All the British and Irish Lions needed was extra preparation time and they would have won their Test series against New Zealand, tour manager John Spencer said.
Spencer, who insisted Warren Gatland was “the best coach in the world”, believed the Lions have to be given the strongest chance they can to be successful against the world’s top teams.
“To come here and not to take a step backwards makes me very proud,” he said Sunday when reviewing the tour, which ended in a 1-1 stalemate after Saturday’s deciding Test was drawn 15-l5.
The Lions arrived in New Zealand just three days before the opening match of their six-week, 10-match tour, and are now pushing for a longer preparation time for future tours.
“My honest opinion is yes. The preparation is extremely important, but I think we are making extremely positive steps to talk about and rectify that situation,” Spencer said, when asked if a change in pre-tour scheduling could have seen a different outcome.
– ‘Very special’ –
“I’ve received incredible co-operation from the Lions board on this. Gold medals are won on the training pitch a long time before they’re won on the match pitch.
“I don’t want to take anything away from the guys who achieved what they did, but I think we really have to sit down as a group of stakeholders and with ex-Lions who get the concept.
“Surely it’s not beyond the wit of man to come to a sensible agreement over a few weeks every four years? That’s what I would encourage people to do.
“The Lions are in a very special place and we don’t want to lose that, we want to nourish and improve it.”
Lions head coach Gatland has also emphasised the importance of preparation time.
England’s Premiership clubs are loathe to shorten their season to help out, but Spencer believes something must be done to change that.
“Everybody has agreed we need to sit down and talk about the preparation time and there are good signs that we will make progress,” he said.
After the All Blacks won the first Test 30-15 and the tourists were 24-21 victors in the second, and the third ended in a deadlock, Spencer believed the future of the Lions was in rude health.
“It was a very strange atmosphere that we hadn’t quite set out to do what we wanted to do, but in the cold light of day the boys have realised what an incredible achievement it is to draw in New Zealand,” he said.
“We know the record of other countries at Eden Park so to come here and not to take a step backwards makes me very proud. In the long run the boys can be proud of their achievements.” – Agence France-Presse