Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Vickery’s relishing ultimate battle

The British and Irish Lions are ready to paint Durban red today by backing their unshakeable belief that they can stun world champions South Africa.

And England World Cup winner Phil Vickery, a member of the last Lions team to taste Test match success — eight years ago in Australia — knows the stakes could hardly be higher.

“In my opinion, there are two true Test matches — one is France, and the other is South Africa,” said the Lions' tighthead prop.

“(Today)will be incredible, far beyond probably anything I've experienced for a while.

“If you switch off for 10 minutes of a Test match against these guys, it could be all over.

“It's going to be a huge step, but I firmly believe the guys we have are more than capable of stepping up and performing.

“I am probably more nervous now than I've ever been in my whole rugby career.”

Wave after wave of Lions fans have arrived in Durban, lapping up temperatures of more than 70 degrees alongside the Indian Ocean.

And so anxious are South African rugby chiefs to make the ABSA Stadium a level playing field off the pitch, that they issued a public appeal for Springbok fans to wear green.

The sea of red from the visiting fans certainly helped in the 2001 Lions tour.

After going out for the pre-match coin toss, skipper Martin Johnson returned to the dressing room and informed his players they were effectively playing a home game.

Victory today at the ground where Johnson's 1997 Lions secured Test series glory would represent a colossal achievement for a side containing 10 first-time Test starters.

Vickery added: “For me, being involved in the Lions is the biggest thing as a rugby player you can ever do.

“I'm a proud Englishman, and standing on the pitch singing the national anthem is a huge thing for me.

“But, at the same time, being part of the British and Irish Lions is the greatest honour you can have.

“If the changing room is not emotional tomorrow, then I will certainly make sure it is by the time we get out, that's for sure.”

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