CHEEKY INSIGHTS FROM OUR CLUB CAPTAIN
It’s amazing to be involved with something that gives back to British & Irish Lions fans, and I am very proud to announce I will be taking on the role of ‘Club Captain’ for Thomas Pink’s ‘Pink Lion Rugby Club’.
If you love your rugby and the Lions in particular, you should become a member of the club here. Pink Lion members will receive incredible access to exclusive events where they will get some rugby insight from myself and other Lions.
This is the first of my blogs giving you a chance to get under the skin of the game, hopefully my experiences and opinions on the biggest topics in the sport right now will keep you entertained.
The first topic on everyone’s lips is the Autumn Internationals which are always a great spectacle of rugby, and particularly in a Lions year, I always felt were the first real opportunity to sow a positive seed into the coach’s mind that you are a 'must have' in his squad.
I've always been of the mind-set that there are no such things as 'friendlies' in International rugby, any time you get to play for your country it is a huge deal. With this in mind I always saw the November series as an opportunity to take Southern Hemisphere scalps and I’m sure that mentality is something I share with a lot of lads getting ready for the Autumn Internationals.
In terms of the home nations’ chances this Autumn, I personally think the quality and mood in the Wales and Ireland camps means they might pick off one win a piece against the Southern Hemisphere teams, with Ireland beating Australia. I’m going to put my neck on the line and say Scotland might have to make do with a victory over Georgia, that said, they are more than capable of a win against Australia or Argentina in Edinburgh – the crowd up there always plays a huge part in the performance.
I think you'd be silly to look away from England and the form they've managed to develop in a short space of time under Eddie Jones. Their pack seems to really have their edge back and now competition for places is driving their standards even higher. Itoje and Kruis have the makings of a second row pairing for the ages in a position where the Lions will be loaded with class and I think England will remain undefeated.
The hottest topic of discussion regarding the Lions at the moment is of course the announcement that Warren Gatland will be Head Coach for the New Zealand tour. I have been lucky enough to work with Warren, he gave me my first cap so I've a huge amount to be thankful for. He's a great thinker of the game and not afraid to be an innovator with new plays and concepts like the 13-man lineout. He'll need all his international experience to come up with a game plan capable of thwarting the World Champions.
Warren has the pedigree and experience to lead the Lions down to New Zealand and do what no side has managed since the early 70's. The fact he is a Kiwi himself will help the Lions understand the mentality of the hosts and what to expect from them.
He isn't afraid of making the bold call which all good coaches need to have in their armoury and due to a lack of preparation time he'll need a simple but challenging game plan that his squad can easily buy into and understand. New Zealand always offers a tough test for any rugby side and it will be no different for the Lions next year.