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Why Maro Itoje has this week been a 'nause' about 2001 Lions tour

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Maro Itoje, last Saturday’s first Test man of the match, has been busy this week sounding out the thoughts of various 2001 Lions veterans who are currently on tour with Warren Gatland’s class of 2021 with a view to gaining an insight into how to successfully close the deal in the Test series with a repeat win in this Saturday’s second Test. 

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While the Lions went on to clinch the 2013 series in Australia with a third Test win after an opening day success, the last time the famed tourists won the first Test but failed to close out the series was 20 years ago when current assistant coaches Neil Jenkins and Robin McBryde, along with Lions chairman Jason Leonard, were part of Graham Henry’s squad. 

The Lions defeated the Wallabies in the 2001 series opener in Brisbane, but they came unstuck in the subsequent Test matches in Melbourne and Sydney and the story of what unfolded was something investigated this week in Cape Town by England talisman Itoje. 

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Rassie Erasmus’ spectacular 26-clip, hour-long criticism of the first Test officials

Current forwards coach McBryde wasn’t chosen by Henry to play in that Test series in Australia, but Jenkins, a first-choice in the 1997 series win in South Africa, came off the bench in the second Test while Leonard, a veteran of the 1993 and 1997 tours, was twice a replacement in a series that went down to the wire in Sydney where Wallabies lock Justin Harrison became famed for a late lineout win versus Martin Johnson.   

Not squandering the opportunity to see out the series after an opening Test win is something Gatland has pressed home to his squad in recent days, but Itoje, who played in the drawn 2017 series versus the All Blacks, has taken his homework a step further ahead of this weekend’s rematch with the Springboks. 

“Maro Itoje brought it up in the week with regard to him being a little bit of a ‘nause’ – his own words – looking at the history of the Lions and he made reference to it,” admitted McBryde when asked if there was anything to be learned 20 years later from what played out in 2001 when he was one of the squad’s hookers.  

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“It has been raised because you have got Neil Jenkins, Jason Leonard and myself, they were there for the duration of that tour so (Maro was asking if there was) anything that we can draw on that experience so that we make sure it doesn’t happen again. I know Maro in particular has had conversations with those individuals. There was definitely lessons to be learn from that tour 20 years ago that are still relevant today so yes, it has been brought to our attention.”

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Why Maro Itoje has this week been a 'nause' about 2001 Lions tour

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