A British perspective: Geoff Parling and why the Lions tour is so special

Thu, Jul 20, 2023, 6:06 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Lions Tour Fixture Hype Video

The British and Irish Lions tour is like no other - just ask Geoff Parling.

Parling was involved in the last tour to Australia in 2013, becoming a cornerstone of the English side during the start of the 2010s.

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The magnitude of the situation begins weeks before the tour starts, with the squad named on live TV.

Players are given limited insight into where they stand selection-wise, finding out at the same time as the general public.

For Parling, he was toiling away at training with Leicester and only knew he was selected when he returned to the dressing rooms.

“It’s in the back of your mind at the start of the season that there’s a Lions tour at the end of the season and their form can push them into selection," he said at the launch.

“For everyone in the four countries, it’s massive.” 

The interest in the tour will only grow after 2021's series against South Africa had a limited attendance as a result of COVID.

It's expected in excess of 40,000 visitors will travel down to Australia for the tour.

“I remember during the week Monday you’d see a few (red) shirts, Tuesday a few more and then you’d keep going through the cities and when you get to Friday, you’d come back from training and they would be red shirts and noise everywhere from the shirts and the bars,” Parling recalled.

“People who are hosting tours, geez you’re going to get some tourism and people, the bars are going to open up. It was just fantastic.

“You’ve got COVID (limiting travel) from four years ago but it’s also a really good place to travel

“I had mates come out in camper vans and drove from the east coast following the different games. They can even say to the wife ‘Let’s go on holiday’ and sell it as a holiday but really it’s for Rugby.”

Parling will likely find himself on the other side of the fence as part of the Melbourne Rebels coaching staff.

The lock missed their 35-0 clash in 2013, instead selected for the second Test against the Wallabies at Marvel/Etihad Stadium.

An interesting revelation from the launch was the prospect of the Rebels welcoming Pacific-based players into their squad for the match.

It'd allow the likes of Fijian, Tongan and Samoan stars to link up with the side, only bolstering their chances of causing a boilover.

“That was the first I’ve heard of it,” Parling laughed

“We have a strong link to the Pasifika community at the Rebels anyway but in terms of the details, I’m not quite sure.”

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