Ian McGeechan weighed a puny 10½ st when he made his Headingley debut in 1964 and he was once mistaken for someone’s son when boarding the Yorkshire team bus. Yet is there a bigger giant of the game? writes deputy editor Alan Pearey.
The Scottish Yorkshireman went on seven Lions tours, four of them as head coach, and produced the blueprint on which all tours of length should be based: one team, one goal, one hell of an experience. His tactical powers, as illustrated on his favourite Lions tour of 1997 when he nullified Henry Honiball, have always stood him above the rest. But his strength of will was also exceptional: he was a terrific cricketer and once, batting at eight, he defied a table-topping attack for 38 overs to earn a crucial draw for his team. Only four runs were scored in that time.
The subject of his Carnegie College dissertation, the invincible 1967 New Zealand team, tells you that his analytical mind was ticking from a young age. But it took a picture of Jonathan Davies defending against a wall of All Blacks in 1988 to reinforce his principle of the ‘cone’ attack, which shaped his thinking for the next two decades. Northampton, Wasps, Scotland and the Lions were the main beneficiaries.
He says the best advice he ever got came from a teacher at college. “After 20 years, make sure you’ve got 20 years’ experience, not one year’s experience that you’ve repeated 20 times.”
Despite some repetition, McGeechan’s story is told with customary panache by Stephen Jones, and the fact Geech has so few unkind words to say – David Burcher, Will Carling, Laurie Mains and Brand Haskell may beg to differ – is a reflection of his forgiving nature. He will soon be back!
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This article appeared in the December 2009 issue of Rugby World Magazine
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