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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 05:38 GMT 06:38 UK
Tamed by the Lions
Nick Farr-Jones
Farr-Jones has very few career regrets

In the third of BBC Sport Online's new weekly rugby union series, former Australian captain Nick Farr-Jones relives the infamous Battle of Ballymore.

It may be hard to believe but the mild-mannered Nick-Farr Jones instigated one of the most infamous punch-ups in the history of the game.

One minute into the second Test against the British and Irish Lions in Ballymore and, with Australia 1-0 up in the series, the then Australian captain got ready to feed the ball into a scrum.

Farr-Jones' opposite number, Wales' Robert Jones, sneakily stood on his rival's foot and the Aussie skipper just snapped.

As the two smallest men on the field came to blows the Lions forwards piled in and battle commenced.

While Farr-Jones does not regret the fight itself, the consequences still rankle 13 years on.

Lifting the World Cup wasn't my favourite moment as a player
Nick Farr-Jones

He explained: " I don't gripe about it nor do I wake up at two in the morning in a cold sweat staring at the cracks in the ceiling.

"But there's no denying it still crops up in my mind occasionally.

"In fact, it's one of the biggest regrets of my career - that we didn't win the series - and it all started there."

Farr-Jones admits it was some consolation when his countrymen gained revenge in 2001 but, for a player who led his side to victory over every single Test nation as well as lifting the World Cup in 1991, the pain is still there.

"The Lions tour is always special," he said.

"It only happens every 12 years so we all knew that was our only shot.

"It's not like the World Cup in 1987, where we went out to France but got another chance four years on."

Despite his obvious disappointment, he cannot help but still be impressed by the Lions' "strong-arm tactics" on the '89 tour.

He insisted: "They'd worked it out beforehand. To say that it wasn't premeditated is absolute nonsense.

"Robert and I may have instigated it but the Lions forwards piled in straight off. They knew what they were up to and we could not match them. We were sort of shoulder barged out of the contest.

"I love Ian McGeechan (the then Lions coach) and the "Battle of Ballymore" was great. Geech had worked it out and they won because of that.

"And, I'm not just saying this out of bitterness. But I still believe today that we were the better team on the field that day and throughout the entire tour in fact."

Farr-Jones, now 40 and a successful director for Societe Generale in Sydney, Australia, bears no grudges against Jones or the rest of the Lions squad.

"I know Robert still and we get on very well," he added. "But as I always tell him - that match may have been a blow but it was our springboard to winning the World Cup."

The 1989 season may have produced one of the lowpoints of Farr-Jones' illustrious career.

But bizarrely a single Test match later that year, rather than lifting the World Cup at Twickenham, created the highlight of his playing days.

Nick Farr-Jones and Robert Jones (right)
Farr-Jones and Jones clashed in 1989

Australia's 32-15 victory over France in Strasbourg is not the image immediately conjured up when considering his 63-Test career.

But he explained: "I'll always be remembered for 1991 I guess but, not many people know this, lifting the World Cup wasn't my favourite moment as a player.

"The one that instantly stands out was the Strasbourg test against France in 1989.

"We had a lot of young guys in the side - Tim Horan and Jason Little were playing at centre for the first time in their careers and it was a first cap for (hooker) Phil Kearns.

"France were expected to wipe the floor with us and very little was expected from that Australian line-up.

"But we played sensationally well. I love all that against-the-odds stuff and it was that one game, as well as the Lions defeat, that really led us on the road to the World Cup."

PART TWO: Farr-Jones on winning the World Cup and how rugby was never his first love.

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23 Sep 02 | International
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