Wilkinson wants Lions to learn from 2005 'chaos'

Jonny Wilkinson (Getty)
Jonny Wilkinson (Getty)

London - Jonny Wilkinson has urged this year's British and Irish Lions in New Zealand to avoid the "chaos" that dogged the combined side during their last series against the All Blacks in 2005. 

Two years earlier, England great Wilkinson had been a key figure in the team that won the World Cup under coach Clive Woodward. 

But Woodward's overblown approach with the Lions, which included hiring Tony Blair's former spokesperson, did not yield anything like the same success as New Zealand cruised to a 3-0 Test series win. 

Former fly-half Wilkinson, speaking at event for Lions sponsor Land Rover, said the 2005 team were "all over the place" in a 21-3 first Test loss to the All Blacks. 

"We went were there with a full squad of amazing guys from all different teams packed into the Lions, went out for the first Test and it was like chaos I'd never seen before," said Wilkinson. 

"We went down to 13 men against New Zealand in Wellington with England in 2003 but we were so together and sure of each other that we just dealt with it. 

"England were able to deal with 13 against 15 in New Zealand just because of that glue that comes from being sure of who you are and what you are doing. 

"But with 15 men and all that build-up in 2005 I'd never seen such chaos. We had 12 of us in rucks at times. We were literally all over the place." 

He added: "Everyone was trying their best and giving more than they have ever given - I'm sure of that - but everything has to be driven in one direction. 

"If that means everything has to be kept more simple then that's the way it must be," he insisted.

The Lions have won just one Test series in New Zealand, back in 1971, and are now looking to a Kiwi coach in Warren Gatland to mastermind another after he oversaw their victorious tour of Australia four years ago. 

Wilkinson said keeping things simple was the key to success for this year's Lions, who flew to New Zealand on Monday. 

"Once you get all that energy from all those guys travelling in one direction it can be amazing but when you spread that into a more complex situation those slight directional changes are magnified by the New Zealand team," he said. 

"They pulled us apart. At times I was defending against five people. 

"I was just picking one and thinking: 'you're getting it.' I remember twice choosing the right bloke and whacking into them. If it hit someone else then it was done. 

"How many times in rugby now do you see a five or six-man overlap? Never. 

"There were four or five in that first Test in the first half. 

"Not only that it was happening with it hammering down with rain and windy as well. 

"New Zealand were kind of doing well but even they were thinking: 'what's happening here?' We were all trying hard but in our own way." 

Wilkinson was adamant in saying: "The Lions have to be absolutely clear. They need to have fewer things to do but be absolutely clear on each of them. Then they can break out of that from time to time and do amazing stuff. 

"One of the greatest thing to take forward from 2005 is that the only thing that matters is rugby. 

"That's how you communicate and negotiate with the New Zealand public, through rugby. You don't get to say 'we're the Lions and this is what we're about'.

"Your voice is in your performance so you need to gear everything towards that."

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