Although running and cycling are my main pastimes, my favourite team sport is Rugby.
Currently down in New Zealand the British and Irish Lions are preparing for the First Test match on Saturday against the back to back World Champions.
To the uninitiated, every 4 years a squad of rugby players are selected from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to go on a 7-8 week tour to either Australia, South Africa or New Zealand. They play a number of matches against club and regional sides and culminates in 3 Tests against the hosts. Most rugby players see being picked to be in a Lions squad and playing a test match as the pinnacle of their career.
I didn’t know much about the Lions until 1997 when they toured South Africa. My interest was sparked by a friend of mine, who had a South Africa friend who was obsessed with the Springboks (South Africa national side) and his enthusiasm was infectious.
1997 was the first tour to South Africa since the lifting of Apartheid and the first in the professional era. Rugby had turned professional in the 1995/96 season.
Two guys had an idea in a pub. The idea was to go and film a fly on the wall documentary about this tour and ending up creating what Tom Fordyce, the BBCs Chief Sports Writer called
“The greatest sports documentary of all time”
The result was Living with Lions. I think I first saw this on VHS. I’ve watched it many times and can quote many of the quotable lines and my passion for the Lions lives on.
This had never been done before. Cameras inside the dressing rooms, players filming themselves, mic’d up coaches, seeing the nights out. There is the old adage –
“What goes on tour stays on tour”
These guys were filming the tour!
The Lions were big underdogs. The Springboks had won the World Cup in 1995. The documentary shows the intensity of international rugby, the injuries, nerves, fears, emotion and heartbreak. How special moments that are shared as a team are and how teams bond together.
As well as the great rugby that was played, what Living with Lions is best known for is the speeches. These are real goosebumps stuff. Make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Speeches that make you think you could run through a wall.
Though the speeches are being delivered to a team about to go out and play rugby, they are many things that can be taken from them. Being honest with yourself and finding your own motivation. Here are three of the iconic ones. Pleased be warned – the videos do contain swearing.
Jim Telfer – Honesty Speech
Jim Telfer – Everest Speech
Ian McGeechan – You’re Special Speech (THE LOOK)
There’s a podcast and article with the directors and cameramen and some of the players about the making of the documentary that is well worth listening to. You may not be a rugby fan, (it’s mainly not about the on-field action) but if you’re a sports fan or an athlete, Living with Lions is a must watch showing the drive and intensity of what it takes to win.
The best of luck to the Lions! The 1st Test match of the 2017 tour kicks off on Saturday 24th June 2017 at 08:30 am (BST) followed by the remains tests at the same time on the following weeks. I will definitely be watching.
The Lions also have a very good YouTube channel with lots of past and present content.