Dark Side of The Moon

Watching the Liiiiiiiiiiiiiions match as Kurtley Beale lined up the sure-to-be-matchwinning penalty, it seemed the men in red were about to lose.  We’d resigned ourselves to feeling disappointment, only for  – hang on a second, what was that?  Disappointment?  This is the Lions, the pinnacle of rugby, about to have the first win of the series scratched off with the last kick, and all we could muster up was a sense of disappointment?  ‘Fraid so.

In fact when the Lions had won the match, we almost felt guilty cheering.  It was a flukey win, and the players – O’Driscoll especially, and Gatland too in fairness to him – had the good grace to look pretty sheepish in their post-match interviews.  This was ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ stuff if ever we saw it. If Ireland has accomplished the same after Owen Farrell slipped, we’d be drinking deep from the well of schadenfreude, and, without putting too fine a point on it, absolutely bloody loving it.  But we felt sorry for Beale.

Had Beale scored the winning penalty, it was not about to become a moment etched into our souls forever, like some losses, which are so awful you never quite forget them, and can recall just how you felt at the time if you remember hard enough. I’m thinking of Vincent Clerc’s try at Croke Park, after which I could barely speak for half an hour and couldn’t bear the thought of drinks in the pub; Leinster losing to the Ospreys, coughing up a historic double in the dying minutes.  Every rugby fan will have their own.

It would have been more a feeling of being sad for the players, especially the likes of Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll whose careers deserve a winning Lions series on their ‘palmeras’ when they retire.  But it was not about to be a gut-wrenching, week-ruining defeat.  But why?

At times, the Lions thing just gets a bit much.  It’s great fun, and the concept of four countries coming together for a lengthy tour is obviously a winning one, but it often feels a bit like we know it’s the pinnacle of rugby for everyone involved because… the commentators on Sky keep telling us it’s the pinnacle of rugby for everyone involved.  We know it means a lot to the players to play for the Lions, but is that not because the act of being selected is an achievement in itself, being recognised as the best player in your position across the four nations?  The specific act of playing for the Lions rarely amounts to much, as it mostly involves getting beaten.  Has such hyperbole ever been drummed up over such a bunch of serial losers?  For all the talk of the spiritual nature of the shirt and the greats that have gone before, they have mostly handed down a legacy of losing test matches.  The successful tours are eulogised ad nauseum precisely because they are so rare.  Four combined nations, bringing together about 75% of the rugby talent the northern hemisphere has to offer, and they can’t even beat a single nation.  No wonder the French sneer at us.  Well, when they’re good, at least.

The matches are generally exciting and there is something great about seeing the four nations come together and witnessing, say, Jamie Heaslip and Sam Warburton embracing at the final whistle yesterday.  But we fall just short of wetting our knickers over it in the same way Stephen Jones and Ian McGeechan – men who would have the entire rugby calendar altered to put the Lions at the centre of it – do.  There is a grain of truth when we say that the moaning about selection is more enjoyable than the games themselves.  We have written in the past about Irish fans not feeling a sense of ownership of the national team in the same way that they do of their province.  Well, who owns the Lions?  Errr… Geech? Willie John McBride?? Sky Sports???  No doubt for those following the tour, it’s easy to buy wholesale into the mega-hype, but for those a continent away on their couches, it’s hard to feel that the team represents you as a supporter.

Plus, it all gets a bit Harlem Globe-trotters – when you have the cream of Wales, Ireland, England and Scotland thrown together, the temptation is to treat the whole thing as a kind of exhibition. Instead of cursing Israel Folau for all that cash he gets, or calling Michael Hooper a cheating scumbag, or saying Berrick Barnes kicking is worse than his moustache, you find yourself being the ultimate sportsman, and enjoying the achievements of the opposition. For one, Egg kind of sort of wanted Beale’s kick to go over – for the better team would have won, for the drama of it, and for Beale himself. When Israel Folau got the ball from Ben Mowen with three men still to beat – all excellent defenders – our heart rate quickened, and not in a not-that-goon-Chris-Ashton way, but more in a visceral I-really-really-love-this-sport kind of way.

Without getting too Thinking Fans Guide to the World Cup * about it, the Lions is a bit like listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.  You know it’s fantastic and the feats on display are hugely impressive.  You’ll certainly return to it again and you enjoy listening to it.  But it doesn’t quite stir the emotions in the same way as The Stone Roses, Van Morrisson’s Astral Weeks or the third Velvet Underground album.  No, that’d be your club.  Or your province.  Or your country.

Now, where were we.  Oh yes.  Sean O’Brien has to – HAS TO – start the second test… But he won’t.

