of the match.

But Calder sparked the move that saw Gavin Hastings go over before Jeremy Guscott – following a David Campese fumble – chipped and charged over the try-line.

Rob Andrew made the conversion to Guscott’s effort and that was that, but no matter the last-ditch drama, Calder is adamant that the Lions were destined to win.

“That second Test in Ballymore has been given a lot of hype over the years, but I have to say we were pretty hyped up ourselves at the time,” added Calder, who then guided the Lions to a 19-18 victory back in Sydney to clinch the series.

“And you could see in the Australians’ eyes that they maybe weren’t frightened of us … but they were pretty intimidated.

“If you are going into a difficult situation then you want to know exactly where people stand, and that was one of only two occasions in my international career when I just knew we were going to win because of the personalities we had in the changing room.” 

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