‘Inside the Lions Den’ forgotten moments

Sky Sports are showing all of the British & Irish Lions tour documentaries from 1997 to 2017 over the coming weeks. This week, we take a look at some of the big moments from the 2005 Test series in New Zealand

Last Updated: 20/01/21 9:32pm

The Lions face the Haka ahead of the first Test against New Zealand in 2005
The Lions face the Haka ahead of the first Test against New Zealand in 2005

The 2005 tour saw the British & Irish Lions face the challenge of New Zealand for the first time in the professional era.

With an experienced squad led by England World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward, everything seemed to be in place for the Lions to make a serious bid for only their second series win against the All Blacks. However, it was a tour which would ultimately be remembered for the wrong reasons.

The New Zealanders proved too strong for the tourist as they won the Test series 3-0 and the trials and tribulations were captured in the documentary ‘Inside The Lions Den’. Even so, there were some light-hearted moments as well and here we look back on parts you may have forgotten…

1. Hosting the Lions

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Former New Zealand international Grant Fox explains what it means for the host nation when the Lions come to tour
Former New Zealand international Grant Fox explains what it means for the host nation when the Lions come to tour

Being called upon to tour with the Lions is a career highlight for many players and an honour they will cherish for the rest of their lives, but what does it mean for the host nation who will only host the combined might of Britain and Ireland every 12 years?

All Black great Grant Fox, who played against the Lions on their 1993 tour of New Zealand and later became a selector for the national team, gave us an insight into that as they welcomed the latest group to their homeland.

2. Putting in the hard graft

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Front row pair Steve Thompson and Andrew Sheridan go through an intense gym session on tour with the Lions
Front row pair Steve Thompson and Andrew Sheridan go through an intense gym session on tour with the Lions

One of the biggest challenges of a Lions tour is that it comes at the end of a long and arduous Northern Hemisphere season in both domestic and European competition for the players, along with the rigours of representing the various Home Nations in the Six Nations.

It still requires plenty of intense preparation to ensure they remain in peak condition though, as English front row pair Steve Thompson and Andrew Sheridan showed in a high-intensity gym session which alternated between weights, cardio and wrestling.

3. Feeding the Lions

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Some of the Lions players try their hand at cooking for the squad, including Josh Lewsey’s unique mushy peas recipe
Some of the Lions players try their hand at cooking for the squad, including Josh Lewsey’s unique mushy peas recipe

Some of the unheralded heroes of any Lions tour are the team of chefs, who have the task of keeping the large touring party – in this case, 44 players and 26 support staff – along with ensuring the meals give the players a nutritious balance.

For one night only though, the task of preparing the evening meal was turned over to the squad and they cooked up a variety of delicacies for their team-mates, including Josh Lewsey’s unique recipe for mushy peas.

4. O’Callaghan off on an adventure

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After not being included in the team for the first Test, Donncha O’Callaghan makes the most of chance to go exploring
After not being included in the team for the first Test, Donncha O’Callaghan makes the most of chance to go exploring

When the 22-man squad was named for the first Test, Woodward allowed those who were not going to be involved in the game an opportunity to go out and explore the various delights New Zealand has to offer.

With that in mind, Donncha O’Callaghan and some of his team-mates headed to a nearby travel agent and the Irishman took the opportunity to enquire about going somewhere a bit further afield than his present locale, along with educating his team-mates on other countries.

5. O’Driscoll’s injury

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Brian O’Driscoll suffered a tour-ending injury in the opening minute of the first Test against New Zealand
Brian O’Driscoll suffered a tour-ending injury in the opening minute of the first Test against New Zealand

It was arguably the defining image of the tour and one of the most controversial moments in Lions history as captain Brian O’Driscoll suffered a dislocated shoulder within two minutes of the first Test after being lifted by the legs and driven down by All Blacks captain Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu.

Acrimony festered afterwards, with the Lions particularly angered after the citing commissioner did not refer what they believed was a clear spear tackle to a disciplinary panel. The New Zealanders, on the other hand, felt the pair were just clearing out the ruck and had not intended to harm O’Driscoll.

6. Ask Richard

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Denis Hickie comes up with something to keep Lions legal advisor Richard Smith occupied in his down-time
Denis Hickie comes up with something to keep Lions legal advisor Richard Smith occupied in his down-time

One person for whom the less work they have to do on tour the better is the legal advisor, who is on hand to represent the players at any disciplinary hearings which come up for on-field infringements.

To ensure his time was occupied in 2005, Irish winger Denis Hickie decided to get their legal eagle Richard Smith answering questions from the players while they were travelling on the bus – many of which went way beyond the usual questions he would be getting from clients.

7. Thomas strikes the right note

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Gareth Thomas speaks following the final Test of the series against New Zealand
Gareth Thomas speaks following the final Test of the series against New Zealand

It ended up being a chastening tour for the Lions as they went down 3-0 to the All Blacks, suffering a whitewash in the Tests for the first time in 22 years.

In such circumstances, it can be difficult to know what to say but Gareth Thomas, named captain following O’Driscoll’s injury, summed things up perfectly when he addressed the players and supporters following the final Test in Auckland.

Watch all the documentaries covering the British & Irish Lions tours from 1997 to 2017 on Sky Sports over the coming weeks. ‘Living With The Pride’, which covers the 2009 tour to South Africa, airs next on Sky Sports Arena at 10pm on Tuesday, January 26.

Source : Sky Sports