Sir Ian McGeechan Picks His ‘Ultimate Lion’ & It May Surprise You
Sir Ian McGeechan knows a thing or two about being a Lion.
The legendary coach is one of the most respected men in the history of the Lions and in In his new book, ‘The Lions: When the going gets tough’ Geech reveals the man who stood out more than any other for him in his five tours as a coach.
Jason Leonard is my ultimate Lion. I have always said so.
Why? Because his attitude in 1997 (South Africa) summed up what being a Lion should mean and it is an attitude that you have to carry with you if the Lions are to have any chance of success.
In 1993 in New Zealand, he propped on the two sides of the scrum when required, to make it work – actually to help us out because we had not selected particularly well at prop.
He just delivered whatever we wanted. So because of that, and the fact that he was the most experienced of the England players, everyone presumed he would be a Test starter in 1997. But he was not. He was on the bench, as we chose Tom Smith at loosehead and Paul Wallace at tighthead.
Was he disappointed? Definitely. He was a competitor so it must have hurt him not to be picked, but he hid it very well.
Instead, he made sure that the chosen props had everything they needed to perform in the Test match. I marvelled at the way he talked to them and the way he talked about South Africa; they just spoke as a group about what the props needed to do.
He was a complete part of the preparation. When you see that as a coach you think: ‘This is why this tour is being successful.’
When you see how someone like Jason reacted, that to me is being the ideal Lion. You can be a Test Lion, that’s easy. But to be like Jason Leonard, to hide your disappointment and help the cause: that’s the ultimate.
What do you think? Who is your ultimate Lion?