Success in New Zealand has saved Lions - Willie John McBride

Willie John McBride played in an era when Lions tours lasted three months
Willie John McBride played in an era when Lions tours lasted three months

Former Ireland captain Willie John McBride believes the success of British and Irish Lions in their recent tour of New Zealand has saved the team from a doubtful future.

With the 2019 World Cup around the corner and the global calendar to follow, questions have been raised on the future Lions tours and on a possible reduction in length of such series.

However, Warren Gatland's men made a splendid comeback after losing the first Test against All Blacks 30-15 as they went on to beat the hosts 21-24 in the second Test in Wellington before drawing the third Test at Eden Park 15-15.

McBride, who was part of five Lions tours in 1962, 1966, 1968, 1971 and 1974 lauded the achievement of the team in New Zealand and is confident that the concept will be preserved for future.

"It's a tremendous achievement and, quite honestly, I think it has shocked a few people," said McBride told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme.

"A lot of people had written them off before they left because they didn't really have enough time to put the team together. They have done a remarkable job.

"I think that this has, in many ways, saved the Lions.

"The concept is really unique and has gone now for well over 100 years. It would be dreadful in this professional era if it was ever messed around with."

The recently concluded tour of New Zealand was spanned over six weeks and had 10 games in it. When McBride represented Lions during the 1971 tour, they featured in 26 games that also had four Tests over New Zealand.

McBride urged for longer tours in future that will help Lions adapt to the conditions and more importantly gel with the team-mates, who are from four different rugby unions.

"The one thing I feel sorry about is that the tour is actually too short. There are some tremendous players on this tour and they really haven't had the time to gel together.

"Rugby is about a team. It's probably the biggest team game you could possibly play. I think they have done remarkably well to put the team together that they did."