McGeechan tips Lions for success in Australia
July 2, 2012
Sir Ian McGeechan is confident the 2013 Lions can repeat the success of the 1989 that he coached to a series win © Getty Images
Legendary Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan is confident that the 2013 tourists can return from Australia with a Test-series win under their belts.
McGeechan, who has taken charge of the Lions on five previous occasions including a 1989 series triumph over the Wallabies, will not be part of their latest coaching team with Wales' Warren Gatland the overwhelming favourite to be handed the honour. However, McGeechan has been working as a consultant with tour manager Andy Irvine to ensure that they have the best chance of victory Down Under.
"I believe the Lions have a really good chance in Australia," McGeechan said. "There is a group of really talented younger players coming through and with another year they will keep developing and improving. It is very exciting the amount of quality in different positions. In the back row, for example, there is fantastic competition for the places and there will be some superb players left at home. I think if you look at all of the back rows across the home unions they could all stake a claim to start for the Lions."
As a player McGeechan won four Test caps on the unbeaten tour to South Africa in 1974 and added a further four on the tour of New Zealand in 1977. He rekindled his relationship with the Lions as a coach and led the team to 2-1 win over Australia in 1989 but was unable to repeat the result four years later in New Zealand.
He spearhead them once again in South Africa four years later when his side claimed a memorable 2-1 series victory but sat out the 2001 tour of Australia that saw the Graham Henry-led Lions suffer a narrow series defeat. The Lions came calling again ahead of their troubled trip to New Zealand in 2005 when he served as a coach of the mid-week side but he was back in the hotseat three years ago when South Africa took the spoils in another keenly-contested series.
Throughout his time as coach of the Lions, McGeechan has shown that he is more than happy to make controversial selection choices in a bid to win a series. In 1989 he took a young Jeremy Guscott when the centre had won only one England cap, while in 1997 he left out then England captain Phil De Glanville in favour of the uncapped Will Greenwood - and he says it is vitally important that whoever takes the reins for next year's tour, they must not rush into any selections.
"I think the selection of the squad will be critical," McGeechan told Sky Sports. "It is easy enough to pick 20-25 players but it is the last 10 that are crucial and they are the ones that could make the tour. In '09 the authorities wanted the squad to be announced after the end of the Six Nations but I refused. It was in the month after that we were able to give players that second, third, fourth and fifth look for those final places. It is then that a player that could just catch your eye. You start looking at players from October onwards and we didn't seriously look at the final selection until after the Six Nations.
"You will start off looking at 60-70 players and will whittle it down as time goes on, with the selections evolving all the time until April. In the end, though, some of the selections will be gut feeling. Something will be there and you just can't put your finger on what it is but you get a feeling that it is right; getting that selection right is the biggest challenge for the coaches."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"The thirst for knowledge has seen coaches break away from the confines of rugby and look to America." Tom Hamilton on the two-way learning process
On Saturday, New Zealand face the USA in a match that has been 40 years in the making. Tom Hamilton finds the atmosphere building in Chicago
Most modern rugby players will not know the name Ray Williams but they should be eternally grateful to him, writes John Taylor
With the All Blacks playing the USA Eagles this weekend, Craig Dowd says rugby is ready to make a professional breakthrough Stateside