McGeechan demands Lions backing

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The Independent Online

Ian McGeechan has called on the power-brokers of northern hemisphere rugby to throw their full support behind the British and Irish Lions.

McGeechan is proud of the fact he has managed to restore the credibility of the Lions after they pushed world champions South Africa so close in a dramatic Test series.

Despite their heroic performance in Saturday's 28-25 defeat to the Springboks, the Lions have now lost a record seven successive Tests in the southern hemisphere.

After the Test series is over next weekend, McGeechan and tour manager Gerald Davies will compile a detailed report of what is required to give the Lions their best chance of victory over Australia in 2013.

It will contain some strong and forceful language.

"I just wish more of those people who don't want to make time for the Lions would come out and experience a Lions tour because I don't think they understand the impact. For the players they represent they should make it work," said McGeechan.

"The two biggest things in the international calendar are World Cups and Lions tours. If we could respect that then I think that preparation can help the next coach.

"For the professional player, this is what he wants to do. This is where he wants to be. This is the shirt he wants to wear.

"Going forward we have got to make that easier to happen. By doing that you make the preparation easier to win a Test series. That is to everybody's advantage.

"Whether it is Australia, New Zealand or South Africa, give the Lions a fair crack.

"The important thing is to get everyone to agree that in a Lions season, just as in a World Cup season, you make adjustments to the season for the players."

The Lions tackled the world champion Springboks after just five weeks together having had no break between the end of the club season and the first tour match, at altitude, on May 30.

In the end they fell just short.

South Africa withstood a Lions fightback to win the first Test 26-21 and then snatched the series with a 28-25 victory last night, sealed with a 54 metre penalty from the final kick of the game.

"We have just watched one of the best Test matches the Lions have played," said McGeechan.

"We have had two cracking Test matches. People say, 'Are the Lions valuable'?

"The rugby we have played has been outstanding. We have seen some of the best rugby ever.

"I think there has been a lot of credibility brought back to the Lions on this tour. To me the Lions in other people's eyes have just got bigger."

Four years ago in New Zealand, Sir Clive Woodward attempted to reinvent the concept of a Lions tour and failed as the All Blacks completed a 3-0 Test series victory.

The Springboks may go on to repeat the scoreline in Johannesburg next weekend given the Lions had five players in hospital after yesterday's bruising encounter.

But McGeechan believes the Lions have still achieved something special on this tour, by rekindling the spirit and ethos of old.

"I think this has been as good an atmosphere on a Lions tour as I have experienced," said McGeechan, whose Lions association dates back seven tours to 1974.

"I am hugely proud of what has been achieved and we will take that into the third Test."