12 September 2016
Still “Their Everest”: Why the Lions should Be Left Untouched
When Jim Telfer sat down the soon to be victorious 1997 Lions pack on the eve of the first Test in Cape Town in June 1997 he gave a speech that would capture the imagination of a generation of British and Irish rugby fans. Telfer uttered the challenge to the stars of the game that sat in front of him: ‘This is your Everest boys’, Telfer captured everything that the Lions are and all that they stand for in that moment. He was reminding the players that for any rugby player born in Britain or Ireland, playing for the Lions is the pinnacle of their playing days, that the challenge of building a team in a matter of weeks who are able to mount a challenge to Rugby’s southern hemisphere titans is a near impossible task and that for those few who succeed their place in cemented in history.
Never is this truer than of the fast approaching 2017 tour. The Lions schedule for this tour is extensive to say the least, with a 10 game fixture list which consists of 5 games against Super Rugby opposition and of course a 3 Test series against what is arguably one of the greatest and most successful teams in the history of sport. Couple this with the fact that the Tour commences just a week after the finish of the domestic season and, in a climate whereby the amount of rest time players can give to their body is a hot topic and at times a concern, people are starting to question the tours place in the modern game.
With prominent figures in the British game (largely those whose allegiances lie in the Aviva Premiership) such as Mark McCall and Dai Young questioning the tour, there is a growing feeling that their needs to be change. Maybe there does, but why not start the premiership season a week earlier in Lions year? By definition, a Lions year is not a World Cup year and therefore players have summer tours to complete before a well-earned rest before the premiership season commences. The Lions needs to take priority, every four years the nations that are divided by fierce 6 Nations rivalry unite under the banner of the iconic ‘Lions Red’ and there is nothing more special than that unifying force. With the images of the Lions rich past about to be filtered into the media in the build-up to this now somewhat controversial tour, it is clear the Lions have a huge place in Rugby’s heritage and certainly should have a huge place in its future. With a 6 Nations that takes on greater importance with Warren Gatland’s selection looming over each player just months away, and all the odds stacked against the potential tourists, the Lions 2017 is rightfully set up to be the Everest it always has been.