British & Irish Lions
McGeechan hails Gatland, Phillips
June 19, 2013
Ian McGeechan believes Mike Phillips could prove the difference in the Test series © Getty Images
British & Irish Lions legend Ian McGeechan says coach Warren Gatland is the perfect man to break their 16-year hoodoo.
McGeechan was the last man to lead the Lions to a series win - a 2-1 triumph in South Africa in 1997 - but they have found success hard to come by ever since.
The Lions have never lost four consecutive series, but defeats to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the new millennium make it a possibility. And despite the 14-12 defeat to the Brumbies in their latest warm-up clash McGeechan, who has been involved in seven Lions tours - two as a player and five as a coach, four of which were as head coach - is not expecting the combined side to lose the series against the Australians.
He believes Gatland, who was his assistant on the 2009 tour to South Africa, will enhance his already impressive credentials over the next few weeks.
"Warren has what it takes to lead the Lions to victory," McGeechan told OMNISPORT ahead of the first Test against Australia in Brisbane on Saturday. "After the last tour, my recommendation was that Gatland should be the coach of this one. He was great. We have a similar philosophy in many ways.
"He is a very good coach and he understands the Lions, which I think is very important. He understands how important a Lions jersey is. He pulls people together well and he is good with his coaches. He is also good with his support staff and with his players. He knows how important it is to get the whole group together and he is not afraid of having a bit of fun as well which are all huge plus points."
McGeechan believes the Lions are in "very good shape" ahead of the first Test against Australia in Brisbane on Saturday, but has warned Gatland and his squad not to under-estimate the Wallabies.
The former coach has worked closely with scrum-half Mike Phillips - who captained the Lions in 2009 against South Africa - in the past. And he believes that the Welshman will be the star man of this tour.
"I think Mike Phillips could be the difference in the Test series," he added. "For me, he is world class. He showed that in South Africa four years ago and I think in a Lions jersey, he almost gets bigger. I think he will be very influential. He works well with his forwards but he also gets the backs working well and he is a threat in his own right. He will be a very important player for the Lions."
The Lions will play three Tests against Australia, with clashes in Melbourne and Sydney to follow Saturday's series opener.