We will remember the 2001 Lions tour party as the squad that went down with all guns firing – most of them pointing inwards.
The latest salvo has come from the captain, Martin Johnson, who reveals in his book on the tour (Agony and Ecstasy, to be published tomorrow by Big Four Media, £15.99) major complaints about the way that coach Graham Henry prepared them for games.
This is not the first time we have heard this comment, but Johnson adds to it by saying that he felt before they went that there were too many Welshmen in the squad. We know that the English were not happy that their coach, Clive Woodward, wasn't given the job, but this is the first time I have heard Henry accused of picking too many of his own players. Does this mean that the English contingent went nursing these resentments? If so, were they looking for faults in the management from the outset?
Certainly, Austin Healey was moaning publicly early and Matt Dawson entered print on the morning of the first Test to criticise the management. Johnson allows that Dawson might have been peeved that Rob Howley was in the team instead of him, but agrees that the article was a "stupid, silly thing to write".
In the event, the disciplinary panel, upon which Johnson sat, decided to treat the player leniently with a fine. Had they decided to send him home, says Johnson, "I would have been on the seat next to him and I like to think the rest of the squad would have been too".
I can't believe that a Lions captain would even contemplate such an unprecedented rebellion, particularly when he agrees the player was out of order. Obviously, this wasn't a happy tour, but it was a close-run thing. An intercepted pass here, a different bounce of the ball there and they would have all come back as heroes, even Henry. Would that have justified his methods?
The 2001 Lions tour might have fallen short of victory, but as a lesson in selling books it was an outstanding success.Reuse content