By Damian Dolan.
The memories of British & Irish Lions tours past have been flooding back for former Ireland international Paul Wallace lately.
From Sam Warburton’s unveiling as the man to lead Warren Gatland’s side in Australia to the players being kitted out with their Lions gear, Wallace has been unable to escape being transported back 16 years to when he was one of 35 bright-eyed young hopefuls embarking with the Lions, bound for South Africa to do battle with the formidable Springboks.
Rugby and professionalism were uneasy bedfellows at that time, with the game having only just thrown off its amateur shackles, and the Lions’ place in this brave new world was unclear.
As it turned out, 1997 was the tour that secured the Lions’ future. A commercial success, the Lions brand was reborn. Victory helped as did the Living with the Lions dvd – a behind the scenes look at life on tour with the Lions.
“It’s still the pinnacle – it’s like the Olympics,” said Wallace. “When you see them all meeting up in the hotel and getting fitted it does bring you back- that buzz and the anticipation.
For more see this week’s edition of the Irish World