B&I Lions roar onto your screens
Never backward in coming forward, former British and Irish Lion John Robbie expects this year’s Lions’ tour, starting this weekend, to be brutal.
Robbie will be SuperSport’s chief analyst for the 10-match sortie, which starts in Hong Kong this weekend with a game against the Barbarians. Schalk Brits and Marco Wentzel are in the starting XV.
“The Lions are now totally unique in that they only appear once a decade in each country for a proper tour. They’re the only team that goes on proper tour. That’s what makes it so special.”
The Irishman, who played for the Lions in 1980, says where he grew up, the dream was to play for his country, “but the ultimate was the Lions.”
“This series is just too close to call. With the Lions you never know how they’re going to gel. Some teams have been selected with more talent than others and been simply disastrous. The ’71 team, possibly the greatest ever, lost their first match in Australia and everyone thought it would be a disaster. They went on to defeat the All Blacks in the series.
“What I do know, and it’s a strange statistic, is that the team that wins the first test in Australia usually loses the series.”
Examining playing styles, Robbie says that Australia’s offloading is improving all the time and they ought to run hard at the Lions, which could be “spectacular”.
He says coach Robbie Deans was daft to leave out Quade Cooper. “How he did that, I’ll never know. He would be the first name on my list. I accept they have a history, but surely it’s the coach’s job to remedy that.”
Robbie expects the tension to be well cranked up before the Lions arrive in Australia early next week. “There’s no love lost between the teams and their supporters. Hopefully it stays within the lines. Australia has already started the mental war, labelling the Lions ‘slabs of meat’. This is sure to up the ante.”
Robbie also points to Deans’s future hanging on the outcome of the series, with one proud New Zealander against another (Warren Gatland, the Lions coach).
“This is a very talented Lions side, but history is littered with such teams that have ended in disaster. They have size, speed and skill, but I expect them to try and grind their way through Australia. It will be a war of attrition.”
SuperSport’s coverage of the tour will include a half-hour buildup for each game.
Additionally, Australian legend David Campese will supply pre- and post-game reports from each venue.
Former All Black coach and player John Mitchell will also be a regular guest.