By Alan Dymock
NOW THAT it is all over and you’ve had your say on what was the team of the tour and who was the man of the series and who will be the most entertaining on the behind-the-scenes DVD, all that remains is to thank the British and Irish Lions for winning against Australia.
There are so many thanks to give, though, and already there must be calls to commemorate the few great men who won the Tom Richards Cup after 16 years of pining for success.
Firstly, Brian O’Driscoll must be thanked for soldiering through a fourth Lions tour. Although he was controversially left out of the third and deciding Test in Sydney, he played a vital role throughout the trip and will go down in history regardless, due to his almost-unwavering involvement (OK, there was foul play in ’05 which ended his tour) and for finally winning one.
To tour with the Lions once lifts a player into a whole new echelon, so to win a tour on the fourth time of asking certainly merits a player being called legendary.
Of course, if you are going to mention the brilliant player who has been on four trips you have to bow in reverence of Dr. James Robson who has worked his magic on five separate tours and who must have gotten several hundred pats on the back for his and the rest of the medical team’s efforts in getting George North, Jamie Roberts and Tommy Bowe ready for the Tests as well as aiding many, many more. If you ask some, he is a shoe-in for a knighthood, come honours time.
Then there is Leigh Halfpenny and his right boot, so cultured that Damien Hirst must be dying to put it in a tank.
The full-back was bankable in defence and continued to run lines that saw him evade capture and set up two sensational tries in the last Test. When you consider that, and his near-flawless kicking for posts, he was the stand out candidate for Man of the Series.
Noting that there was no off-field incidents? Well the entire backroom staff must be congratulated for their efforts in safely ferrying the squad to and from massive clashes and training, while at the same time ensuring they never acted out of step on any social excursions. Andy Irvine will be modest about it all, but the efforts of his team behind the scenes was remarkable.
Then, after all the fawning and praise we get to the man making the big decisions: Warren Gatland.
He may feel vindicated, after his bold calls were panned from coast to coast, but having strength in his convictions paid off. Without his final display of will the Lions may not have made it.
We will never know, but he was true to his own instincts rather than pandering to the different nations. He picked the team he felt was fit for purpose and it worked.
He may be a legendary figure in Wales now, but surely he is worthy of praise in all four unions now that he has guided the Lions to victory?
Whatever tag or title he gets from here on in, it must be noted that he is part of an elite group of coaches, forever deserving of some form of praise.