* this was a book that came out for the soccer world cup in Germany in 2006 – it was possibly the most right-on middle-class do-gooding sports book ever written. The basic message was that nationalism was so uncouth – so George W. Bush, so property boom – that it was better to support countries based on who they were. Into good wine, food, and classical music – Azzuri! Into developing world land reform issues and wearing those shawls everyone who has been to Macchu Picchu has – Bolivia! Into high tackles, boshing and paradise – Samoa! Ok, maybe not the last one, but it was eye-gouging (Argentina!) stuff.

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  1. ORiordan

     /  June 24, 2013

    I suggest you watch the games in a pub with loads of pissed-up Australians in it. Then you’ll *really* want to see the Wallabies stuffed.

  2. I get where you are coming from and the hyperbole can be a bit much, but I don’t think the Lions are so special because Sky Sports say so. Turn off the commentary, watch it in a pub where you don’t have to listen to the hype, and just enjoy the match for what it is. First time in years I screamed like I did when North scored that try. That was an incredibly entertaining game of rugby, with some excellent individual performances. We’re not professional rugby players, so we can’t say for certain exactly how much it means to these guys to play for the Lions, but I would guess that it is a huge highlight of their careers regardless of whether Sky Sports tell them it is or not.

    I understand that it’s different for everyone, but as a rugby fan some of my best memories are getting up early as a kid to watch Lions games with my Dad and my brother. That makes it special to me, and I definitely feel a huge sense of ownership and that they represent me as a supporter.

    • El Greco

       /  June 24, 2013

      Watching the game in the West Indies, at stupid o’clock in morning on a dodgy internet feed with Portuguese commentary was the best part of it. There were no Sky plumbers waxing lyrical. And none of the crew assembled could speak Portuguese either so we could enjoy the football.

  3. It maybe sounds crazy, I think the Lions is great but IMO the series maybe are a little too short (the series, not the tour) given there is only one in 4 years time. I will have less warm-up matches (4 or 5) and then a 5 match test series. I mean, there isa a lot of hype and preparation and then all could be over in just 2 games. What do you think?

  4. Aoife

     /  June 24, 2013

    I totally agree. A loss by Ireland or Leinster would have me in bad form for the whole weekend but I was much more detached on Saturday morning. I think the over-excited Sky coverage actually reduces my engagement with it (by inducing hyperbole-driven rage). One of them (think it was Greenwood) said at one point that what you dream of when you take up rugby when you’re a small child is playing for the Lions! It’s an achievement, an honour, but I can’t imagine any of the players picking the Lions over representing their own country.

    I did find Scott Quinnell pretty amusing though, particularly in his interview with BOD.

    • I certainly agree about the packaging by Sky. They’ve turned into cheerleaders, fawning over every bit of decent play by the Lions and passing over anyone who played rubbish. For the Heineken Cup their coverage is awesome, and the way they demonstrate the technical elements of the play is really fantastic, but with the Lions it seems they’re content to drool over the red shirts for three hours instead. It’s diet rugby analysis. Scot Quinnell does have a lovely accent though…

      • ORiordan

         /  June 24, 2013

        Sky are in a battle with BT for viewers so the hype won’t be getting less. Expect to see more of the same for the Pro12 from 2014 although bigging up Dragons v Zebre will be more of a challenge 😉

        • Amiga500

           /  June 24, 2013

          fukkkin wooooooooooosh!

          Live and exclusive only on SkySports

          even bigger fukkkin woooooosssssshhhhh

  5. It was a strange game alright – Lions were, in general, quite poor. Philips had a mare, there was no go forward to speak of, the breakdown was a mess, midfield was unbalanced…

    And yet, and yet, each try was magnificent in its execution, lines of running, pace and precision.

    I was impressed by Gatland’s frankness after the game – hopefully he stays true to this and makes some (non-enforced) changes.

    Tuilagi (being more likely to be fit than Roberts) has to come in, SOB HAS to come in for Croft who was OK but for all his lineout presence, Adam Jones could have taken his catches at the front!

    Bowe to come in for Cuthbert and then the enforced changes.

    Whilst North’s try was indeed magical, his goading of the opposition was shameful… we were all rightly incandescent at Armitage’s antics during the Heineken Cup, and should be consistent with North. What he did wasn’t in the spirit of the game and he should be disciplined for it.

    • conor

       /  June 24, 2013

      Here here re armitage…although personally didn’t find that such a crime

  6. Leinsterlion

     /  June 24, 2013

    The only thing I don’t like about the Lions is buying the jumped up tabloid that is the Sunday Times for some rugby coverage, only to find Stephen Jones has turned into Alex Jones and is dropping hints of “Irish Lobbies” and basically portraying the IRFU and Irish rugby players as rugby’s equivalent of the Bilderbergs. Having not bought/read the Times since the last Lions tour, can anyone tell me when Stephen Jones put on the tinfoil hat and joined the UDA?

