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Lions will have ‘no-excuse mentality’ in Australia, promises Andy Farrell

Andy Farrell - Lions will have ‘no excuse mentality’ in Australia, promises Andy Farrell

Amid the glittering fanfare that surrounded the appointment of Andy Farrell this week as the head coach of the British and Irish Lions for the tour of Australia next year, there was little by the way of detail.

Farrell, it seems, will have a blank canvas to sketch his coaching and support staff teams, with the only other confirmed appointment that of Ieuan Evans, who will double up his role as Lions chairman with that of tour manager. There will be no rush either to fill the vacancies. Farrell will remain as Ireland head coach until after the autumn series and intends to take his time to ensure he has the right mix of technical skills and complementing personalities.

Farrell’s message to the players was equally as broad-brush. He will have a free hand to select players who are based in France, even if it means they are not available for the opening tour games because of Top 14 commitments – and did not rule out selecting an uncapped ‘rookie’, the last of whom was Will Greenwood for the 1997 tour of South Africa, even if professionalism has made such picks extremely rare.

“The biggest thing that galvanises a team is competition for places, and we have got the games to be able to do that,” said Farrell.

“If someone comes out of the blue and he is a special talent and he is going to upset the apple cart a bit with someone who assumes they are going to get selected, that has to be good for the team.”

Unique challenges of a Lions tour

Yet if the finer details of what a Farrell Lions tour will look like remain thin on the ground for now, he did lay down one major foundation stone that is likely to shape the entire 10-game tour.

When it was pointed out to him that history showed that the Lions record has been relatively poor given the talent at their disposal, and the logistical challenges of recent tours had often left the tourists with an against-the-odds race to be ready for the critical first Test, Farrell insisted on his tour there were would be a “no-excuse mentality.”

Unlike Warren Gatland on the previous three tours, Farrell will have the benefit of a two-week preparation period with all his UK and Ireland-based players, given the decision by both the Premiership and URC to bring forward their 2025 finals by one week. But even still, Farrell is adamant any players he selects must have the character to cope with the unique challenges of a Lions tour in modern-day rugby.

“There are no excuses not to be ready for that first Test,” said Farrell. “I hear what you say with the recent past and the statistics that go with that but that is not to say you can’t pick yourself up off the floor, if you can’t you are the wrong type of character anyway.

“In its purest form, a three-match Test series is extra special because you often see in the history of three-match series that a team that gets up for the first Test, obviously there is confidence and momentum that goes with that, but the side that has lost are fighting for their lives and you see that they can deal with that type of pressure.

“That is what ultimately it is all about and the type of personnel we have got has to be able to flourish in that type of environment. And then you see whoever wins the second Test, you see whether they have the minerals to take it to the type of performance when it really matters.”

‘This is touring in its purest form’

The travel, combined with commercial duties and the demands of playing two games a week, challenge both coach and player, which is why Farrell says it will not just be talent which will be the defining measure. Neither will the tour captain be offered any guarantees of a starting place in the Test side.

“I am a lover of playing games,” Farrell added. “I look back not too long ago where teams in a league system or any different type of competition were playing for five trophies and the backlog of games that they had was astounding [compared] to recent times. Did they complain?

“They didn’t complain because that is what it was, that is how it was and since then things have changed so people have an excuse or a whinge about whatever. This is touring in its purest form, for me, and it is how touring should be done and you have to embrace that and have a no excuse mentality where you go after it and make sure you are at your best.”

The Lions have been trailblazers not just in rugby, but in the behind-the-scenes video diaries that have become so popular on streaming services like Netflix.

Ben Calveley, Lions chief executive, confirmed talks were underway about a documentary for the 2025 tour.

“Doing stuff like that is not new to us,” he said. “We would want to do something in 2025 that brings the fans as close to the action as possible. The exact structure of that is to be decided but we want to do something. The key for us is not to do something we have done on previous tours, we want to bring fans as close to the action and give them a really immersive experience. The exact format is to be determined.”

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