Lions are being set up for fall, Price tells SJA

The British and Irish Lions risk going into the first Test in Australia a week tomorrow “undercooked”, lacking proper preparation because of a combination of lack of respect from their opposing teams and commercial interests, according to Graham Price, the former Wales and Lions prop.

Respect: Graham Price, the former Lion, speaking at yesterday's SJA Lunch. Photograph by TOM DULAT/Getty Images
Respect: Graham Price, the former Lion, speaking at yesterday’s SJA Lunch. Photograph by TOM DULAT/Getty Images

The lack of meaningful opposition so far has even persuaded Price to change his mind about the Lions winning the three-Test series.

Price was speaking at the latest SJA Sporting Lunch in central London yesterday.

“Against Western Force, their coach didn’t even put his best 15 on the pitch,” Price told his audience of SJA members and guests.

“The Western Force side seemed to play a deliberately weakened side to save their players for the game on the following Saturday.

“Lions tours are something special and we should be playing against meaningful opposition every single match.”

The Lions play New South Wales Waratahs tomorrow with what is expected to be close to their Test team, and hopeful that their opponents might put up more of a challenge.

In four matches so far, albeit including a virtual practice game against the Barbarians in steamy conditions in Hong Kong and Tuesday’s 64-0 victory against a country side of amateurs and part-timers, the Lions have scored more than 200 points and conceded less than 40.

Price was part of the renowned Pontypool front row which also comprised Bobby Windsor and Charlie Faulkner. He won 41 caps for Wales as a tighthead prop and played in 12 successive Tests for the Lions – a record unlikely to be surpassed in the modern era – spanning the 1977 and 1983 tours of New Zealand and the 1980 trip to South Africa.

Yesterday, he accused the Australians of showing a lack of respect to the Lions. “They get the opportunity to play against the Lions every 12 years. For these players it will be the only time they will play against them. They should be given that opportunity.

At least the SJA Lunch was not "undercooked": Former Lion Graham Price speaking to his SJA audience at a central London pub yesterday. Photograph: TOM DULAT/Getty Images
At least the SJA Lunch was not “undercooked”: Former Lion Graham Price speaking to his SJA audience at a central London pub yesterday. Photograph: TOM DULAT/Getty Images

“The first Lions tour I went on we had 24 matches and every single game the opposition came at us as hard as they could from start to finish. Even if we won comfortably, we knew we had been in a game. It was that intense.

“At the moment we’re not getting to a level which sees the combinations come through and a pattern.”

The two-time Grand Slam-winner said, “To play against amateur players, part-timers, is certainly not the best thing for the Lions. It’s not the best thing for Australian rugby, either.”

Price said that the Home unions had to accept their share of the blame, saying: “They accepted the fixture list.

“The Australians want to steal a march by providing them with this opposition because they obviously want to win the Test series.

“But there have been so many knockers of the Lions, whether they’re a worthwhile exercise in the modern era, you need something going for them and I don’t think they’ve really been helpful by accepting that fixture list.”

Price had originally tipped the Lions to be convincing series winners over the hosts revealed he was so concerned, he had revised his pre-tour prediction of a Lions series win.

He said: “If you were to ask me what the result of the Test series would be right now, I’d say, ‘I don’t know’. It’s as simple as that.”


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