June International Tours

Legends confident of strong Lions squad

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Three more HSBC Lions Legends relived some happy memories at the latest Legends event in Manchester on Friday afternoon. Jeremy Guscott, Gavin Hastings and Scott Quinnell shared a total of seven Lions tours between them over a 12-year period between 1989 and 2001.


Each experienced at least one series victory, with all three admitting that a similar outcome in 2009 is not only a real possibility but would also be a truly memorable experience for all involved.


For Hastings, today’s event was just another example of the regard in which the Lions are still held throughout the rugby fraternity.


“For the first time ever, it strikes me that, given HSBC’s sponsorship, there’s been more build up to this tour than any other up to this point,” said Hastings, a victorious Lion alongside Guscott two decades ago and a Lions skipper in New Zealand in 1993.


“It’s fantastic when you’ve got a sponsor that sits right behind the team. It just adds even more value to the mantra of the Lions. The expectancy is huge and it’s all very, very exciting.


“I’ve never ever spoken to anybody who doesn’t think the Lions has got a role to play in professional rugby. You ask any of the players who are trying to get on the Lions tour and they would all be in absolute agreement that it would be a massive, massive honour to achieve that.”


Guscott, who kicked the series-winning drop goal the last time the Lions travelled to South Africa, is confident that head coach Ian McGeechan can help the tourists repeat the feat this summer.


“I am confident for this tour, but I’m bound to be,” said the former Bath and England centre, who toured with the Lions in 1989, ’93 and ’97.


“I love the Lions. I love everything that it’s about. But I don’t say that they’re going to win the series for any romantic notions just because I love the Lions – I just think they’re going to be underestimated again.


“When that squad is announced, everyone will say, ‘Wow, that is a powerful team that can achieve something amazing in South Africa’.”


Quinnell, who toured the Republic with Guscott 12 years ago and went on to appear in all three internationals against Australia four years later, explained that winning a Test in Lions colours is a memory that will stay with him forever.


“That first Test (in 2001) was certainly one my highlights,” said Quinnell, who had been forced to leave the ’97 tour without a Test cap as a result of a double hernia.


“It meant a huge amount having failed in ’97 to play in a Test, to then be able to achieve my goal in Australia.


“It’s fantastic to be a Lion, but it’s even better to be a Test Lion. To be able to do that and sneak over for a try in what was a great team performance was fantastic.”

 

Rugbyweek.com

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