I have some questions for you. Would that Lions side that lost yesterday be able to beat Saracens? The Saracens that dispatched so expertly of Munster and then Leinster on their way to back to back European titles? With all their mutual trust and pack mentality. Brits’ feet would have found a way through at some point, the ball spread wide, Wyles in the corner, you know the drill.
What about the Scarlets? That Lions side, who played together for the first time ever competitively, would they be able to cope with the rugby that saw the West Walians claim the Pro12 title in such style? We delighted at their flamboyant, length of the field, almost telepathic, efforts – James Davies to Scott Williams to DTH – too strong for a scratch side like the Lions surely?
So, therefore, Stander and Itoje and Biggar wouldn’t have liked Exeter? The Chiefs in Devon with all that swirling wind and run you off your feet exuberance and smash and grab inexorability. That well-oiled South West machine, going through its familiar paces without need to confer or chat. Still too tough?
Leinster then at the Aviva? Or Munster at Thomond Park with their baying partisan crowds and innate togetherness and then Ringrose or Zebo making you look silly because they just seemed to know what was coming. Glasgow, too, would be a tricky visit. Those canny Scots and their industrious Gray brothers, being steered effortlessly around the park by an impressive Finn Russell.
Clermont at the Michelin? That wall of yellow noise and those thunderous hits and Abendanon doing something special. Toulon on a win streak with Nonu, Tuisova and Van der Merve couldn’t take them on neutral ground, let alone in that Montferrand maelstrom. It would be an ask.
And yet we seem to have forgotten these places. Lions fever has got us all absent minded of what it’s like in our own strongholds. How difficult it would be to take a team made up of individual parts and play a game delivered best when everyone’s mind thinks the same. I genuinely wouldn’t fancy their chances.
Look at how the Blues beat the Lions. Nowell over committing, not quite trusting the inside, anxious because they’d not really run through these sorts of things before. And then a ricochet back off the post; it does that sometimes; spreads such panic. A bouncing ball takes a composed mind to clear, or a composed mind to score. And then, from their own half, offload, offload and a line picked by the rugby heavens. Seeming clairvoyance manufactured from playing together, knowing that he will do that and then he will do that, which means I can do this. That wasn’t easy, just because it was made to look so. Six points the difference, that’s all.
You can’t underestimate just how difficult this task will be. Any result should be applauded. As the Lions get better (play alongside each other more often) the games get harder. United opposition on a foreign field, who throw passes without looking and stand just where they need to.
The Lions have to be brilliant individually and then cheat the concepts of time. For only hours, days and weeks in each other’s company brings the sort of interconnectivity that top class rugby desires. Collectivity let’s call it. We fans need it too. We should all get together, and wait and see what happens.
Sam Roberts © 2017. (Text only). All Rights Reserved