British and Irish Lions 2013: 'Players needed beer and a break before the decider against Australia,' says Andy Irvine

The decisive Test takes place on Saturday

There comes a point in every Lions tour when the manager vents his spleen about something or other and, as the battered British and Irish players completed their mid-series break and contemplated a return to the training field ahead of this weekend's momentous meeting with the Wallabies in Sydney, the grand Scottish full-back of old found his subject. Andy Irvine called for nothing less than a "complete rethink" of the scrum and breakdown laws, dismissing the current situation as a lottery.

"It's just a personal view," he said, in the knowledge that the Lions tour manager's personal view carries significantly more weight than that of a Fourth XV prop at Old Muckyduckians RFC, "but the scrummage is a nightmare and the breakdown is not much better. I think that 20 or 30 per cent of the time, you could just toss a coin rather than bother with a decision. I'm not blaming the referees; I think they have an almost impossible job. But the ideal is to have the best team winning every time, and I think we have to admit that it doesn't happen every time."

Irvine stressed that he had "no qualms" with the outcomes of the two Tests to date; indeed, he thought the Wallabies had deserved their series-squaring victory in Melbourne four days ago. "They played exceptionally well, while we defended exceptionally well without being as creative in attack as we have been at other points during the tour," he remarked tellingly.

But the manager also said that, in his view, the seemingly endless discussions between the South African referee Craig Joubert and the rival front-row units before virtually every scrum in Melbourne had been something of a passion killer. Joubert's determination to keep the two packs off the floor led him to embark on what amounted to a series of tutorials ahead of engagement. Cumulatively, several minutes of playing time were lost as the players were coached in the whys and wherefores of set-piece etiquette.

The other main topic of discussion was the tourists' decision to delay their arrival in Sydney in favour of a coastal break a few hundred miles to the north. Apart from those players who needed to prove their fitness – the Wales centre Jamie Roberts and the England prop Alex Corbisiero, principally – none of the squad had set foot on a rugby field since their narrow defeat at the Docklands Stadium. Instead, they had spent two days relaxing, socialising and – yes – consuming the odd beer or three. Had this been wise, given the enormity of the game ahead?

"This is one of the biggest matches the Lions have played in the last 30 or 40 years," Irvine acknowledged, "but I have not the slightest doubt that we were right to come here. Believe me, after the second Test the players were absolutely exhausted, both physically and mentally. They badly needed to recharge their batteries. If we had our time again, we'd come back here again and again.

"One of the factors up here is that it's not Sydney. This is a lovely environment. Sydney is a big city and a concrete jungle, for all the iconic splendour of the harbour bridge and the opera house. When I think back to my time playing for the Lions, between the second and third Tests in South Africa we went on safari, and at the same point in New Zealand we went up to the Bay of Islands. What we are doing here is something very similar.

"When we came out here on a recce a year ago and checked the training grounds, we found they weren't really up to standard. But the local rugby people have worked really hard with the tourist board and put in a lot of money. The facilities are super and, to be honest, I couldn't think of a better place for the players to be."

After admitting that the loss of the tour captain, Sam Warburton, to injury was a "serious blow that we can't hide away from", Irvine went out of his way to insist that the squad would be in the correct frame of mind for the challenge ahead – a challenge of very serious proportions, given the renowned strength of the Wallaby spirit when charged with delivering a result on their own territory.

"That defeat in Melbourne… it dented the pride of the players," he said. "But we don't need sympathy from anyone. There are disappointments in life and that was one of them, but it wasn't catastrophic. These people are model professionals and I can't speak highly enough of them. Now they've had a chance to unwind in some peace and quiet, they're ready to go again."

Should the Wallabies win the series from 1-0 down, would that be catastrophic for the Lions? After all, they have not triumphed in the southern hemisphere since 1997 and, with the thankless prospect of a trip to All Black country in four years' time, failure here might condemn them to a quarter of a century of misery.

"Well, it depends," Irvine responded. "We could lose in Sydney yet play some absolutely tremendous rugby. We could score four spectacular tries and deserve to win, yet be beaten by 10 penalty goals. If they whip us by 30 points… that would be catastrophic. But I'd like to think we'll be there or thereabouts.

"There's a lot of idle chat about the Lions' future – that we have to win this series, otherwise we'll fall out of existence. Yet this tour is possibly the most successful ever in terms of interest and enjoyment and the number of supporters following us. Last weekend's Test wasn't a great game of rugby – let's be honest, both teams made mistakes – but for pure theatre it was absolutely incredible. If you ask the supporters, disappointed as they were in Melbourne, about watching the Lions, they would go back and see them in a second."

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 



News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments