Well the 2017 Lions certainly exceeded my expectations! On the field, they very nearly pulled off a remarkable series win against the world’s best team.
The Lions is a special tour and always unearths a few unexpected heroes. Seeing Gatland going against his usual big ball carriers in the backs and choosing players who were going to express themselves on the pitch over his usual reliance on bish bash bosh was wonderful. It meant we got to see the likes of Elliot Daly, Liam Williams and Anthony Watson dazzle us with skills, whilst the forwards started to crank up the physicality and really take it to the All Blacks.
Gatland, never shy of tough decisions, left out Sam Warburton for the 1st Test picking in a most unusual move Peter O’Mahony who had been an admirable competitor but was never going to be a match winner for the Lions. Beating the All Blacks takes a superhuman effort and a team that is prepared to go and score tries while ruthlessly defending their line. That is what Gatland went after and achieved, and I think on reflection we can agree a drawn series was probably the correct outcome.
The spirit and ferocity with which the tour and matches were played was breathtaking and the huge support from the sea of red that followed this team to NZ just goes to show how important The Lions still is in the world of rugby and psyche of the Home Nations.
The whole tour has put the focus back on the international scene with many players having distinguished themselves from all countries. Iain Henderson grew in every game and will be of huge importance for Ireland. Scotland, with only 3 deemed worthy of the Lions squad, will be out to impress. Wales now have Liam Williams to add with Leigh Halfpenny and George North to a very exciting back 3. England have an embarrassment of riches to choose from. Jamie George will be pushing Dylan Hartley even harder for that no. 2 shirt. Kruis, Lawes, Itoje will battle for the second-row places and the new lad on the scene Kyle Sinckler will start breathing some fire into the front row.
All in all it is going to make great watching during the upcoming Autumn Internationals and Six Nations & I hope to see you there in style in my Lewis Moody VIP Club – it will be a huge amount of fun as always with some terrific rugby guests lined up & as usual the lovely Rachel Wyse will be MC’ing to keep us boys in check. I can’t wait!