The Offload chat British & Irish Lions with Richard Hibbard & ASICS
June 30, 2017
When it comes to memories from the British & Irish Lions tour of 2013, there’s one that’s embedded in us…and George Smith for that matter!
Richard Hibbard featured in all three Test’s four years ago, starting the third and decisive clash with the Wallabies in Sydney. It all went to plan that day for the Lions, and they’ll be hoping for a repeat of that fate when they take on the All Blacks in Wellington this weekend. We caught up with Hibbard this week to chat about his tour experiences, as well as to get his thoughts on what’s been going on in New Zealand.
You played in all three Tests for the B&I Lions in 2013. What did it mean to be selected in the Test match squad?
Being selected for the Lions squad is amazing, it’s so hard to explain what it personally feels like. It’s knowing that every sacrifice you’ve made and everyone who’s supported you along the way has been worth it and paid off. But to be selected for the Test match 23 is that extra bit special as a squad you’ve fought for the last 6-7 weeks playing teams together. You’re then given the honour to finish the job in the test matches.
How did you feel building up to the third and final deciding Test four years ago?
The coaches and staff were excellent in the build up to that last Test. They took the squad down to a very quiet holiday place out of everyone’s way. Away from all media, all the pressure, all the hype and just let us bond as a squad even more. Putting us in a great mindset for that 3rd Test.
How important is it for players from the four countries to bond both on and off the field?
It’s massive, I can’t emphasise enough how important this is if a team wants to be successful. In many cases, you’ve been playing against these boys for club and country going head-to-head with one another. Then you’re brought together and you instantly become friends and what you thought of someone on the field, totally goes out the window as you really get to know them. Being a very long tour as well, you’re spending every single day eating, training and relaxing together, it’s quite a special experience.
I think it’s been tough so far but the I think the boys have done very well. They’ve had a couple of stumbles against a few sides, but even the club team they’ve faced have been world class, and a massive test, but I think that’s only helped them as I think they’re look like a strong team now. I thought there were patches in the first Test where there were opportunities to beat the AB’s, if they only could have found that last pass or finish. With AB’s changing the tactics to be much more direct, they’ve experienced that and think this will serve the Lions well in the next two Test matches.
“…all most every position is contested and up for debate…”
The set piece has been excellent so far, of any team in the world wants to go down to New Zealand and win any game, their fundamentals have to be spot on. This sets a base to work on all the other stuff that gets you the win. Also what’s really impressed me is the depth of the squad, all most every position is contested and up for debate, which is great because boys know they have to be on fire.
I thought Liam Williams has been very good, after getting a yellow in one of the early games, to turn that around and get the start at full back shows you how good a player he is. The attacking mindset he brings, Sean O’Brien’s try he helped set-up last week will go down as one of the best Lions tries ever. I think O’Brien has been huge in every game he plays, with his go forward in the carry and his tight work in breakdowns and tackle, he’s going to be really important in stopping the AB’s getting momentum.
As for the first Test, were the Lions unlucky or were the All Blacks just too good?
Like I said a bit earlier, I think the Lions were a lot closer than the score board suggests, if they could have finished off a couple of breaks or found that last pass, things may have been different. I genuinely believe they can take massive amounts of confidence from the performance, if they can control their discipline a little bit more in second Test, they’ll be in with a good chance of winning.
What do you think the Lions will need to do differently to win the second Test and keep the series alive?
I think discipline is key to their success, you can not give the AB’s momentum and field position, but also they’ll need to have strong ball carries, kick chases and really look after the ball, because we know how deadly the All Blacks can be in loose play.
Do you think the Lions have what it takes to turn things around and win the series?
Absolutely, 100% I think we’re in for a shout. Then it’ll all be down to that third and final Test!