The recce to New Zealand is now at an end. It has been a full-on fortnight that has only made everyone more excited for the Tour to get underway in just four months’ time.
In the space of two weeks we have managed to visit every city and every stadium that the Tour will take in.
Visit the Lions store for all your official merchandise
It has been an invaluable experience for everyone on the trip. There are so many details to consider and we have visited every single hotel, every training ground, every gym – no aspect has been left to chance and that will prove vital in the long run.
When you consider the amount of people, the amount of kit and the quick turnaround in each city, there are a lot of elements that must come together.
That means we are always working with a plan B and C in mind, we have visited a great deal of places that we might not end up using – but it pays to be prepared especially with the winter weather.
In each hotel we have to think about things like is there access for all of our kit? Where can we park the team coaches? There are always questions to consider.
For example, from a media point of view – some of the hotels we have visited are quite small.
We’ll need to hold press conferences and media events in each location so that involves being a bit creative, so in one hotel we might have to convert the restaurant. When you are hosting media from the four home nations, as well as the New Zealand press, you have to make sure you have the right space at the right times.
NEW HEADS OF DEPARTMENT
Some other heads of departments were announced this week.
Head Analyst Rhodri Bown, Head of Medical Eanna Falvey and Head of Strength and Conditioning Paul Stridgeon are fantastic appointments and have their own things to consider.
Anybody who knows Paul – or ‘Bobby’ as he is known – understands what kind of energy he brings to the team. He has a been a real whirlwind as usual on this trip.
Head of Strength and Conditioning Paul Stridgeon
But his input is invaluable. He can go into a gym, and we have been doing two or three gym visits in a day – and he can tell straightaway if it is the right place.
With his vast experience, he knows if it has the right equipment, the right type of floor. Does it have the right free weights? Even down to the pool temperature for recovery, Bobby has been on it.
Medical facilities are also critical and Eanna’s input is very important.
Player welfare is paramount – especially when you have ten games in six weeks – so we need to get that right.
And the same goes for Rhodri – the main consideration for our analysts is the amount of space they need with all their computers and kit, WIFI speed, as well as elevated positions to film training.
OFF THE PITCH
Away from the rugby, we have also been looking into a few others things for the Tour.
Rest and relaxation is vital on trips like these and we want the players to have a great time off the pitch in a new country and culture.
When they are spending a long time away from home, living on top of each other, it is good to have some distractions to help them relax.
The drive from Dunedin to Queenstown was just incredible, the views in that part of the world take your breath away.
If we end up going to Queenstown there are a host of activities for the guys or they can just chill out like we did in Noosa in 2013. But really, all over this beautiful country there is so much to see and do. This is my fourth trip to New Zealand now and it never ceases to amaze me how passionate this country is about rugby – the level of interest is huge.
AMI Stadium in Christchurch
Everywhere we go, we are bumping into New Zealanders as well as British and Irish people living over here and they are all so excited.
Warren is very familiar in these parts so a lot of people have been stopping to chat to him at airports and the like.
There is a bit of incredulity when you pitch up at an airport, a small group flying the flag for the Lions.
“Are you the Lions? You guys are here a bit early? Why are you here, we didn’t think the Tour was until June?” these sorts of questions have become a familiar conversation starter.
It is very clear here that rugby is everything in New Zealand.
Wherever we go, people do remember the last Tour in 2005, particularly for the number of Lions supporters that came out here. So there is great anticipation ahead of this year.
We were out for a meal in Auckland on our last night and we passed where the Lions’ Den will be: down town on the waterfront.
And it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up just to think that in a few months’ time this place will be teeming with thousands upon thousands of red jerseys. We can’t wait.