    Back to rugby matters, Mike Philips has to be dropped, he gave the best Conner Murray impression I have ever seen, Youngs has to be in for the next test. Croft should be dropped, but with POC out I think his lineout work will overshadow his non contribution to the other 70 mins of rugby outside of setpieces.
    Gatty will be sweating over Corbiseiro, Court would be at home in an Aussie front row(in that he cant scrum to save his life), a bad option is he has to come on at any stage.

    Also, the French have a right to be disdainful of the Lions, if they had a coach or even Marc Lieveremont they would have smashed a woewful NZ side 3-0. Instead they get Flaky Freddie at ten and PSA doing his best Downfall homage by making bizarre tactical and selctoral decisions that have cost him the 6N, and a potential series whitewash of a shocking NZ team. France are the rugby powerhouse of the North, if we had a European Lions concept we’d never lose, although I’d fancy Stephen Jones would be writing match reports from his bunker, listening to Nigel Farage and infowars on repeat, tinfoil hat firmly in place, as he writes about the European Union conspiracies that are tearing the Lions asunder.

    • Rava

       /  June 24, 2013

      I’d ask Mike Ross if Court can scrummage, Big Tom had him in his back pocket every time they faced each other this season.

      • When was this? Only time Ulster really got upper hand on Leinster scrum this year was in Ravers when Bent was at TH.

        • Amiga500

           /  June 24, 2013

          Should have had a penalty try in the Pro12 final about 8 mins in.

          Quite how John Lacey thought the ball was out the back of the 4th (?) successive scrum is beyond me.

          [I thought that was his one big error of the day, the rest of the “questionables” (in the eyes of my fellow ulstermen) were just decisions from different interpretations in my view.]

    • abitofshoepie

       /  June 24, 2013

      Maybe try giving the Sunday Times/Sun a miss…..I used to read it, but since giving it up I feel like a much better person. Steven Jones is a clown of an analyst, think he has now got to the stage where he feels like he has a duty to try to wind up Irish rugby fans. Anyone else remember his Twitter breakdown earlier in the season?

      I thought the Lions were pretty average, apart from a few flashes of genius, especially Georgy boys try.. Think their gameplay is a bit too predictable and reliant on being dominant at set piece time. Wallabies will be better next week and might even bring a kicker with them

  7. Cian

     /  June 24, 2013

    An interesting read but a very personal view, and unfair if it attempts to speak for the majority of rugby fans. Since 1989 the lions have not had major success but it would be factually incorrect to characterise the entire tradition of the lions as a losing one; that opinion smacks of the nouveau rugby fan whose first tour as an observer was in 2001.

    The lions has its own tradition, history, and seminal moments. The experiences that team generates are unique. Unfortunately with professionalism comes greater power and strength in the club. You alluded to a feeling of greater ownership of the club than the national team. Again, this is greater amongst the nouveau than those who watched the game since the amateur era, and I feel the lions suffer in the same regard for the same reasons.

    • Of course it’s a personal thing. We wouldn’t expect everybody to feel the same way, and we speak for nobody but ourselves.

      Against the big three the Lions have won 39 and lost 57, so they lose more than they win by a significant ratio in any era.

  8. Don’t agree with the general thesis of what you’re saying; the Lions are massive because the test series are enormous. The sides the Lions play bring their A-game, consistently, and the tests reach a level the sport doesn’t get to very often, and do it consistently. You may say the Lions normally lose, but perhaps so they should, given the demands – and even when they lose, they’re usually still brilliant. 2005 was an exception on that front, but Carter, Sivivatu and Umaga provided enough quality for everyone. Saturday’s test was no exception, in terms of eye-watering hardness and high-end rugby.

    Also, I’m not convinced the Aussies were the better team. And, if they were, it was by slim margins. The Lions didn’t adapt to the referee as well as they should, the Aussies kicked poorly. Take those two facets (which came close to cancelling each other out, and in a direct sense) and what’s left? Two sides with one imposing half back and one playing like a drain, forwards working incredibly hard and some awesome finishing potential in the backs.

    In terms of what’s to come, this is where it gets really interesting. One game down, the analysts get to work. Two imperfect performances, two teams with injury trouble – the question is who will adapt better?

    Sexton looks like he has the keys to the Aussie defence in a way that O’Connor does not for the Lions (although JOC is a very talented lad, I certainly wouldn’t forget about him). Hopefully we can get JS more ball and this can make the difference.

