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7 Classic Headlines You Are Guaranteed To See In Every Lions Year

7 Classic Headlines You Are Guaranteed To See In Every Lions Year
Balls Team
By Balls Team
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We're only a matter of months away from a Lions tour and you know what that means.

Anecdotally, it appears that the Lions has lost some of its lustre among Irish rugby fans since you-know-who was dropped by our former coach the last time around. Here are things you can be guaranteed to expect in the months.

Foreign newspapers/ex-players picking Lions XV's with not enough Irish lads in it 

We're all guilty of it.

Get ready for a festival of this sort of stuff in the months ahead. But then again there has to be a space for giving people what they clearly want. The least we can be is knowing about it.

Tomorrow, we can look forward to former English prop Perry Freshwater selecting his best Lions XV for his blog in which he will leave out [insert name of Irish player who played well recently] sparking widespread outrage and generating sweet, sweet traffic goodness in this country.


It's long been clear that the Lions tours are not really about the games themselves. The real action lies in the arguments over the picking of the teams in the six months before the First Test.


And the real enemies of Irish supporters in the coming months are not the eerily quiet antipodean outfit who will lie low in the long grass, they are those English and Welsh, and yes, Scottish, players who are being loudly championed for a Lions spot by their own partisan media.

Lions tour remind one of the old Irish politics maxim that your real enemy is not the candidate in the rival party, it's your own bloody running mate you've got to watch out for.

Up this weekend, another chance to see 'The Invincibles' 


In the weeks running up to the First Test, we will be treated to a series of showings of documentaries on the 1974 Lions team, aka, the Invincibles.

Wales Online once ranked the 1974 Lions team as the greatest rugby team of all time, ahead of the New Zealand team of 1995-97 and the England team under Clive Woodward. As we scrolled down the list we hoped against hope that they had the good sense to place Ollie Campbell's 1982 Triple Crown winning team at No. 1 but alas it wasn't to be. They were obviously positioned at No. 21. And before you accuse us of deluded patriotism here, just remember that you people were responsible for giving us this result.

The 1974 British Lions team (that's what they were called then, no use giving out to me) are famous for winning every game bar one, which they drew 13-13 in the 4th test.


And they are famous for the '99' call, the rallying cry by which the Lions captain alerted his teammates of the necessity to get their retaliation in first.

This is how the '99' call would play out in practice: Whenever the captain Willie John McBride would call out '99', that was the cue for every Lions player to turn and box the South African lad nearest them. We don't know if clipboards or diagrams were needed when sketching out this plan beforehand.

The '99' call is usually recalled with chuckling indulgence.


Of course, this was back when rugby violence was just another form of banter rather than being the matter for the head trauma unit that many see it as today.

Contrarians announcing that they don't care about the Lions tours

To our mind, Lions tours have always separated the old-school blue blood rugby fan from the new breed, the guys and girls who hopped aboard when they first saw John Hayes packing down in a scrum.

Older types have always held the Lions concept in greater reverence than the younger crop, seeing it as part of the traditions of the game. These men remember when the Baabaa's were a big deal and will offer up the name of 'Tony O'Reilly' when asked to instance the greatest Irish wing of all time.


O'Reilly, for what it's worth, only scored four tries in 29 caps for Ireland and seemed to score about a thousand tries for the Lions in 15 appearances. Though, to be fair to O'Reilly, Irish rugby's strict embargo on giving the ball to wingers at the time would have restricted his try-scoring opportunities for the national team.


Many modern heretics have no such feelings for the Lions, despite they fact they now officially recognise that many of us are not British.


The 2013 Lions tour was a pivotal moment in that regard. The Irish love affair with the Lions always struck us as fragile. When Hector O'Heochagain was making his karmically disastrous documentaries following rugby teams around the southern hemisphere in the noughties, it became clear that the cross-country solidarity would often sunder as soon as results started to go south.

In 2005, the Irish and Welsh supporters decided that Clive Woodward and the allegedly dominant English clique within the squad were to blame the Lions's piss-poor attempts to get to grips with Graham Henry's New Zealand. This much was clear from Hector's DVD following the tour.

2013 represented the end of the line for many people. Warren Gatland's stunning decision to drop Brian O'Driscoll was a reminder to many Irish supporters of where their loyalties lay. Actively willing on Warren and his (largely Welsh) band of men in the third test in Sydney was too much for many to stomach.


The Willie John McBride/Jim Telfer montage

When professionalism arrived in the mid-1990s, the despairing elder statesmen who sat on the union boards predicted the death of the Lions concept.

On the contrary, Sky Sports grabbed a hold of this vintage product and transformed it into something modern and fashionable.

The Willie John McBride/Jim Telfer voiceover montage is an indispensable part of the build-up. Depending on which of them is up to it, Sky will get either McBride or Telfer to read out a bit of epic sounding script from Lions tour past.

Lions lads playing hurling


What Lions tours really offers is the chance to see one of the Tuilagi brothers picking up a hurl.

Things have moved on from 2014, the year of the British Twitter Reaction, but the numbers suggest that the Irish people still get an almighty kick out of seeing foreigners acknowledging the existence of the GAA. Even if the comments sections might imply otherwise.

The most beloved GAA reference in the history of Lions tours is Moss Keane's line from 1980. The touring side were spanked by the All-Blacks, almost as bad as Woodward's team of 2005, and Mossie was asked about his highlight from the tour. "Hearing that Kerry had beaten Cork in the Munster Final," came the answer.

David Campese saying that Northern Hemisphere rugby is shit

A classic one this. It is inevitable that David Campese or some other such Aussie larrakin or Kiwi rugby snob will call Northern Hemisphere rugby boring or turgid.

They will taunt their visitors by gleefully predicting a 3-0 thrashing in favour of the home side, unworried by the threat of hubris.

It'll sound like a wind-up until it's revealed to be true.

Campo, in particular, does not usually need a second invitation to tell the world that Northern Hemisphere rugby, and specifically English rugby, is crap. He has been trolling them remorselessly since before trolling was ever even a word.

Even when the England rugby team was clearly the best in the world in the early noughties, he found a way to mock them relentlessly. The BBC, in their usual self-mocking way, asked Campese to present them with the Team of the Year award at the Sports Personality of the Year awards, much to the ire of Clive Woodward.

You could never accuse Campese of trying ton ingratiate himself with the home broadcaster. Witness him telling UK's Channel 5 - via Skype - what they could expect from Eddie Jones back in 2015.

The inevitable behind-the-scenes documentary

To cynics, it increasingly seems that the whole Lions series phenomenon is being kept going as an excuse to keep making fly-on-the-wall documentaries. None have matched the success and impact of 'Living with Lions', the behind the scenes account of the first Lions tour of the professional/Sky Sports era in 1997.

The success of that offering is entirely attributable to two factors - (a.) the fact that the Lions won the series and (b.) the personality and televisual charisma of the Lions forwards coach Jim Telfer.

The documentaries are probably the best thing about the Lions tours and remind supporters that players still love the tours.

SEE ALSO: Farrell & Earls Back Burns To Bounce Back From Welsh Disappointment

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