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Lions must have unity - McGeechan

Ian McGeechan
McGeechan will be in charge of the Lions for the fourth time

British and Irish Lions coach Ian McGeechan has vowed to learn from the mistakes made on the 2005 tour when he leads the side to South Africa in 2009.

Sir Clive Woodward used 51 players and took 26 backroom staff to New Zealand but saw his side suffer a whitewash.

"It is very important that from day one everyone understands what this trip is about. I want one coaching team and one group of players," said McGeechan.

"We will take about 35 or 36 players on the tour and unity will be critical."

Woodward, who dispensed with many Lions traditions, made no apologies for focusing his attention on the Test squad but the selection of such a large party inevitably meant many players were left frustrated.

Wales scrum-half Gareth Cooper, for example, had one start and made two appearances from the bench over the 11-game tour, while England flanker Neil Back made only two starts and came off the bench once.

The tour also attracted criticism for the use of former government communications chief Alastair Campbell as a media consultant.

McGeechan, who was confirmed as Lions head coach on Wednesday, was part of the 2005 tour, with Woodward putting him in charge of the unbeaten midweek team after deciding to split his coaching staff into two separate units.

Alastair Campbell
Campbell was a controversial appointment on the last tour
"I would like to be involved with the players, hands on, daily," stated McGeechan, who will expect all his players to share rooms on tour.

"I want the same coaching team on the field every day, with the same group of players, and that gives you the chance to develop things quickly."

It is a an approach that Lions chairman Andy Irvine and team manager Gerald Davies agree with.

"When I spoke to the Lions committee they asked me what my principles are and how I see a tour running," added McGeechan.

"I have a very strong philosophy and some of the traditions are so important to making sure the Lions have a fighting chance of succeeding.

"I firmly believe you need a very tight group. We will have one coaching team and one group of players.

"You have to understand each other and that process is often accelerated if players share rooms because they get to know each other that much better, that much quicker.

"All preparations for the 2009 tour will be about one group working very closely together. The fact it's against the world champions also makes it a massive challenge.

"In 2005 I thought there were a lot of players in British and Irish rugby just coming off their peak. Now we have a lot of players coming towards their peak. It is exciting."


Irvine also stressed that lessons have been learned from the 2005 experience.

"I won't knock what happened on the last tour but it's important in any walk of life that you learn from the past," he said.

"The one major lesson from that tour is that we need greater unity.

"Ian was on that tour and knows how things can be improved. We have great faith in his judgement.

"I was surprised at the scale of the last touring party. It's easy for me to say in a retrospective sense because now it's history.

"If we had won 3-0 we would have said it was a stroke of genius."

see also
Lions tour 2009
13 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
McGeechan given Lions coach role
14 May 08 |  Rugby Union
The word on Geech
14 May 08 |  Rugby Union
McGeechan leads Lions contenders
02 May 08 |  Rugby Union
History of the Lions
02 May 08 |  Rugby Union
Mighty Boks: South African rugby
02 May 08 |  Rugby Union
Davies named 2009 Lions manager
20 Nov 07 |  Rugby Union
Campbell defiant over Lions role
20 Jul 05 |  Internationals
End of tour report for the Lions
11 Jul 05 |  Internationals
Lions tour timeline
09 Jul 05 |  Internationals
Henson in dark on 'secret' photo
11 Jul 05 |  Internationals
Campbell to be Lions consultant
06 Dec 04 |  Rugby Union

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