    • True, Larry, the matches can be terrific, no doubt. Like we say, the spectacle can be utterly thrilling, we just don’t feel quite the same closeness to it. As for whether the Lions should lose… I know in the last ten years the game is more than ever about defensive systems and a telepathic understanding of the set piece, which puts a patched-together side like the Lions at a huge disadvantage, but it wasn’t ever thus. Four supposedly pretty decent nations combined should surely beat one more often than they do, no?

      • Isn’t that just personal preference? Back when I was a kid the first shirt my dad bought me was a Lions one, and I was about six at the time so it was ’89; I’ve been indoctrinated from the get-go.

        The four nations only get to pick 15 in their team, same as the Aussies. One is a scratch side battling to find a combination that works, is appropriate for the opposition and with players in form. The other is an established international side, but that doesn’t get warm up games. Take your pick, it’s a madcap scenario, and usually ends up in stirring stuff. The four-vs-one thing is a canard; are we going to talk about playing numbers – the base currency – next? Because then shouldn’t the squad have 30+ English players every time? And shouldn’t they beat everyone, all the time? Sport doesn’t work like that.

        Sky’s coverage is on the moon, I agree completely – however, don’t tell me you don’t think the ex-players’ enthusiasm isn’t real, which goes against your own cynicism in the article about whether the Lions is the pinnacle, specifically that it “rarely amounts to much”, that surely getting in the squad is job done and questioning whether the players really care that much about playing in the test team and winning a series – at which point you landed in the Sea of Tranquility, beside Miles and Stuart.

        If you guys don’t really care, that’s fine – and understandable – but there are many, many others who do. But even if you find that you’re not that fussed on whether the Lions win or lose, surely you can just enjoy the rugby?

        • You make plenty of strong points Larry, and we agree with you on lots of them. Of course the enthusiasm of the ex-players is for real, but then we only get to hear a self-selecting half of them. I’d love, for example, to hear what Ronan O’Gara, who never really brought his best game on a tour and never looked the happiest tourist, makes of it all. I doubt he ranks the Lions even close to par with his beloved Munster.

          We do care, we do want the Lions to win, and we were loudly celebrating the tries and crucial penalties on saturday, but it doesn’t quite hit us in the gut as much as other teams we support.

          And of course – OF COURSE – we enjoy the rugby, which I hope he made clear in the piece.

  9. As for the rugger itself, it seemed taking the props off so early derailed the team. I was surprised Vunipola was just so terrible in the scrums, I knew he wasn’t a specialist scrummager, but expected the Lions would get the ball out on their own put-in!

    The knock-on effect was that Gatty wouldn’t use his bench thereafter, and only brought on his reserves with a few minutes to go. It was straight out of the Declan Kidney School of Substitutions.

    Agree with Larry about Sexton. He was really threatening, but they need to get him the ball. Phillips – normally a test match animal – had one of his worst games on record. Youngs should be a great option to put the ball into Jonny’s hands as quickly as possible, but he didn’t really bring much either. What a shame Danny Care played himself out of contention!

    The backrow looked like a case of getting away with the wrong picks. Croft had a quiet game and Warburton only just scored a passing grade with a good tackle count. He needs to offer more. Heaslip got through a raft of dirty work. He was winning turnovers, driving on ball-carriers, making hard yards, tackling fellows out to touch. A good, hard shift, but the tackling breaking of Sean O’Brien is needed, at least off the bench. Barnesy called it right – the Aussies are afraid of him, and that’s resaon enough to pick him.

    • Saul Evans

       /  June 24, 2013

      The breakdown was a disaster as predicted by many. Welsh back row with O’Brien on the bench would control this area. Heaslip did ok – he just doesn’t do as much as Faletau in that area.

      Rest of the game, Phillips box-kicking aside and keeping the front row on until the end was on top.

      Lydiate to bottle up Genia as he did last year and it’s game over.

      • Heaslip is better at the breakdown than Faletau, it’s the best part of Jamie’s game, and was monstrous in this area at the weekend.

        Croft was the weakest of the three at the weekend, but it was a fairly normal TC performance so Gats shouldn’t be surprised; he knows the player, I think he’ll pick him again. I’d rather either of the other two options there, but to be honest all seven back rows in the squad are good players and playing pretty well.

        • Weirdly, Heaslip’s breakdown work seems to be being written out of history by Sky pundits and various commentators. Some of them appear to be in a 2009-10 timewarp.

          However, I’m with Saul on the other thing. I’m nearly certain Dan Lydiate is going to start, and it’s possible Croft will drop out of the 23, and I also agree with Saul that he’ll have the speciic task of collaring Will Genia. I know it’s very un-Gatty but I sort of feel he may have bowed to a bit of English media pressure in picking Croft, but now he has the excuse to leave him out I think he will take it.

