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'More Like A Great Sportswear Brand' - Austin Healey's Superb Analysis Of What The Lions Actually Is

'More Like A Great Sportswear Brand' - Austin Healey's Superb Analysis Of What The Lions Actually Is
By Gavin Cooney

As we head for the mid-point of the World Cup cycle, the attention of much of the rugby world will shift towards the Lions tour, as the best/whoever happens to be fit from Britain and Ireland will head for New Zealand, for the most daunting of tours. Sky Sports will continue telling us that it's an incredible honour, sentiments exponentially more powerful when they are set to Sigur Ros and a Willie John McBride backing track (which it inevitably will be).

However, former English scrum-half Austin Healey appeared on Off The Ball last night alongside Brian O'Driscoll to deliver some seriously straight-talking about what the Lions has become. To Healey, the Lions has morphed into a corporate beast, believing that the 2005 tour - with Clive Woodward and spin doctor Alastair Campbell - the moment things went awry, in Healey's opinion:

I think that was the start of the end of the Lions. Taking a spin doctor on a Lions tour to maintain a gap between reality and what people can see, or what you can talk about, was an absolute travesty in the historical development of the Lions, as a brand, as a team, as a group of people.

O'Driscoll accepted this, but believes that the 2009 tour, with its refreshed focus on rooming together and simply having a good time returned to something closer to the ideals of the Lions helped rescue things, and argues that 2005 should be treated as an "aberration".

Not so, to Healey:

To a certain extent. I think the Lions is more like a great sportswear brand that you should aspire to buy rather than really enjoy wearing. I know what you mean that the players might enjoy it, but ultimately it's an opportunity for the brand to make a lot of money, and the country you tour to receive funds too. We talk of a global game, and a global calendar, where does it fit? Where does it have a space? Are they going to make a space for it?

Another thing that has affected it is the growth of the World Cup, and the desire for countries to perform well. That has diminished the Lions. You want to get picked for Ireland, or England at a World Cup, rather than playing for the Lions.

O'Driscoll argued that he still believed it was a great honour, and should rank alongside being called up to represent your country.

Healey's words have a ring of truth to them, however.

[Off the Ball]


See Also: Keith Wood Gleefully Recalls The Time BOD Stuck Up For Ronan O'Gara And Boxed Austin Healey 



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