The future of the British and Irish Lions
After Saturday’s victory over Australia, a resounding 41-16 crushing over the Wallabies. The Lions 2013 tour have certainly cemented a place in all of rugby history. Ending a 16 year wait for a test victory, every player in red played amazingly well to secure the victory. Jonny Sexton stood up and controlled the game from the outset, Leigh Halfpenny was yet again accurate with the boot and his line breaks helped to set up two tries. The forwards dominated in the scrums and the line-outs, which inevitably forced a yellow card for the Wallabies after just 25 minutes. The high tackling rate and decisive work of Sean O’Brien at the breakdown allowed for expansive play over the pitch, Alun-Wyn Jones excelled as captained and showed leadership from the front and ran himself into the ground. Well deserved victory for the Lions over the Qantas Wallabies, it showed real promise for the future.
When considering the future of the British and Irish Lions not a lot has to be changed from the current regime. However, a few aspects I would consider is change to the ‘Warm-Up’ games, increase in squad size and an increase in preparation time for the players as a squad.
With a lot of speculation that Argentina are going to be added to the Lions tour cycle it suggests that the British and Irish Lions are attempting to become a world brand image, and rightfully so. This change to the cycle will be great for both parties concerned as it adds a new challenge for the Lions and increases the profile of players and the squad in South America. It also allows for Argentina to show the vast improvement they have shown in recent years, on the world stage.
The changes to the warm/lead up games to the test series should be changed on a huge level. Instead of playing clubs and counties throughout Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. They should look to begin playing emerging national squads in the local area. This, in my eyes, will add greater competitive levels and also vastly improve the brand image of the Lions, and all of the sponsors involved also. The likes of HSBC, Adidas, and Microsoft have the potential to see massive improvements in profit levels if the Lions begin to visit nations surrounding the test hosts. Many will argue that the Lions tour shouldn’t be about the sponsors, or the brand image. However, if the Lions become a truly global force thanks to the sponsors, will more youngsters start playing rugby? Possibly. This may fully secure the future generation of rugby players in a lot more countries then intended. Come the New Zealand tour of 2017, shall the Lions look to branch out. They can include warm up games against the likes of Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Cook Islands, and others surrounding the South Pacific Ocean.
An increase in squad size allows for definite cover to injury. The Lions tour of 2013 has been blighted with injury to some key players, including Paul O’Connell, Sam Warburton, Jamie Roberts, Cian Healy, Gethin Jenkins. This allows for those players that do get called up, are there for much more of the preparation stages and can fit more effectively into the touring side. This allows for the head coach to have more strength in depth, should injury affect the squad.
Warren Gatland in an interview following the test victory against Australia called for longer preparation time for the Lions in the UK. This call is spot on in my opinion. This also create a buzz around the UK, if the Lions travel through the four nations attending different training sessions and allowing the local population to interact with players. This has the potential to increase support level at home, with more people backing the Lions, future tours are set to continue. Further preparation time can also allow for the players from the four nations to gel better and become more fluid in set pieces.
The use of social media is also very important in attracting attention towards the Lions, with many celebrities getting behind the Lions it creates a great atmosphere for all to enjoy. With on average, 8K tweets per day about the Lions tour (from @lionsofficial Twitter account) it shows the great effect social media can have on spurring up a buzz and gathering attention towards these huge events. Also, a huge admiration for Daniel Craig after going to celebrate with the players after the victory. It very much shows the huge levels of support that the Lions gather around the world.
One big thing I want to see is the introduction of a Southern Hemisphere ‘Lions’ squad. Consisting of players from New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.