          • Saul Evans

             /  June 26, 2013

            I hope you’re right – but have an awful feeling that the will say same again in the back row and pick Croft again. Will have to agree to disagree on Faletau LarryM. Both players are very good but one is better closer in with a higher work rate. What do I know though Gatland has picked Heaslip and he may know a thing or two.

            Phillips is apparently carrying a knee injury, which may excuse his apparent lack of interest when Will Genia was strolling down the left wing for the first try. Either way they need to make a change at nine wifh both Youngs and Murray in the 23..

            Who gets the loosehead and lock spots looks (for me Grant to start and Evans on the bench) and will Bowe bench or start at 14 allowing Tuilagi to take a bench spot, are the only other open questions I feel….

  10. Rava

     /  June 24, 2013

    I think we will get a better perspective of where this Lions team sits in terms of performance after the Tri Nations when I suspect the Australians will suffer at the hands of the Boks and All Blacks.
    It was an entertaining game but for all the hype wasn’t a great game.
    As for the Sky coverage, I started watching as the game kicked off, went to do something at half time and switched off as soon as the game finished.

  11. Jimbob

     /  June 24, 2013

    Sky really do their best to ruin the whole occasion. It’s when I watch the ‘Living with Lions’ or ‘Living with the Pride’ documentaries is when I realise how much I love the whole thing because it’s no longer the SKY Sports show about the HSBC Lions, it’s 40 excellent players getting together to play against an established world class team.
    Maybe if Tommy Bowe was scoring the tries and Jonny Sexton was taking the kicks we might feel more passionate towards the team, probably not because it’s not our bread and butter that we have every week and every year.

    Agree re SOB,I’d keep Croft on the bench though to run through tired defences with 15 to go.

  12. RDS Curva Nord

     /  June 24, 2013

    Thanks mate, I’ve been trying to accurately describe that exact feeling for a week now. If you had looked up from your seat into the nosebleeds in Croker about 35 minutes after Clerc’s last minute try you would have seen me and my brother sitting there. In silence.
    The pseudo religious muck grates now. When really you just wanna stick it to them (whoever they are)…. but in order to do that you need to know who we are. It’s easy against SA. I’d support Al Qaeda against them. But it’s not so easy to support a mainly Welsh team against Aus, especially when both sides are sprinkled with neither Aussies nor Home Nationals. Harlem Globetrotters is a super analogy….sometimes you find yourself rooting for the poor Washington Generals!

  13. Amiga500

     /  June 24, 2013

    Vincent feckin Clerc. I remember that all too well (despite what would follow).

    Myself and a mate watched the game in the bot, I had been in Toulouse during the RWC2003 game… that turned out well… he had been in Göteborg with a load of frenchies at the same time… it worked equally well for him too. With the 6N being fallow hunting grounds for beating France we had precious little to hit back against the berets, onions and striped jerseys.

    Here was us thinking our day had finally come, the gallic hordes would be banished under a green armada. There was just a minute to go – surely the job was done – surely we were home and dry. Surely we could shine up our verbal steel toe cap boots to sink them into the cheese eating surrender monkeys when they were down and out in the gutter with much pent up slagging just waiting to flow.

    Alas… fortune conspired badly – after Vincent ran that try in, we decided our options were to either go home (and probably cry), or get absolutely blocked to attempt to wipe it all from our minds. Well… several treble vodkas and about 2 hours later we were practically comatose and crawling around. Yet those memories are still there, the utter shock, the disbelief, the realisation, the disappointment, the frustration.

    Vincent feckin Clerc. Some player. Some bollox too.

    • Stevo

       /  June 24, 2013


    • Don

       /  June 24, 2013

      Someone give this man a medal.
      Greatest WOC post of all time 😀

    • Marvellous description Amiga! I took the go home and cry option myself.

    • Buccaneer

       /  June 24, 2013

      Bravo Amiga!

      I watched it in a pub in Scotland. My girlfriend at the time kept asking me all weekend was i OK, bless her heart. Supporting that team for 15 years has often been wrenching. We got our own good fortune 2 years later

  14. Regarding Philips poor game there was a very good analysis piece in yesterday’S Observer by Dean Ryan, really interesting take re how conservative the line-out tactics were and how it has such a limiting effect on the Lion’s approach and ability to utilise the best of Phillips and Sexton

  15. ORiordan

     /  June 24, 2013

    I think the Lions do provide a bit of much needed variety into the rugby schedule. International rugby basically consists of the same old playing the same old and even if the Lions mainly lose, they are at least something different.

