Belfast Telegraph

Forget about respect... it's time to deliver a Lions Test Series win

By Conor George

Jamie Heaslip and Warren Gatland have both spoken about change in focus from the 2009 Tour to the current Lions Tour.

It's been 16 years since the Lions last won a Test Series. In the interim the brand took a massive battering in 2005 when the Lions were humiliated by New Zealand and were beaten in all three Tests.

The Tour to South Africa was one Gatland believes the Lions "could and probably should have won" but the priority then was about "restoring pride in the shirt".

Now it's about winning.

"The result is what's important and is what was important on Saturday night, not the performance," said Gatland.

Heaslip forged his reputation as one of the world's best number eights on that tour to South Africa and has picked up where he left off this time around. His form vacillated in years in between but he has now won back-to-back Test matches.

"Jeez, I didn't think of it that way," he said when reminded that the Lions won the last Test of the 2009 Test and now the first of the 2013. "We spoke about regaining some pride that last day in South Africa. That last game was the last time for four years the jersey was going to be worn and that resonated with us.

"I remember in the first Test then we started off real slow and were hosed by South Africa. We knew we had to start fast this time around, which is what has happened with all the games on Tour so far.

"The first 20 minutes were mental and tested the lungs. We came through, have the win and bring some momentum into the second Test as a result."

The pressure is on the Lions not to blow their hard work and suffer the same fate as the 2001 tourists who lost the Series despite winning the first Test.

"Part of the whole remit of 2009 for the coaches was to put some respect back into that red jersey after what happened in 2005 in New Zealand. But this series isn't about respect, it's about delivering. We're well aware of that and the players are well aware of that.

"For the Lions to continue as an entity we need to be successful. And I think world rugby wants the Lions to be successful as well.

"When you see the crowd and the atmosphere, it's something special, something nothing else can create apart from a World Cup. We need to keep that fantasy or history if you like alive."

Neither Gatland nor Heaslip are under any doubt about the enormity of the challenge still facing them and both expect a rejuvenated and determined Australian side to come at them in Melbourne on Saturday.

"Oh God ya, they'll improve for next week," said Heaslip. "In a way this is like knock-out football. They'll scratch that game, we have to scratch it as well, and start all over again.

"There are things we have to work on, things we did well and not so well. And they'll have things they need to work on, too.

Australia will have new personnel on duty on Saturday following an attritional battle in Brisbane that saw a raft of their starting backs stretchered off. They have been boosted by James Horwill's availability after his citing hearing.

The Wallabies have called up George Smith, his Brumbies team-mate Jesse Mogg, and the Queensland Reds centre Ben Tapuai.

"They have quality players out there. Potentially they will have a bit more firepower with some players they might have to enter the squad," he added.

Belfast Telegraph


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