International Rugby
McGeechan knighted in New Year Honours
December 31, 2009
Lions head coach Ian McGeechan smiles during a press conference, British & Irish Lions press conference, Southern Sun Elangeni Hotel, Surban, South Africa, June 18, 2009
McGeechan has been honoured for his services to the sport © Getty Images

British & Irish Lions legend Ian McGeechan has been knighted in the New Year Honours list in recognitiion ofhis services to the sport.

The 63-year-old featured in seven British and Irish Lions tours in total, five as a coach and two as a player and also represented Scotland as a player and a coach, steering them to the Five Nations Championship Grand Slam in 1990. McGeechan, who also coached English side London Wasps to Premiership and Heineken Cup glory, was quick to give all the credit for the knighthood to his family.

"This honour couldn't have been achieved without the backing of my wife, Judy, and my children Heather and Rob," he said in a statement. "It is their constant support that has provided such an inspiration to me and this honour would not have been possible without them. I am very proud of my family and I want to dedicate this honour to them.

"Rugby has been a huge part of my life for over 40 years and to have achieved everything I have with Scotland, in club rugby and with the Lions has been an immensely rewarding and enjoyable experience. At the moment I am enjoying a rest from coaching and enjoying more time with my family, but my passion for rugby and for sporting excellence remains undimmed.''

McGeechan began his playing career at Headingley, juggling rugby with his day job as a geography teacher and it was in 1974 that his love affair with the Lions began. The touring squad, captained by Willie John McBride, were tagged the Invincibles after sweeping through South Africa unbeaten on a 22-match, three-and-a-half month adventure. McGeechan started all four Tests as the Lions won the series 3-0 with one draw, and made four more appearances against the All Blacks in 1977.

After retiring as a player, McGeechan joined the Scotland coaching team in 1986 and was placed in charge two years later, leading his country to the Grand Slam title. McGeechan masterminded Lions series victories over Australia in 1989 and South Africa in 1997 but lost on two trips to New Zealand, as head coach in 1993 and assistant to Clive Woodward in 2005. McGeechan was in charge of the unbeaten midweek team four years ago but he disagreed with the way Woodward ditched many of the Lions traditions.

McGeechan returned to the Lions hot seat four years later having established Wasps as a leading force in European rugby and was heralded as the only man the Lions management felt could restore their damaged credibility. By invoking traditional touring values, which McGeechan has held so dear since his first experience in 1974, the Lions did just that. The Springboks won the series 2-1 but after edging two of the most compelling and dramatic Test matches McGeechan has ever witnessed.

Although he will not coach the Lions in Australia in 2013, McGeechan wants to be involved in a consultancy role to ensure the squad have the best possible chance of success Down Under.


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