  16. SydneyExile

     /  June 24, 2013

    I was at the match,and i must say that the elation i had at the end of the match after 60 seconds of despair thinking that Beale would slot the penalty between the sticks was immense. I’m an expat living in Oz, and have literally had this series on my radar for 10yrs. I was at the match with Kiwi & Aussie mates, and as i told them after the match, the reality was that despite my unwavering support for Ireland (being in Auckland for their victory over the Wallabies in 2011 was my pinnacle of southern hemisphere rugby life) I will most likely never see Ireland win the RWC, and it terms of a sporting feat, and seeing a team of multi nationals come together and potentially beat one of the consistently top 3 teams in the world over a 3 match Test series… well, that will rank for me with as good as a feeling as i have felt watching a game of rugby. Maybe you actually have to be at the match to get sucked into believing and aching when things don’t go the Lions way, but all i can say is that after Belae missed that kick, i felt a level of elation i rarely get at sporting events

    • Terrific, thanks for the perspective of someone on the tour! We said it ourselves in the piece, that if you’re down there following the tour, it would be almost impossible not to fully buy into the theatre of it.

      • Buccaneer

         /  June 24, 2013

        I have an uncle who has lived in Brisbane for 25 years and I know he was delighted! I spoke to him and he said “the Aussies were very fu*%ing quite in the pub for once!”

  17. david o donoghue

     /  June 24, 2013

    Great post. Agree with pretty much everything. I thoroughly enjoy the games but it doesn’t match the levels of excitement/disappointment that I experience when watching Munster/Ireland.

  18. MDISaints

     /  June 24, 2013

    Please don’t use “WE” when blogging what “YOU” think about Lions theres a good chap.

  19. Welcome to the dark side guys. Prepare to be castigated.

  20. Spice

     /  June 24, 2013

    There is too much hype around the tour for it to ever live up to. In all honesty all the warm-up games were rubbish and always were going to be. The Reds was an interesting perfomance but they are non-contests with enormous injury rates.
    It has become risiculously easy to become a Lion. All you need to do these days is hang arouind the general vicinity of the tour squad and wait for an injury.
    I’d love to see a tour consisting of 1 trial match somewhere in UK/Ire, a ‘warm-up’ v the Babas somewhere in Europe, a match vs France/French XV and then straight to Aus/NZ/SA for a 3 test tour. No more than 30 players to make the flight south.
    I know the ‘tours’ generate massive incomes for the opposition countries but something has got to give. After so many games and so many players I have already lost interest in this series.
    On another note why was there no mid-week special v Australia A this time around?

  21. conor

     /  June 24, 2013

    Thought provoking piece but I think it is a cynical view. The Lions games are not the same as ireland or leinster and thats why they are so incredible. We (lions) have nothing to lose and can just enjoy the matches for the beauty of them. It means a hell of a lot to the players too. I was in Brisbane and had tge time of my life. Rugby is escapism like any other sport. If ireland won the world cup I don’t think my life would change either.

    • But isn’t that exactly what we said? That we really enjoy the spectacle of the matches but because we have ‘nothing to lose’ as you put it, it doesn’t feel as if there’s as much at stake for the supporters?

      • conor

         /  June 24, 2013

        For me the best outcome is a 3 match series to remember and winning isn’t everything. Is winning everything for Ireland in a world cup? Hard to define I would argue. In fact we know our hearts will be broken at some stage but all we hope for is that we do ourselves justice and lose valiently. At least with the Lions we don’t have the same crushing disappointment! And we are well represented in the team and know the welsh extremely well. I don’t disagree with you entirely but you seem to cherish the disappointment of losing.

        • conor

           /  June 24, 2013

          Also I don’t have sky or the sunday times here in Australia…we have Tim Horan and Phil Kearns (shudder) so naturally I don’t watch them.

        • I don’t really understand this Conor. It seems like you agree with us totally! Not having the same crushing disappointment in defeat is exactly what we described in the post. Of course we want the Lions to win, it just doesn’t feel as heartbreaking if they lose as when Ireland do.

  22. AndrewinKorea

     /  June 24, 2013

    The SKY aspect is only relevant in the UK or Ireland. I don’t have SKY here but I can see how big and amazing the Lions are when i’m sitting in an American sports bar in Seoul. Perhaps some people are a bit locked away at home. But when I saw the game, this enormous sports bar was absolutely jam packed, and has not been since the Rugby World Cup.The Lions bring so many people together and not just from the UK and Ireland, but also those with a minor interest in the game from a host of other countries. I went to the game to the game in Hong Kong. Yeah we love our Leinster/Munster/Ulter/team from the west etc, but this was a totally different level of special. And that wasn’t because SKY were saying so. I haven’t seen Stuart Barnes in about six months.

