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British & Irish Lions
An audience with Jake White
Tom Hamilton in Canberra
June 18, 2013
Jake White calls the shots for the Brumbies © Getty Images
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"He's full of empathy...he calms the water...he's the Brumbies' saviour," was how a taxi driver in Canberra described Jake White, the ACT Brumbies' head coach. When he arrived in Australia's capital he had a World Cup-winner's medal to his name.

But there's something in the water in Canberra that keeps White interested and motivated. On Monday evening, a small group of us travelling journalists were lucky enough to have 30 minutes with White at a plush hotel near to Capital Hill. It was one of my personal highlights of the tour. He is engrossing and fiercely intelligent, a rugby scholar.

We spoke at length about all things Brumbies and Lions. And one of the surprising points to come out of it was his belief that Sir Clive Woodward got the balance of the 2005 Lions tour right, it was a rare bit of praise for what is widely regarded to be one of the tourists worst ever trips to the southern hemisphere. And he also opened the door on the sportsman's mindset.

"If I was Lions coach, I'd have done what Clive Woodward did in 2005," White told the press. "I would have brought 44 players, two tens. If you want to win a series that's what you have to do. Gatland has now picked 44 players as you need an A side and a B side. You can't decide on a Tuesday who will play in a Test match, any professional sportsman needs to know where their rank is. Tennis players know where they are and rugby players are just the same.

"If a guy is your first five-eighth, he's your first five-eight. You have to tell them. Nothing changes between when you leave the UK and your first Test match.

 
Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has labelled the tourists' style of rugby as 'Robocop' - brutal physicality and direct running
 

"Yes they are singular sports but sportsman want to know what their ranking is. They look on the board to see how many tackles they have made, running metres. They want to know their ranking. There's no right or wrong, but I'm saying that you need to pick an A side and a B side.

"There will be opportunities in the touring side to prove to coaches that they are right or wrong. I think they should have said - there's the 23. Then you can control their legs, how much game time do they get, do they start, do they come off the bench."

On Tuesday, White will have his crack at the Lions. Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has labelled the tourist's style of rugby as 'Robocop' - brutal physicality and direct running. It is similar to how the Brumbies play with White's blueprint all over it. But he knows better than most that if the Lions start rumbling, then it is very hard to stop them.

"Everyone knew what Clive Woodward was going to do with the England team and he just got it right. They couldn't stop it. Martin Johnson was going to run round the corner carrying the ball, and then when they came back Richard Hill was coming. It didn't matter if you saw it on the video, you still had to stop it. And if you kicked the ball poorly Jason Robinson would cut you to pieces. All good coaches know what they want to get out of their teams. I don't think it's a negative, I think it's a positive."

Tuesday night's game will be one for the rugby purists but it will be a fascinating affair all the same.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
WRITER BIO

Tom Hamilton was brought up near the stands of the Recreation Ground and joined ESPN in 2011. He is now Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.
Follow him on Twitter @tomESPNscrum