Assessing the success of the British & Irish Lions tour goes beyond just achieving victory.
What is the most effective way to determine success for a British & Irish Lions tour? The three individuals present at Andy Farrell’s first press conference on Thursday each had their own response. For Farrell, the score in the Test series is the ultimate measure of success. The other games, such as warm-up Tests and tour games, are simply a part of the overall preparation.
He repeatedly emphasized the importance of success. The other aspects, referred to as the “brand of rugby” and “all those bits”, are not his concern. Farrell’s main goal is to win, just as he has been since his first rugby league game with Wigan in 1991.
According to Ieuan Evans, chairman of the Lions, Andy’s determination and hunger to succeed is evident in everything he does. Evans believes that Farrell is a strong and capable leader who has everything under control. Despite concerns about the crowded schedule, the availability of players from France’s Top 14, and the team’s preparedness for the first Test, Farrell remains focused on the ultimate goal of winning. He believes that a Lions tour ultimately comes down to having the willpower to succeed.
“In the past and even relatively recently, teams were competing for five different trophies and had a significant number of games to play, which was much more challenging compared to the current situation,” he stated. “But they didn’t complain, because that was the norm. Things have changed since then and now people may have excuses or complaints, but this type of touring is the most authentic form and, in my opinion, how touring should be. There should be no excuses for not being prepared for the first Test match.”
If the Lions end up losing, then according to the quote, those who cannot recover from it are not the right kind of people.
The CEO of the Lions, Ben Calveley, previously worked for UK Sport, the Six Nations, and the Rugby Football Union. Calveley referred to the Lions as a “property” rather than a team. He was most concerned about negotiating a deal for a behind-the-scenes documentary of their next tour. There is a growing demand for this type of content, with Netflix recently releasing a documentary on the Six Nations. As Calveley mentioned, the Lions have been producing these documentaries since 1997. He stated that they aim to create a similar experience for fans in the 2025 tour.
He stated that the format of the documentary was still uncertain. However, our main focus is to create something unique and not follow the standard approach used by other sports programs or simply repeat what we have done in the past.
According to Calveley, the streaming services offer the potential to attract a unique audience of sports enthusiasts, which can benefit the game. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the 2021 tour to South Africa was deemed a success based on the high level of fan engagement through virtual platforms.
Lastly, there was Evans, who had a career that spanned three Lions tours during both the amateur and professional eras. He understands, perhaps better than Calveley and even Farrell, that the success of the Lions goes beyond just numbers. It is not solely about the stats accumulated in the three Test matches or the financial gains with a “£” and “m” attached. While winning and making money are essential for the Lions to continue, those are not their sole purpose. A Lions tour is about passion, camaraderie, and creating unforgettable memories. It is a unifying event for the sport.
Evans discussed the importance of winning in terms of a person who has won two series but also lost one, with a score of 2-1 to the All Blacks. In this particular match, they had a 10-0 lead but ended up losing.
I recall the 1993 tour as a missed opportunity, a victory that we should have achieved, and one of my greatest letdowns in life. I do not want the current players to reflect on their tour and feel like it slipped away, as that is an awful sensation.
However, he also discussed the philosophy behind the Lions and the concept that it holds more significance than just a few games in the professional schedule. It serves as a boost for the sport and all those involved.
According to the speaker, the Lions tour is not specifically designed for development, but being a part of it results in improvement. The demanding environment, fellow players, coaches, opponents, and scrutiny all contribute to becoming a better player. The speaker believes that whoever goes on the tour will return as a better player.