  23. I think to anyone doubting what the LIons means to players, look at this video.


  24. I’d have to agree to disagree with you guys on this one. I still find the Lions massively affecting, even with Sky Sports and Stuart Barnes (who affects me in a very different way) doing their best to ruin it. I do think people can get a bit silly about it – see the reaction of Tom Court getting called up. As an aside, Tom, haterz gonna hate. You go big dawg.

    However, I don’t care if it makes me naive but I care just as much about the Lions as Munster or Ireland and certainly more than a Rabo away trip Dragons in the rain in February. The best part about it for me is that it doesn’t really make sense, it’s somewhat of an anchronism in the modern era. The cliches are largely true. It’s the last great sporting adventure, one I’ve wanted to join since I was 10 years old. Hackneyed? Of course. Don’t care.

    Part of the joy of seeing the home nations together in that way is being able to cheer on the cream of the crop. That George North try, Adam Jones in the scrum, Leigh Halfpenny’s kicks. They’re all for you this time round. It’s a rare opportunity to genuinely support the brilliance of players that are so often heart-breaking opposition. I’m destroyed about O’Connell but think Parling’s on the edge of some deep blue hero stuff and will be cheering him on come the weekend. I shout as loudly and leap to my feet just as much for the Lions as for my province or country, much to my family’s amusement/irritation (delete depending on family member). I unashamedly buy into the Lions and long may I continue to do so. It touches something other rugby just can’t.

    Quick recap on the match. Massively worried at scrum half. Mowen did an absolute number on Philips, to the extent where he was about to snap, and Youngs didn’t cut it when he came on. Warburton had no turnovers or carries and was a fairly absent captain. Sexton looked to O’Connell for kicking advice and Warburton certainly should have had a word in Pollock’s ear when Genia infringed so blatantly. The leading by example is well and good but you still have to perform the fucntions of the role.

    Heaslip had a great game, bar lack of control at the base of the scrum and didn’t get the credit he deserved for it. The refereeing was obviously massively frustrating. I can give a certain amount of leeway to different interpretation of laws but this wasn’t that. O’Driscoll was on his feet when he was pinged. I saw it said in various quarters that the Lions should have played the ref better but how can you do that when he’s not enforcing the rules with any coherency? Giving up competeing at the breakdown is hardly an ideal solution. Also let the Australians away with murder, including repeatedly coming in from the side. For that reason I find it hard to say it was a game they definitely didn’t deserve to win. It’s hard to tell when the ref is such a factor.

    • Spice

       /  June 25, 2013

      ‘Stuart Barnes (who affects me in a very different way)’…dooooirty!

  25. rachel685

     /  June 24, 2013

    I realise this is quite a personal thing, but what I like best about the Lions is that as an Irish person living in England, it’s so unusual to be in a situation where everyone is largely on the same side. My local pub has a fairly multi-national tinge to it (it’s in England, but the landlord is Welsh, and many patrons are Irish and Scottish), and it’s obviously good fun when things get a bit lively during the 6N; but to be there on Saturday morning, the place jammed to the rafters with Lions supporters – except for the Aussie bartender! – was really quite special. My husband’s English as well, and a Sarries fan of all things, so we’ve very much enjoyed the rare opportunity to support the same side.

    Plus, I have to admit I’m getting a massive kick out of being able to cheer unreservedly for George North, knowing that in a few weeks’ time I’ll go back to being petrified of seeing his name on a team sheet.

    • Ha I’m exactly the same. Better hald & I were saying the same about Shane Williams step. It’s a lot less scary when he’s on your team!

  26. Yep, WoC, have to say I agree with Rachel and with Kate above, I like (love) the joint-islands aspect of it. I reckon we share a lot of heritage with the English, Scots and Welsh, but so rarely we ever get to express it any other time. So, although Australia were brilliant and definitely deserved to win, I’m still rooting hard for the Lions.
    You’re dead right though that the Sky-hype gets a bit sickening, although in fairness i think that’s mostly the graphics, sound-design and the links part of it, (all those daft whooshing sounds and the blaring sound and colour). But if you look at the actual pannel: Wallace, Geech, Qunnell & Greenwood I reckon they are sound and balanced and fair, and indeed very experienced and knowledgable. And the only one who does get a bit carried away sometimes, Scott Quinnell, I love him for it because you can see it’s 100% genuine. (we all love him I think)

