British & Irish Lions Tour Diary
Embarking on the 'epic journey'
Tom Hamilton at Heathrow
May 28, 2013
Jamie Roberts feels the heat in Hong Kong © Getty Images
After the traditional last-minute panic involving checking everything from passport dates, to hotel bookings, visas, to toothbrushes - due to the horrendous exchange rate for us Brits, I am starting to count the pennies now; money spent on a toothbrush could potentially go towards a single grape - I am ready to embark on what promises to be 40 days of British & Irish Lions mayhem.
The build-up to this tour started when the Lions beat the Springboks in that third Test in Johannesburg in 2009. I remember standing at Ellis Park watching the beaming Lions salute their plentiful support four years ago. But despite a morale-boosting win, the Lions had lost yet another series. It was bittersweet at best.
Brian O'Driscoll knows the pain of red-shirted-four-country defeat more than most. This will be his fourth tour and his last. What better way to give the great man a well-deserved sign-off, from an Ireland and Lions perspective, than a victory on Australian soil, the same turf he scorched with his incredible performance against the Wallabies 12 years ago.
But this tour is bigger than just one man, even more than the potential arrival of Jonny Wilkinson later in the tour - when or if that does happen, I am fully expecting the sky to part and him to arrive in a manner similar to the Queen back in the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony. If he just merely walks through the arrival gates in Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne, then the numerous sponsors associated with the Lions have missed a trick.
This tour marks the 125th anniversary of the Lions, it is high time they won a series as O'Driscoll himself emphasised. "We do need to win on occasion and I think that occasion has come again now after 16 years. It is a long time to still be talking about 1997."
It is an incredible reality check that Jeremy Guscott's second Test drop-goal against the Springboks is the last time those of a Lions inclination experienced a series success.
Pride, brand, tribe or just Lions, whatever you call it, they need to win this series. For me, the journey begins today but for the crop of 2013, they will be seeking to outdo the 2009 group who managed just one Test win. As the Lions prepare for their first game of this tour, it seems fitting to end with Sir Ian McGeechan's pre-match words prior to what many deemed to be a dead rubber of a third Test against the Boks four years ago.
"We can leave a legacy, in this last game, in this jersey for the players to pick up in four years time. For four years, we can leave something, make sure when people think about the Lions, they think good. Some of you will be there to pick up in four years time, some of you won't be. Please, please, give them something to play for and to understand."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum. He will be covering the Lions' highs and lows throughout the tour