At about 4pm on the Saturday of the Aviva Premiership final, while waiting with my kids in the queue for Thorpe Park rollercoaster The Swarm, my British and Irish Lions tour began. My mobile rang: it was one of the Lions coaches. The Northampton and Lions hooker, Dylan Hartley, had been sent off minutes earlier for verbally abusing the referee and would need representing at the RFU disciplinary proceedings the following day. Bugger.
That cut short my rollercoastering (the kids had selected that as a good thing to do as a family on my last day before leaving for the tour) and meant me working through the night to prepare the case. After a four-hour hearing at a hotel in Surrey the next morning, the tribunal upheld the sending off and banned Dylan for 11 weeks. That would mean he would take no part in the Lions tour and would not get the chance to pull on the famous red jersey for at least another four long years. He was, understandably, very disappointed.
Read the rest of part 1 here >>
2 June 2013
The Lions' first match on tour was against the Barbarians in Hong Kong. I got to the Hong Kong Stadium a couple of hours before kick-off to meet with the citing commissioner and judicial officer appointed by the International Rugby Board (IRB) to adjudicate on the match. The Lions' bagman, who is a lovely Irish guy called Rala, had arrived a full eight hours before kick-off in order to get the dressing room ready: now that is proper dedication.
It was nice to be back in the stadium - about 20 years ago I had come to see the Sevens (having played a few days earlier in the Tens). And now, like then, it was sweltering. Just walking around the pitch before kick-off had me glowing nicely and looking for a bar with some air conditioning and a cold drink, so I had some concerns about how the players would cope. Among the 28,000 crowd at the stadium were plenty of famous faces from the world of rugby, and it was good to catch up with some old team mates, as well as one or two lawyers who I know from rugby disciplinary work.
Read the rest of part 2 here >>
19 June 2013
After two full days in solitary confinement in a Brisbane hotel room around the time of the Lions v Queensland Reds match, I was starting to get agitated. My vomiting had not subsided and I remained a risk of infection to the rest of the tour party, but I was getting pretty bored.
I snuck out for a late-night wander round town, keeping an eye out for any players (so that I could avoid getting too close to them and risk passing on my bug) and also any management (who might dob me in, as Jason and Kylie used to say in Ramsay Street, to the tour medics for breaking my quarantine). I kept away from the bars and wandered through the botanical gardens, which were alive with the deafening noise of the nocturnal insects, bats and possums, and my mood lifted.
Read the rest of part 3 here >>
1 July 2013
The run-up to the first test in Brisbane was fascinating. There was the usual speculation as to who was going to make selection. And then when the match squad was announced (we were told 24 hours in advance of the public announcement), and those who were participating were congratulated by all, there was then further speculation as to how the others would react. And, crucially, would they drown their sorrows by going out on a bender, in time-honoured rugby tour fashion? It is testament to the squad spirit that they did not (or at least they did not do so obviously - it might have been that one or two of them shinned down the hotel drainpipe).
It was a relatively quiet period for me before the test match, so I caught up with some non-tour work. I did attend an emergency Lions board meeting to discuss various pressing matters with board members, Tom Grace, John Spencer, Andy Irvine and Gerald Davies, as well as CEO, John Feehan, and secretary, Jon Davis. It is fascinating to see the tour through so many different perspectives, from the operational to the commercial to the strategic board level.
Read the rest of part 4 here >>