British & Irish Lions 2013

Loftus pain to drive Lions

Wed, 12 Dec 2012 13:41
Heaslip-lions630
It's the first time I'd seen grown men cry in the changing room
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British and Irish Lions assistant coaches Rob Howley and Graham Rowntree are determined to make amends for the pain they felt in Pretoria four years ago.

Both Howley and Rowntree were part of Ian McGeechan's coaching team that saw victory snatched from their grasp against the Springboks at Loftus Versfeld in 2009, and they both admit to a feeling of "unfinished business".

"Unfinished business? There's an understatement from 2009," said Rowntree.

The Lions haven’t tasted series success since Rowntree's first tour as a player back in 1997 but he insists the manner in which they were beaten by the Boks in 2009 will drive them on to greater things this time around.

"That second Test, the emotions of that game will live with me forever. We did a job in terms of the first half as a forward pack and then we lost Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones and that changed everything.

"It was going to be a famous victory. We were winning until the last few minutes in Pretoria and we had it taken away from us.

"It's the first time I'd seen grown men cry in the changing room after the game. It was a massive roller coaster and there's definitely unfinished business.

"We're due a series win aren't we? Where we are now, with the players we can pick, and the continuity that we're able to bring in terms of the coaching plus the injection of people like Faz (Andy Farrell) with that passion and energy, I think now is the time. Now is the time to win a Test series," he added.

Whilst Rowntree tasted success with the Lions as a player in 1997, Howley was not as fortunate as he picked up a shoulder injury prior to the first Test of that tour, and the classy scrumhalf was on the losing side against Australia in 2001.

But now he has been handed another chance to taste the ultimate glory with Britain and Ireland's elite and he can't wait to get going.

"This means everything to me. I was involved with the Lions as a player back in 1997 and 2001 and I had a great experience in 2009 with Ian McGeechan and I'm grateful to be given another opportunity," said Howley.

"The goal is to emulate 1989 and 1997. Whilst winning that last Test out in South Africa in 2009 was obviously pleasing, the ultimate is to win a Test series. Hopefully that will come in 2013," he said.

The Wales assistant coach said that having come up short in South Africa four years ago, he is relishing the opportunity to experience his first Lions tour win.

"Defeat in the second Test in South Africa three years ago was hard to take and I'm so glad I've got another opportunity. That feeling at Loftus was a feeling that I never want to experience again.

"The win in the third Test put the Lions on the front foot. It was huge to beat South Africa in that last Test and that's where we'll want to start when we get together in May.

"I'll never forget my experience of running out in 2001 at The Gabba and seeing a sea of red and Martin Johnson coming back in to the changing room and saying we're not going to let those guys down today. And we didn't, but unfortunately we let them down in the series. We were too good to lose that series but it's another one that got away.

"We need to win this series and I'm sure the coaches and the players will do everything they can to make sure we come back from Australia with that series win," he said.

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