IF THERE is one regret for me, it is that I never played in a winning Lions series. I played five Tests for them, and won two, but never managed that elusive overall success. It still pains me.
It is a fantastic honour to be named in a Lions squad and an even bigger one to wear the jersey. But to be remembered as a winning Lion is on another level altogether. This morning the 2013 Lions have that chance.
We can talk until the cows come home about whether Warren Gatland has picked the right line-up.
For what it matters, as one of the proudest Englishmen you could meet, I think the coach was right in selecting 10 Welshmen because they are the best players in Britain and Ireland at the moment.
But what matters is how these players perform together in the most important game of their lives.
They have 80 minutes to sacrifice their hearts and souls for that jersey and their shot at rugby immortality.
They have to get after it and find out if they are good enough. If they come up short, so be it. But do not come off that field saying, ‘What if?’
Lots of people say they could have done this or that if only such and such. Well they did not. But this group of players have the chance to make it happen.
The Lions can win. A flash of brilliance will help but, ultimately, it will come down to delivering the basics with relentless ferocity.
The ball carriers have to carry it with such venom that they want to hurt somebody, the tacklers have to hit so hard they sit opponents on their backsides and the forwards have to flood those rucks so as to make Will Genia’s life hell at the breakdown.
The approach will inevitably be based on that of Wales. You can debate whether that suits everyone but I never played in a match where I agreed fully with the game plan.
But if you commit totally to any plan then it will work. And it does not matter if it is predictable. I had a conversation with South Africa’s second-row Victor Matfield following the third Test on the last Lions Tour. The Springboks were desperate to win and complete a whitewash and had analysed us to death. They knew almost better than us the way we would play.
But Victor admitted we delivered with such precision and passion they could not stop us.
Big matches are about big players producing big performances. The Australians might not be the greatest ever but they are tenacious. So the Lions have to match them, then better them.
Proud as they are, Australia can be beaten. So let’s make history.