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Page last updated at 10:18 GMT, Friday, 6 June 2008 11:18 UK

Lions scout South African venues

Ian McGeechan
McGeechan has been victorious in South Africa as Lions player and coach

The British and Irish Lions have begun their 2009 tour to South Africa a year early and sent out a scouting party to look over the country's facilities.

Tour manager and Wales wing legend Gerald Davies and newly appointed coach Ian McGeechan are heading the mission to examine hotel and training venues.

They also plan to run the rule over the current Springboks side during their two match Test series against Wales.

McGeechan was appointed as Lions head coach in May for the fourth time.

The Wasps director of rugby was in charge for their last tour of the country in 1997 when he masterminded a narrow 2-1 series win over the Springboks - courtesy of a late Jeremy Guscott drop-goal.

"Obviously, '97 was good and we won a Test series but we won a Test series by the narrowest of margins," said the 61-year-old Scot.

It is important to have the right coaching team and it's important that they get on as a team as well
Lions coach Ian McGeechan

"One thing I always remember is how much you've to get right and even then you win by one score.

"The important thing is trying to get the right things in place so the players understand what's needed and really have things in such a form that the players can get together and move on quickly because there's no time on the Lions.

"I must admit that I've not had a Lions hat on until this week with activities at Wasps but this gives us a chance to get together and look at the hotels and training facilities and get a feel for South Africa again.

"I think it's important to get a feel for the rugby over here and the atmosphere. I mean it's obviously moved on a bit but I think they're in pretty good shape by the look of things."

McGeechan explained that the scouting mission also had the added advantage of allowing the Lions management to study the Springboks' new style of play under their own new coach Peter De Villiers.


On the subject of coaches, McGeechan refused to be drawn on who would be joining him in the Lions set-up but Davies did confirm that the coaching team would be announced in the autumn.

The media are already McGeechan's Wasp colleague and Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards a firm favourite to join him but the Scot refused to confirm or deny the rumours and said nothing had been decided as yet.

"Everybody's in the frame at the moment," he said. "We said we'd have a good look at everybody in the frame and then we'd be in a good position.

"It is important to have the right coaching team and it's important that they get on as a team as well."

As well as leading the 1997 tour, McGeechan also a played in the successful 1974 tour of the country, playing in all four tests.

Davies passed up the opportunity to play in the same series deciding not to go on the tour over his personal concerns about the country's then Apartheid regime.

Gerald Davies
Davies turned down the chance to tour South Africa for personal reasons

"It was a personal decision of mine not a political one," explained Davies. "It was between myself and my own conscience and my own sense of personal morality.

"I'd been here a couple of times before and I found it a very uncomfortable place to be under those conditions.

"It is remarkable to think of where it once was in this country and with the conditions that the majority of its people had to live under.

"I think it's wonderful that it has changed but I would also like to say whilst Peter De Villiers is the coach I'd like to think that colour will not be an issue in the future.

"That any decision South Africa has to make about its own playing side will be done on merit and that there isn't the other side of the coin - of a colour dominating any future selection - white or black or coloured.

"But I'm delighted to back here as a manager of the Lions in the new South Africa. It's time for us now to put things in place ready for next year."

The Lions' 10-match tour of South Africa is due to last from 30 May until 4 July next year and include three Test against the world champion Springboks.

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see also
Lions must have unity - McGeechan
15 May 08 |  Rugby Union
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

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