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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 May, 2005, 08:46 GMT 09:46 UK
Henderson - Lessons for the Lions
By Simon Austin

The 2001 Lions tour is remembered as much for dissent and dissatisfaction as Australia's series win or the thrilling play of Jason Robinson and Brian O'Driscoll.

Rob Henderson
If it passes by in a blur and all you can remember is training, that's not the ethos of the whole thing
Rob Henderson

By common consent, coach Graham Henry failed to find the right balance between training and relaxing for his players.

Outspoken England duo Austin Healey - the "Leicester Lip" - and Matt Dawson were famously disciplined for criticising Henry's gruelling regime.

Even the usually circumspect Jason Robinson accused Henry and his coaches of making the players tired and jaded in his autobiography.

It is a lesson Clive Woodward will do well to heed, according to former Ireland centre Rob Henderson, who played in all three Tests on the 2001 tour.

"You need to be fully focused when you're training, but you need down-time to relax and take it all in," Henderson told BBC Sport.

"Otherwise, the whole experience will pass you by, which is a shame. A Lions tour only comes round once every four years.

"If it passes by in a blur and all you can remember is training, I don't think that's the ethos of the whole thing."

Henderson, 32, admits mistakes were made in 2001.

Every day consists of mindless training - the boys are not enjoying themselves
Matt Dawson

I felt like a zombie most of the time. I was not alone. Had we been fresh we could have won all three Tests
Jason Robinson

Such tours may become a thing of the past - they take too much out of the players
Colin Charvis

This tour hasn't been a bundle of laughs
Austin Healey
"For me personally, the tour was brilliant. I played in a few games, scored a few tries and played in all three Test matches," he said.

"But with so many coaches on board, everyone wanted to get his 20 minutes or half an hour in training.

"So you're sitting on the field for about two hours a day, which isn't ideal at the back of a long season when you're taking on the world champions.

"You can be too structured. Sometimes you just need to say 'here you go boys, let's play rugby'.

"I'm sure things will be a lot different this time. They've got an able coach, able coaching staff, a good captain and good players."

Yet Henderson maintains the players must be willing to go through some hardship on a Lions tour.

"You're involved in a situation that comes round once every four years," he said.

"So if you can't make small sacrifices for that, you're in the wrong field."

Players who have been enemies during the Six Nations have to come together for a common cause.

Everyone will be a character in their own right
Rob Henderson
Henderson famously gave his jersey to England's Will Greenwood after the third Test of the 2001 tour, instead of swapping it with one of the Australian team.

Greenwood had been expected to play in the Tests but was prevented from doing so because of injury, handing Henderson his chance.

Greenwood has said he was deeply touched by this gesture from an Irishman to an Englishman.

"It was just something that needed to be done at the time," Henderson said. "I'm glad it was taken in the spirit it was meant."

Strong characters usually come to the fore on Lions tours, like Yorkshireman John Bentley in 1997.

But Henderson says the most important thing is for the players to be themselves.

"Everyone will be a character in their own right on the tour," he said.

"You don't need everyone to conform and be a robot. You need people chatting on and off the field.

"The initial gelling together is difficult. But you know these guys - you've played against them and talked after matches.

"All you need is to put a few patterns together, a few plays.

"The Lions is the highlight of anyone's career. And thanks to modern technology I can keep the memories with me and also meet the other guys on a regular basis."



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Healey faces disciplinary action
15 Jul 01 |  Lions Down Under


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