The planning, commercialisation and money behind the 2017 British & Irish Lions are a world away from their pre-professionalism ancestors but squad announcements old and new bring the same level of intrigue, interest and nerves.
What binds them is the bolter — the player who has made a late charge into the squad from outside of the widely talked about contenders — and the captain.
The surprise and sense of pride is equal, whether captain or bolter and here Brian O’Driscoll and Jason Robinson reflect on how they found out they were joining a select band of players.
British and Irish Lions captain Brian O’Driscoll (C) eyes up the New Zealand All Black haka during the first Test match in 2005. William West/AFP/Getty Images
When O’Driscoll was named captain ahead of the 2005 tour to New Zealand, he had already experienced the magic of the Lions having been called up in 2001 for their series against the Wallabies.
“It was different in ’05,” O’Driscoll tells ESPN. “In ’01 I got a letter, I think, beforehand saying I had been selected and in ’05 I knew I was going to be captain as Clive [Woodward, coach of 2005 Lions] had told me a couple of weeks out from the announcement.
“I had been over to see him but he rang me from the beach in Barbados.” O’Driscoll was at home in Maples — it was a foul day as he remembers in his autobiography The Test — when he got the call from Woodward and remembers oscillating between sheer excitement and nervousness.
“I told my folks, then I waited for it to be announced but I think I might’ve told my sister the night before it was all out in the public. It was a case of, your brother is going to captain the Lions.”
O’Driscoll was a contender to captain the Lions again in 2009 and like four years previous, he saw the coach’s number – this time it was Sir Ian McGeechan – flash up on his phone.
“In ’09 I was told by Geech that I wasn’t going to be captain as he’d gone for Paul O’Connell; I presumed it would be pretty unfair if he told me I wasn’t going to be captain and then didn’t pick me for the squad.”
And then four years later, as a veteran of Lions tours, rather than the wide-eyed youngster in 2001, he watched on as Andy Irvine read out the names on the television, only O’Driscoll didn’t realise he had paused the announcement and was a couple of minutes behind everyone else so found out he had been picked when his phone lit up with congratulatory messages.
“The greatest compliment I can pay to it is that over the course of the four, it didn’t decrease in value each time I found out I was going. I was as excited by it in 2013 as I was in 2001.”
Lions’ Jason Robinson scores a try under pressure from Australia’s George Gregan in 1991. Scott Barbour/ALLSPORT
Robinson, who had come to union from league just six months prior, hadn’t started a game for England when he was called up for the 2001 Lions series against Australia. It wasn’t really on his radar, but then his phone rang on a warm day in late April.
“I think I was in the garden,” Robinson tells ESPN. “Somebody rung me up said ‘oh you’ve been picked for the Lions’. I didn’t know if I’d been picked anyway cos I was new to the sport and I didn’t get a letter.
“I think it was the year they announced it on TV? And I didn’t have a TV! So I can remember having a Great Dane who was always getting out of his pen. So I remember being in the garden, fixing the fence. He didn’t go over it he went under it! So I was in the garden fixing it when I got the call to let me know I made the Lions team.”
Robinson would go on to take the Lions tour by storm, scoring two tries in the three Tests. “Obviously I was delighted to have made the progression so quickly. People thought I might just come off the bench for the last 10-20 minutes but for me it couldn’t gone any better.
I scored five tries on my debut [against the Queensland President’s XV], I managed to score that try early doors in the first Test and I had a really good campaign so I was really happy with that.
“It was such a great experience, I didn’t know all my England team-mates let alone everybody else. Meeting everyone on tour, the likes of Brian O’Driscoll, was a real bonus. And it also helped my progression. I come on really well from that and it was obviously disappointing to lose the series but ultimately you know it was great for me to be part of.”
Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/19163590/the-british-irish-lions-captain-bolter-how-brian-odriscoll-jason-robinson-found-were-selected
How the Lions captain and bolter found out they were selected
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