Following The Lions is unlike any other tour

With the Lions’ tour to Australia now in full swing, it started me reminiscing about my time following the tour around that magnificent country 12 short years ago. Just watching the famous red jersey on the TV gives goose-bumps to even the most hardened of rugby players and this tour is living up to its predecessors nicely.

With the Lion’s tour to Australia now in full swing it started me reminiscing about my time following the tour around that magnificent country twelve short years ago. Just watching the famous red jersey on the TV gives goose-bumps to even the most hardened of rugby players and this tour is living up to its predecessors nicely.

The feeling of following the Lions is unlike any other in World sport. The fact this chosen and select band of men tour once every four years just heightens the excitement and expectation. Strangely enough, following four countries normally in sporting conflict just seems to capture our ‘British-ness’ more than at any other time with the only exception being the unmatchable London Olympics last summer.

Over the next four weeks the cities of Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney will be taken over by a sea of red shirts and a chaotic mix of Celts and Anglo-Saxons. In pubs, parks and beaches, on planes, trains and random street corners choruses of Jerusalem, Flower of Scotland, Land of our Fathers and the odd smattering of Delilah by Tom Jones will spontaneously erupt from the mouths of thousands. The camaraderie and togetherness of people from the four corners of the British Isles, transported to the other side of the Globe, is never better encapsulated. The experience is simply one that will never be bettered.

As besets most tours of this intensity the injury list seems to be increasing steadily. Cian Healy, Gethin Jenkins and Tommy Bowe are all already out of the tour but many rugby careers have been catapulted into the stratosphere by an unexpected call up, followed by a starring display. This always presents unexpected opportunities for players not previously considered ‘on the scene’. It’s an unfortunate twist of touring fate that one man’s devastating heart break is another man’s rugby utopia.

The potential starting line up for the first test is shaping up nicely, although the huge depth in quality right through the squad means surprises will surely accompany the team announcement. It is pretty clear that Warren Gatland’s men will look to over-run and out-muscle the wallabies with power and pace, especially in the set piece. This building block of Northern hemisphere rugby has the added luxury of being complimented with skill, guile, determination, experience and resolve. Characteristics that a single nation alone could only dream of.

The trio of Welsh backs Mike Phillips, George North and Jamie Roberts all seem to be test team front runners. These will probably be joined by fellow countrymen Adam Jones and Dan Lydiate. The Irish should be represented by Jamie Heaslip, Jonny Sexton and Paul O’Conner for his international pedigree. The other test places could be anyone’s which adds further to the excitement and keeps everyone on their toes, working hard and building the intensity to near boiling point.

So as I squeeze into my old Guinness-stained, moth-eaten red jersey I’ll wait with overbearing anticipation, hoping that the class of 2013 can climb the pinnacle of rugby greatness that eluded us all in 2001. If they do then you may well hear a familiar tune, deep from the Welsh valleys on the drifting breeze.......’Why why why Delilah.......’