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Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 3°C
©INPHO/Dan Sheridan Brian O'Driscoll addresses the Lions following Saturday's win against Australia.
# Lions 2013
Healey: If Australia won't respect Lions' traditions, this should be the last series Down Under
Former Lion Austin Healey says the tame nature of the current tour suggests that Australia simply aren’t that interested any more.

AUSTIN HEALEY HAS hit out at Australia for disrespecting the traditions of the Lions and suggested that the 2013 tour may be the final one Down Under.

Healy was one of the flashpoints in the controversial 2001 Tests against the Wallabies but despite some needle between the two camps this time around, he says the current series has none of the same bite.

The Lions’ last visit to Australia ended in animosity for Graham Henry’s side who also got off to a winning start in Brisbane but then surrendered the series win with defeat in the final two Tests.

For Healey, the tour started with a bang when he famously scored two tries as the Lions came back from the dead to win a ferocious warm-up against the Brumbies.

But ruled out of the Test team by injury, he then hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons and came under fire for comments attributed to him in which he called Aussie lock Justin Harrison “a plod”, “a plank” and “an ape.”

Harrison went on to give a man-of-the-match performance as Australia won the final test and Healy was made a scapegoat for riling up the opposition.

That public baiting and media crossfire which was commonplace 12 years ago is nowhere to be seen this time around and that, along with the weakened teams fielded in the warm-up games, raises questions about how seriously Australia are taking the tour, he says.

Instead of trying to hit the Lions mentally in the press, are they just giving them no time to prepare? They’ve had no physical games at all in that tour, I mean real physical test matches.

There hasn’t been like in 2001 massive brawls like there was against the Waratahs and Queensland. There hasn’t been the honeytraps sent around the hotels. There hasn’t been the complete and utter rubbish written in the press, complete and utter lies about players hating each other, trying to drive a wedge between the squad.

“Are they playing a very clever game the Australians and not letting us prepare and get almost a siege mentality? Or do they not really regard the Lions as a big game anymore? It’s a question I suppose we’ll only know at the end of the tour.

“That animosity is what’s required to make the tour feel a bit more special and I’m not sure whether Australia will see another full Lions tour again after this one. This could be their last tour.”

Healy was in Dublin yesterday at the launch of the new partnership between Setanta Sports and BT Sport (©INPHO/Donall Farmer)

Instead, Healey said, it would be more keeping with the spirit of the Lions if they were to play a series of games across the Pacific rim before finishing with a Test in Australia.

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“The whole ethos of the Lions is that it is going to be the pinnacle of rugby. The pinnacle of rugby is actually grassroots rugby, it’s camaraderie, spreading the word, enjoying people’s company whilst you’re over there. It’s not high-level, high-paid players just going to play three games in a country where they’ve been many times before.

I’d like to see the Lions maybe go down the Pacific rim and play Canada, the USA, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, the Pacific Islands and then maybe play against Australia and give them one Test match. If they’re going to disrespect our traditions now, that’s it — they don’t get another tour.

Healey also criticised the commercialism of recent years and warned that if the experience is devalued for players or supporters, the whole experience will become meaningless.

“The Lions shouldn’t be a commercial brand entity. It is, but it shouldn’t be marketeer’s dream. If it is going to be the pinnacle of rugby it needs to be the best thing you ever dreamt of as a player, and as a supporter to go and watch.

“Supporters aren’t stupid and they’ll realise that if they’re there purely for money then they won’t go. They need to retain those values.”

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