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Last Updated: Monday, 11 July, 2005, 05:30 GMT 06:30 UK
Martin Bayfield column
Martin Bayfield
By Martin Bayfield
Former Lions and England lock, in New Zealand

The tour has been a massive anti-climax. Sir Clive Woodward claimed it was the best-prepared team to leave Britain but I would dispute that.

Lions players try to come to terms with a 3-0 series defeat
If the Test team had played together more often, they would have won one of the three games against New Zealand

It may have been the best-catered-for team but performances should have been of a higher standard if it was the best-prepared.

A common gripe is that the players needed more match time.

Woodward has admitted that he wished the pack had played together more, but that's down to his selection at the end of the day.

It is dangerous to listen too much to us old boys, but Lions legend Willie John McBride said something interesting in a speech out in New Zealand.

He said that when he wore the red jersey there was a real sense of pride being selected in a squad of 30.

It meant you really were one of the best in your position.

I admit that it's important to have a bigger squad than 30 players, but Sir Clive should have decided on his first team a lot earlier.

He thought he could wait until the very last minute before putting it together, which meant the Test team was not settled enough.

In my view, if the Test team had played together more often, they would have won one of the three games against New Zealand.

That's because the All Blacks would not have scored some of their tries against a side with a better understanding of its defensive patterns and with players who trusted the person either side of them a lot more.

What struck me about the Lions was that they seemed to be a very happy bunch despite the fact they were losing.

Yet whatever happened off the pitch, they will feel that they didn't really do themselves justice on it.

They started in the worst possible way in Christchurch and had 48 points put on them in the second Test despite improving by 200%.

The Lions didn't seem to have any attacking flair and were a bit ponderous. In contrast, New Zealand possessed a lot more dynamism.

You have to take your hat off to the All Blacks because they played some brilliant rugby and are a world-class side. They deserved their series whitewash.

Lions fans enjoy themselves before the third Test
Talk to the Lions supporters and they will tell you that they have had the times of their lives

But despite their drubbing, the Lions will survive. They have to.

Maybe tours should be a little bit longer, with more provincial matches before the Tests.

But I don't think we'll see a squad of more than 45 players again. A squad of 36-40 would be about right.

You need two coaches, one for the midweek and one for the Saturday team, but whether you need quite so many coaches as Woodward took is another matter.

Despite the outcome, you ask New Zealanders if they are glad the Lions came and, to a man, they will all say 'absolutely'.

Talk to the Lions supporters and they will tell you that they have had the times of their lives - even if they had little to cheer in the Tests.

Could you imagine if we'd won the series? The party would still be going on and no-one would be coming home.

But there's more to the Lions than simply winning Test matches. It's about friendships, experience and uniting the two hemispheres.

In other words, making us realise that rugby is as much about brotherhood as it is about sport. In that case, the 2005 Lions have been an unqualified success.




LIONS TOUR 2005

ALL BLACKS WHITEWASH LIONS




VOTE RESULTS
What was the main reason for the Lions' whitewash in NZ?
All Blacks just too good
58%
Woodward's selections
30%
Injuries to key players
6%
Squad was too big
6%
97190 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Vote now closed



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