    Also agree with Kate’s read of the game in general, and her appraisal of the half backs and the back row. Phillips (often brilliant) was brutal, he went nowhere, every time he tried to snipe, they had him wrapped up like a baby. Fair enough, but he didn’t respond to it, adapt his game or vary his play. Oh, and when he did/does pass, his service is just not quite quick enough. Not good.
    Disagree with Kate and some others about Ben Young, I though he made a definite improvement when he came on. His brother Tom, incidentally, i thought was a good pick for man of the match. As we all know, SO”B must start, but probably won’t. That will possibly cost us the 2nd game, and the series.
    One last thing WoC, are you sure that, like me, you just don’t automatically route for the underdogs, even switching “allegiance” -or at least sympathies, during a match? In the first instance, it’s hard to hate the Aussies the same way as the spear-tackling, Polynesian-stealing, BNZders, or the eye-gouging, head stamping, former race-supremacist South Africans. The Australians, as a people, are actually alright, (nearly) and they play some absolutely gorgeous, stylish, heads-up back-line rugby. Plus, right or wrong they are not perceived as as unbeatable and terrifying as the other Big Southern Hemisphere 2. Finally, they had some savage luck with injuries right from the start o Saturday morning. Do you think your sympathies started to shift? Keep the faith bruv, because they are going to try everything to beat us, they are good enough to do it, And if, or when they do, make no mistake, they will be crowing in our face. Keep the faith and get shouting again. We need ya.

  27. Mike Phillips was pretty rubbish….watch how he saunters back for Folaus first try….I think it’s a problem with Phillips in general if he feels the game isn’t going his way he just seems to switch off

  28. Don

     /  June 25, 2013

    I was at the lions baa baas game in Hong Kong.
    The match was forgettable but the comradery, craic and atmosphere before during and after the game (especially during) made it the best game I have ever been too (even over Cardiff in 2011 and that was some atmosphere).
    Having been to one of the games I completely understand why some people fall so in love with it; bitching about Owen Farrell butchering THAT try opportunity and waxing lyrical about how doctor Roberts is a handsome swine with some English and Welsh fans was too enjoyable not to do again.

  29. Cian0o

     /  June 26, 2013

    Ospreys win and Clerc’s try! Hot twisting knives I tell thee!

  30. Andy Dufresne

     /  June 27, 2013

    “The specific act of playing for the Lions rarely amounts to much, as it mostly involves getting beaten. Has such hyperbole ever been drummed up over such a bunch of serial losers? For all the talk of the spiritual nature of the shirt and the greats that have gone before, they have mostly handed down a legacy of losing test matches”

    I’m sorry but that is a load of complete tosh. Far too much is made of the fact that the Lions have lost the last 3 tours when in reality 2 of the tours were decided on the thinnest of margins. The overall record of the Lions (putting NZ, 16% win ratio, to one side because who the hell beats them consistently anyway) is actually bloody impressive for a team cobbled together every four years. They have beaten South Africa in nearly 40% of the tests they have played against them and they have a win ratio of over 75% against Australia which is, quite frankly, phenomenal. Not exactly a bunch of serial losers there…

  31. Andy Dufresne

     /  June 28, 2013

    “The specific act of playing for the Lions rarely amounts to much, as it mostly involves getting beaten. Has such hyperbole ever been drummed up over such a bunch of serial losers? For all the talk of the spiritual nature of the shirt and the greats that have gone before, they have mostly handed down a legacy of losing test matches”

    Em, WTF?!

    Perhaps there’s more than a little hint of devils advocacy at work here but that statement is a load of complete tosh. Far too much is made of the fact that the Lions have lost the last 3 tours (and i think that’s where you’re focusing) when in reality 2 of those tours were decided on the thinnest of margins. You also have to consider that the Northern Hemisphere have been playing physical catch up since the advent of professionalism and, in reality, are only now getting close to parity on that front. The overall record of the Lions (putting NZ and a 16% win ratio to one side because who the hell beats them consistently anyway) is actually bloody impressive for a team patched together from four commonly inter-feuding nations every four years. They have beaten South Africa in nearly 40% of tests against them and they have a win ratio of over 75% against Australia which is, quite frankly, phenomenal. Not exactly a bunch of serial losers there and there certainly isn’t a whiff of a losing legacy against Australia.

    • Not buying that 75% statistic. Before the late 70s, Australia weren’t a major rugby nation. They used to play an occasional test en route to NZ. This is only the third standalone tour to Oz – they won 2-1 in 1989, lost 2-1 in 2001 and are 1-0 up this year

      • Andy Dufresne

         /  June 28, 2013

        That’s some more tosh there. Australia have been a properly competitive touring test nation since the 1930’s with plenty of big test match wins against top opposition, but that’s not the point I was making. I was simply pointing out that the Lions are far from a bunch of serial losers, NZ aside. Anyway, back to Australia; even if you were to discount all tests pre ’89, the Lions are still 4-3 up against a team that’s always been close to the top of the IRB rankings over that period. And the 75% overall test record against Australia isn’t up for sale so you don’t need to buy it. That’s just the stats of a winning legacy.

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