Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

John Spencer: More preparation and the Lions could have beaten New Zealand

John Spencer has insisted the British and Irish Lions would have won their Test series in New Zealand with just one more week's preparation.

The Lions' 2017 tour manager is determined to see the famed touring outfit receive extra preparation time for future tours.

Warren Gatland's squad pulled off a drawn series against the back-to-back world champion All Blacks against all odds, having flown out to New Zealand just two days after the Premiership and PRO12 play-off finals.

The Lions opened their tour with a patchy 13-7 win over the Provincial Barbarians just three days after arriving in New Zealand, but shrugged of all those problems to win the second All Blacks Test 24-21, and draw the third 15-15.

Spencer insists the Lions are making good progress on convincing rugby's global administrators to add an extra week's preparation to future Lions tours, but also conceded another week this summer could have made all the difference against New Zealand.

Asked if the Lions would have won the All Blacks series with an extra week's preparation, Spencer replied: "My honest opinion is yes; the preparation is extremely important.

"But I think we're making very positive steps already, to talk about and rectify that situation.

"I've received incredible cooperation from the board on that, and there are four of us who are ex-Lions there who know about the intensity and preparation.

"What I would say is that gold medals are won on the training pitch a long time before they are won on the match pitch."

The Lions' thrilling 15-15 draw in Auckland on Saturday night could not stop New Zealand extending their unbeaten run at Eden Park to 40 games, but both teams still come out of the series with some sense of satisfaction.

The Lions only ever led New Zealand for three minutes across the entire three-Test series, but still managed to emerge with a share of the spoils.

Captains Kieran Read and Sam Warburton were jointly presented with the series trophy, leading to a set of awkward-looking post-match shots.

The Lions have still only ever won one series in New Zealand, the 1971 tour of which Spencer was a part, but head coach Gatland's will depart the Land of the Long White Cloud with reputations seriously enhanced.

Tour manager Spencer has already hit out at the English clubs body Premiership Rugby, warning that the Lions could embark on future trips without any England players if extra preparation times are not agreed.

The global calendar to run after the 2019 World Cup still remains to be finalised, and the Lions are itching to sit round a table with all the game's top decision-makers.

Spencer refused to add to his strong comments on the Lions' future on Sunday however, when wrapping up the 2017 tour in a review press conference.

"I've said plenty on that particular topic," said Spencer, of the Lions' future planning.

"I don't particularly want to say any more because I don't want to detract from what the guys achieved.

"But we all need to sit down, all the stakeholders. And surely it's not beyond the wit of man to come to some sensible agreement just for a couple of weeks every four years.

"The players have now put the Lions in a very special place; we don't want to lose that.

"The Lions board are very receptive to our suggestions, from myself and the previous two tour managers.

"I think that everyone has now discussed it and we've agreed we need to sit down, talk about it, and talk about it in a friendly and positive way.

"There are good signs there's a positive way forward."

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph