Will Greenwood about to be stretchered off during the 1997 Lion's tour of South Africa

PERHAPS, IN 1997, rugby players thought documentaries like this were simply part and parcel of professionalism. What is certain is that all players love watching this classic DVD and that such access – and thus such compelling footage – won’t be seen again,  writes Rugby World deputy editor Alan Pearey.

From the moment the squad meet up for team-bonding exercises at Weybridge to the close of a momentous tour of South Africa six weeks later, the cameras roll (sometimes, hilariously, in the hands of tour jesters like John Bentley and Rob Wainwright). It’s as if the viewer is part of the squad: there are selection meetings and changing-room psych-ups and stirring speeches from coaches McGeechan and Telfer; doc Robson discussing scans or diarrhoea, or getting worked up on the bench as opponents try to harm one of his Lions; the scrum beastings on the training field; the players unwinding in bars or hotels, one scene lingering as all the players (well, maybe not Tom Smith) sing Oasis; a players’ court, belly-kissing judge Keith Wood in the chair. Most memorably, the pain of injury, Rob Howley and Doddie Weir being told their tour is over, Will Greenwood being carried unconscious while his mum screams. And, too, the nervous chatter of Geech and Telfer, miked up in the stand, as the glorious action unfolds.

It’s a sports documentary without equal, with strong language (it’s a 15 certificate) and yet, remarkably, only occasionally do you feel the players are self-conscious because of the all-seeing lens.

All in all, three hours of bliss, with a second disc containing extended footage from the final week – there’s even a wallchart thrown in. The DVD is widely available on the high street.

RW RATING 5/5

BUY IT AT:  amazon.co.uk RRP:  £17.99  DISTRIBUTOR:  Fremantle Media

Got a rugby book or DVD you’d like us to review in the Armchair Zone? Email alan_pearey@ipcmedia.com

This article appeared in the August 2009 issue of Rugby World Magazine

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