British & Irish Lions
McGeechan to get back on board with Lions
January 27, 2010
Sir Ian McGeechan is set to rekindle his relationship with the Lions as a consultant in 2013 © Getty Images
Sir Ian McGeechan is set to mastermind the British & Irish Lions tour to Australia in 2013.
The Lions legend, a veteran of seven tours as player and coach, appears destined to rekindle his relationship with the elite tourists as a consultant following initial talks with Lions chief executive John Feehan.
"It's still to do but it is in progress," McGeechan told ESPNscrum. "John and I have spoken informally and we will build on that. It will be entirely from a rugby perspective in terms of the planning over the next three years and to be honest I am very excited about getting involved again."
McGeechan is credited with breathing life back into the Lions brand last summer during a gruelling tour of South Africa that culminated in a narrow series loss to the Springboks. The 63-year-old, who also steered the Lions to a series victory over Australia in 1989 and South Africa in 1997, insisted at the time that he would not return as coach and has ruled out acting as tour manager.
"I will be a consultant on the rugby side which they have not done before in that respect," he explained. "Often in the case of head coach or even manager you come to it very late when many things are already in place. And many things are driven by the home country so it's a case of just looking at things in a wider context of what the tour is about because it is in everybody's interest, including Australia's, that the Lions are given the opportunity to be competitive in the Test series because I think if we hadn't been competitive in South Africa there would have been big question marks about the value of the Lions.
"You've got to be able to perform as a rugby team at the highest level and there isn't a bigger challenge for the players than playing in the southern hemisphere away from home so it is important that the Lions are given that opportunity to have the right preparation. If you do you can see the reaction of the fans and what it means to the players and I think that is a very positive knock on from what happened in South Africa."
The squad for South Africa gathered just two weeks before embarking on their 10-match tour but the timing of the Guinness Premiership and Heineken Cup finals meant some players did not join the camp until the eve of their departure. And McGeechan is resigned to the fact that preparation time will be limited again in the future.
"There are certain things that you've got to accept," he said. "The tour will be 7 to 7 and half weeks, 10-12 games no more, three Test matches probably, so within that you've only got a certain amount of preparation. The key is making that as effective as possible and having an itinerary and planning stage that at least gives the Lions the chance to have a little bit of consistency and continuity."
Asked if there was more the game's stakeholders could be doing to ensure the success of a brand that they all benefit from, McGeechan pleaded for a little more consideration. "On the international calendar there are only two things - Lions tours and Rugby World Cups - so it's just a case of saying in a Lions season that we need the whole squad together for two weeks before the first game but ideally you don't want European finals or other finals coming in the week before the Lions play their first game.
"There are things to sort out at home as well as things in Australia to balance the timing and the dates and the itinerary of when things happen. It will always be a huge challenge as it has to fit into a certain timescale but if it remains competitive it has so much going for it. It is the biggest brand in rugby."
McGeechan has been enjoying his first 'sabbatical' from the game in 30 years but has kept in touch with the game - albeit at arm's length - with promotion of his book, the marriage of his daughter and the small matter of a knighthood keeping him busy in the six months since the dust settled on the tour to South Africa.
"A letter came through about three weeks ahead of the appointment and it is a recommendation so I was thinking that I better keep my nose clean for the next three weeks in case they change their minds," he joked, recalling the notification of a date with The Queen that will come in February.
All eyes are on McGeechan's next step in the rugby world but he is in no rush to commit his in-demand services. "I've got three or four opportunities that I could get involved in, I'm not rushing, I'm enjoying the break and having a look," explained McGeechan, who was linked to Premiership side Harlequins last year. "There are some decisions to make about how much I do, how involved I am and a few other things. The break has given me the opportunity to do other things with other people which I have also enjoyed and I've never had that variety, I've always been full on, single-minded, at the sharp end so I have actually enjoyed that variety.
"We've got some potentially very good young coaches coming through," he added, hinting at perhaps a mentoring role. "I just think I have been lucky in certain respects because I finished an international career and managed a 30 year coaching career. I have a lot to be thankful for and I've quite enjoyed using that knowledge and experience to help other coaches as well as players, and maybe just as much as players these days.
"You just never know, you always think about it, you look at a new season or taking a new team on, the Lions or whatever it is, and you just say right - that's the next challenge, how do I want to organise it? What do I want in place? I look at the game and think I'll look at that, at how things can be changed, improved or moved on or just look at getting an edge. I have always thought like that and that will not change."
Sir Ian McGeechan is committed to intelligent rugby for excellent results, that's why he works with Asics Smarter Rugby, for his knowledgeable training tips visit www.SmarterRugby.com
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.