Old School Lions

Since touching down in New Zealand less than a week ago the Lions have spent 80 minutes playing rugby and approximately 800 minutes watching traditional Maori hakas. Watching the Kiwis celebrate their glorious heritage has got me thinking that maybe the Lions should do more to celebrate its roots.

With the Lions being a commercial money making machine there have been no traditional rugby tour tales of drunken antics (although the players did look hungover as they laboured against the Barbarians). The only tradition which has been talked up is the youngest Lion, Maro Itoje, carrying a cuddly toy with him everywhere…

Cuddly Lion Bantz

I’ve decided to take a look back at some historic tours and am proposing that they bring back some of these bygone activities and traditions:

  • Lions on a boat

There’s no spirit of adventure in getting on a plane and flying first class with your sponsor’s airline. The players will spend half the time sleeping and the other half quaffing mini bottles of wine watching generic Hollywood blockbusters. I propose they bring back the glorious days of sailing, and pile the players on a boat like they did back in the day. In 1888 when the Lions first set sail it took them 45 days to reach New Zealand on an epic voyage shared with 300 weasels.

Captain Gatland sailing to NZ

If they took a few rugby balls to have a kick about on deck, it would guarantee them more prep time, and the lengthy journey would ensure nobody would be suffering from jetlag in the opener…

  • Old school game scheduling

This current tours itinerary has been branded ‘suicidal’ by All Black’s legend Graham Henry, but I think they should include more fixtures as a throwback to the original tour. This Lions-lite tour featuring a mere 10 games pales in comparison to the gargantuan 1888 version when the players ran out in 54 games.

  • Sport swapping

19 of these 54 games were Aussie rules and I propose that this age old tradition of sport swapping is reintroduced. Forget test rugby and get the Lions to have a rest and take on the Kiwi test cricket team. Warburton and his team can take 5 days off from their gruelling 54 game schedule, to go for sixes instead of tries in New Zealand’s second most popular sport.

  • #NoSelfies

In this age of selfies and Instagram we are constantly bombarded with snaps of the players antics. The Lions should introduce a blanket social media and camera phone ban, and instead revert to the glorious days of black and white film.

Less of this

More of this

Further rules that accompany this are:

– No smiling in photos

– Mandatory moustaches

– Head Coach has to wear a bowler hat

– No Jack Nowell with that haircut.

  • Adopt a Lion

Players are too pampered and isolated in their 5 star hotels now. The great system of 1966 should be reintroduced when Lions players were adopted by local Kiwi families for their stay. 1966 Lions star Watkins remembers this vividly:

“They’d put an ad in the paper, families would come forward, and players would stay with them for three days at a time. A family wrote and said they wanted me – it was like being up for sale!”

If the Lions really want to win the hearts and minds of the locals, as Gatland has claimed, they can do this by crashing on their couches and sharing their lamb.

I’d love to hear any suggestions people have for other traditions to bring back or even introduce!


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