Lions Selection Process Proposal | Revive the Ireland/Scotland Vs England/Wales Test
When rugby turned professional it beckoned an age of fitter, faster more talented athletes but it came at a cost.
The freedom of the amateur was replaced by contracts and the plethora of international invitational matches and sides was reduced solely to the Barbarians. One such match of old was an International featuring a combined Ireland and Scotland side facing off against a combined England and Welsh team.
Often held as a celebratory match commemorating the opening of a stand or the celebration of a centenary: it’s a game that has featured some of the most talented players in the British & Irish Isles.
In 1955 it was a battle of the captains and stand offs: Jack Kyle Vs Cliff Morgan. In 1980 it featured Bill Beaumont, Sir Clive Woodward, Tony Ward and Andy Irvine; however it was the matches in 1970 ,1972 & 1975 when a golden generation of British & Irish players graced the field.
The English/Welsh sides featured Sir Gareth Edwards, JPR Williams, Barry John, Phil Bennett, David Duckham, & Mervyn Davies whilst the Irish/Scottish sides held greats like Willie John McBride, Fergus Slattery, Gordon Brown and Mike Gibson who scored a famous hat trick at Twickenham in the 1972 match.
With the gruelling demand of the professional game and the tight scheduling of matches it would be all but impossible to revive this great tradition, but in a Lion’s year would it be such a bad idea to consider doing so? With the squad named tomorrow is it so ridiculous to consider an end of season Invitational as the final part of the selection process?
A Lion’s Tour is more than just a 3 Test series, it is the biggest rugby occasion outside of a World Cup. There is an element of fantasy about a Lion’s Tour, seeing combinations that you would never otherwise see but more than anything there is a sense of occasion. On the last Lion’s Tour this started with a match in Hong Kong against the Barbarians but why not start it even before the training camps begin?
Picture a packed out Twickenham or Millennium Stadium, the euphoria of a hard fought domestic and european campaign fresh in the memory, the anticipation of a Lion’s Tour lying ahead. A showcase of the best players from the four home nations battling it out for a seat on the plane.
Now there would be concerns about overloading player’s schedules, potential injuries and even the need for such a match with most of the players featuring almost guaranteed selection anyway but there will be training sessions of a similar intensity and injuries can occur in any of the warm up matches. If the Lion’s coaching panel are carefully monitoring every detail and even if the match is focused towards those on the fringe of selection rather than those bolted on for a test shirt then why couldn’t it work?
1972 Match Highlights
1980 Match Highlights