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'What you do today is how you're going to be remembered': Spirit of Rugby - Ep 5

By Josh Raisey

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RugbyPass is sharing unique stories from iconic British & Irish Lions tours to South Africa in proud partnership with The Famous Grouse, the Spirit of Rugby.

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In episode five of Spirit of Rugby, Jim Hamilton talks with Matt Dawson, Jeremy Guscott, Rob Kearney, Simon Shaw, Tom Croft, John Bentley, Rob Wainwright and Ian McGeechan, who explain what the players can expect from South Africa this year as well as what the spirit of rugby means to them.

Matt Dawson
“The intensity that South Africa bring… the atmosphere is incredible and then you saw the likes of Os du Randt, Mark Andrews, (Gary) Teichmann, all these guys running down this ramp into the field, it was like we were the gladiators and they had opened the gates and lions and tigers and everything were being thrown into the pit and saying, ‘Go on then, deal with that’. Incredibly intimidating and it won’t be any different.

“This is World Cup final level, these three Test matches are World Cup final level, make no bones about it. Physicality, pragmatism, decision making under pressure, flashes of brilliance, but it’s going to come down to the physicality and ’97 was exactly the same.

“Famously Geech (McGeechan) said that in 32 years’ time you’re going to look at one another and bump into some of the people on this trip in the street and you wouldn’t have spoken to them in 30 years, but you will know. You’ll have this special bond with one another that no one will ever take away and it will be incredibly special.

And as the cynical players that we all were when we were playing, we were like, ‘Yeah, that’s nice, it makes me feel good, but okay’. But he’s absolutely right. When you do see them, when you talk about it at the dinners or Zoom calls or business, it’s an amazing feeling to have gone through those types of experiences and adversity with such brilliant people from backgrounds that you wouldn’t ordinarily have met.”

Jeremy Guscott
“Everything in South Africa is big. The people are big, the food is big.

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“Drink it slowly, sip it, and just think of your favourite drink and every part of that Lions experience is going to be taking sips of your favourite drink and mouthfuls of your favourite meal. The Lions is bloody awesome.”

Rob Kearney
“They make no bones about it, they just want to beat you up. So you have to be really prepared for that physical battle.

“These Tests are literally going to be shown on TV for the next ten, 15 years. What you do today, that is how you are going to be remembered as a rugby player.

“It is a bond, and again it’s cliche, but you look someone in the eyes who you toured with and you both just know and you both just appreciate it.”

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Simon Shaw
“It’s always a physical challenge and you have to meet that head-on, there is no swerving it. These guys are monstrous men, not just up front but all over the pitch.

“I always felt that I didn’t have a place. I always felt awkward being the height I was and in rugby, I felt I had found a home. I’d found something where the rest of the people on the team saw you and saw a worth in you. You have something to offer.”

Tom Croft
“Make sure when you come off that pitch there is nothing left in the tank. Don’t ever have any regrets, ‘I was a bit tired’ or ‘I could have made that tackle’, especially as this only comes around every four years.”

John Bentley
“I have a tattoo down my side, it’s a poem. It’s called The Man in the Glass and I relate it to sport in terms of it is about the mirror on the changing room wall. Everybody looks in the mirror, some of them actually peep out the corner of their eye, some of them stand there, unashamedly, doing their hair. The key ingredient is having walked out onto the field across the white line, something has got to change. It’s to have an ability having completed the game to come back into the changing rooms, to look back in the mirror and think, ‘I’m pretty comfortable with what I’m looking at there’.”

Rob Wainwright
When asked what the spirit of rugby means to him, Wainwright said: “Interestingly, it’s tied in with the Lions but the experiences I’ve had with Doddie (Weir) over the last four years since his MND diagnosis, the way that the rugby family has come together to support one of their own, you understand what a privilege it is to have this ‘in’, an instant ‘in’ as a member of a close-knit family. You’re invited into people’s lives without any question.”

Ian McGeechan
“The great thing about rugby is the word support. On the field you don’t get anywhere without it, off the field you see it in hugely different ways, but so often of people doing things to allow you to achieve something. The lad from the secondary modern school in Leeds, living in the council house eventually plays and coaches the British and Irish Lions. That’s people and that’s rugby.”

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'What you do today is how you're going to be remembered': Spirit of Rugby - Ep 5

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