Jonny Wilkinson Gives Fascinating Insight Into The Chaos That Was The 2005 Lions Tour
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Jonny Wilkinson has labelled the now infamous 2005 British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand as “chaos like I’d never seen before”
The legendary playmaker has also warned the 2017 squad to expect a similar thrashing by the All Blacks if they make the same mistakes. The Lions were thrashed 3-0 back in 2005, with Clive Woodward’s decision to split the Test and midweek teams causing huge unrest within the squad.
Woodward brought an unprecedented 44-man squad with 26 support staff that ended up breeding absolute chaos. They were defeated 21-3 in the first Test, before losing the series to a Dan Carter masterclass in Wellington, going down 48-18.
A 38-19 defeat in the third Test completed the whitewash but Wilkinson remembers that the writing was on the wall in the first Test, highlighting the stark contrast between the Lions and the England side that had won in Wellington in 2003 under Woodward, a few months before winning the World Cup, despite being down to 13 men at one point.
“[With England] we were so together and sure of each other that we just dealt with it,” he said. “A couple of years later we were there with a full squad of amazing guys from all different teams packed into the Lions, went out for the first Test and it was like chaos I’d never seen before.” Wilkinson told the Guardian.
“England were able to deal with it just because of that glue that comes from being sure of who you are and what you are doing. But with 15 men and all that buildup in 2005 I’d never seen such chaos. We had 12 of us in rucks at times. We were literally all over the place.
“They pulled us apart. At times I was defending against five people. I was just picking one and thinking: ‘You’re getting it.’ As soon as I saw the pass leave the hand I just had to guess. I remember twice choosing the right bloke and whacking into them.
“How many times in rugby now do you see a five- or six-man overlap? Never. There were four or five in that first Test in the first half. It was pissing down with rain and windy as well. New Zealand were doing well but even they were thinking: ‘What’s happening here?’”
For this summer’s series, Wilkinson says the Lions need to keep things simple and clear.
“The Lions have to be absolutely clear. They need to have fewer things to do but be absolutely clear on each of them,” he said.
“Then they can break out of that from time to time and do amazing stuff.
“[Gatland’s role] is about bringing them together. In that short space of time it is about understanding general principles, choosing combinations and then feeding the energy so the guys are ready to go.
“They don’t need to know that if he runs that line, it goes behind him and then we should be able to get the offload away. If the guys go into the game with a very solid platform but excited about attack then I think they will do incredible things. If they go in with a complicated plan I think they will get pulled apart.”