Monday 29 May 2017

Hugh Farrelly: 'South Africa didn't want me' is no valid basis to gatecrash a great tradition

Hugh Farrelly

WE are still more than a year away from the selection of the Lions party to tour Australia, but it is not too soon to hope higher standards will be maintained.

Warren Gatland would be the second southern hemisphere coach to lead the British and Irish party, after fellow New Zealander Graham Henry in 2001, but there is no issue with selection of management.

It is the practice of southern hemisphere mercenaries being selected for the Lions that should no longer be indulged.

While Toby Faletau, Manu Tuilagi, Dylan Hartley and David Denton can claim to have genuine links to the countries they represent on the basis of parentage or taking up residence before they were adults, there are many others who do not.

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Australians Nathan Hines (Scotland) and Brent Cockbain (Wales) have both featured on Lions tours as has Kiwi Riki Flutey (who played against the Lions in 2005).

Qualifying for one of the four 'home' nations automatically makes you eligible for the Lions, but there is an ethos here and seeing the likes of Thomas Waldrom, Mouritz Botha, Shontayne Hape or Hendre Fourie in a Lions jersey would really stick in the craw.

"South Africa didn't want me when I played there, so if England selected me I'd be honoured," said Fourie when he qualified for the Red Rose after completing his three-year residency.

While the chances of Waldrom, Botha, Hape or Fourie making the tour are remote, the Lions are more than just another wage-earning professional franchise and "South Africa didn't want me" is not a valid basis for seeking selection.

Irish Independent

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