Friday 22 March 2019

Phil Vickery: 'Sad if British and Irish Lions had to change name'

Phil Vickery
Phil Vickery

Nick Purewal and Andrew Baldock

Phil Vickery hopes the British and Irish Lions "transcend politics" and resist a name change if Scotland votes for independence next week.

The Lions could be forced to drop the term 'British' from their famous moniker should Scotland leave the United Kingdom, officials from the long-running touring outfit have confirmed.

John Spencer, England's representative on the Lions board, told the Daily Telegraph the matter would be discussed at the next board meeting following a 'Yes' vote in Scotland.

Five-cap Lions prop Vickery admitted it would be "very sad" if the collective from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland were forced into a rebranding.

"Sport needs to transcend politics, the British and Irish Lions can transcend politics, and I hope that's what happens," Vickery said.

"Any time sport is used as a vehicle it is very, very sad."

Spencer, already installed as Lions tour manager for the 2017 New Zealand challenge, confirmed the issue would be discussed at the next board meeting should Scotland gain independence.

"It has not yet been mentioned, but if Scotland voted to become independent then the board would have to discuss it at our next meeting," Spencer told The Telegraph.

"We would have to do so out of courtesy to the countries involved. That last thing we want to do is to cause offence to anyone."

Former England and Lions front-rower Vickery said it is vital the Lions do not alter their selection criteria in drawing players from across the British Isles, whatever the politics.

"It would be very sad if that happened that the name had to change," said Vickery.

"I think they can continue with the name.

"We've got to be careful because sport and politics don't mix that well.

"The Lions will always be what it is, I like the British and Irish Lions and feel proud saying that name.

"If it becomes just the Lions, I would be sad.

"But the important thing is Lions squads must always include Scotland."

When the Lions first officially toured in 1891, they were known as the British Isles, but have subsequently headed overseas as the British Lions and then British and Irish Lions, which became their title for the Australia 2001 trip and has subsequently remained.

The Lions' history is littered with great names of Scottish rugby.

They have had four post-war Scottish Lions tour captains - Arthur Smith, Mike Campbell-Lamerton, Finlay Calder and Gavin Hastings - while former Scotland full-back Andy Irvine holds the record for most Lions points.

Irvine, the 2013 Lions tour manager in Australia, amassed 274 points in 42 appearances compiled across successive trips in 1974, 1977 and 1980.

When the Lions ventured Down Under last year, though, Scotland only provided three original squad selections in full-back Stuart Hogg, wing Sean Maitland and lock Richie Gray, before prop Ryan Grant was summoned as a replacement for an injured Gethin Jenkins.

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