Calder recalls the calm before the storm

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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 just 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.

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“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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