‘There is no tomorrow’: the speech that made Andy Farrell a Lions icon

Andy Farrell, who will be announced as Lions head coach on Thursday, delivers his impressive speech at the Lions team hotel in Sydney in 2013.

On the whiteboard in the team room of the Sydney hotel, Andy Farrell had scrawled a series of key messages under the heading “Lions Mentality”. It was July 2013 and in a couple of days the British and Irish Lions would face their decisive third test against Australia in Sydney.

Farrell was still in his infancy as a rugby coach. Just a year earlier, England manager Stuart Lancaster had chosen him to take over as defense coach after two years of debuting at Saracens.

There were other members of Warren Gatland’s coaching staff in the room who had more experience with the Lions. Rob Howley and Graham Rowntree had toured South Africa four years earlier.

Farrell may have had the experience of a brilliant rugby league career to draw on, having captained the Great Britain team at the age of just 21, but in rugby terms, he knew he was entering unexplored waters. But, with the series on the line, Farrell didn’t flinch.

The board contained several points, including: “No dead legs – First 5 meters”, “Nothing passive – Hammer”, “No waste” and finally “16 years – you will find the Lions mentality.”

However, it was what he said next that marked his place in Lions folklore, delivering a speech that would soon gain cult status akin to the great speeches of previous Lions coaches such as Jim Telfer and Sir Ian McGeechan .

Rob Howley, Graham Rowntree, Andy Farrell and Warren Gatland watch during the British and Irish Lions captain's run in Brisbane in 2013.Rob Howley, Graham Rowntree, Andy Farrell and Warren Gatland watch during the British and Irish Lions captain's run in Brisbane in 2013.

Farrell, second right, had no qualms about featuring among experienced coaches (LR) Rob Howley, Graham Rowntree and Warren Gatland on the Lions’ 2013 tour – Getty Images/David Rogers

First, Farrell addressed the performance in the second Test in Melbourne, a last-gasp defeat that took the series to the decisive point.

“Last weekend, good effort, good effort until D [defence] he’s busy. A lot of pressure awaits us, especially on our own line,” he said.

“They kept hitting and hitting and it was a brave effort, guys. That’s what I would tell you if I were the coach of your club or your national team, but I’m not.

“We are your Lions coaches. And a good defense or a good spirit are not enough at this level. In D, we cannot allow our emotional energy to diminish at all.

“You know why? Because there’s no tomorrow. There’s no tomorrow. We’re taking the guys to the injured arena this weekend.

“Because our mentality will be different to what the British Lions teams have had for the last 16 years. Well, a different mentality.

“Because the last 16 years have been about failure. You are surprised by taking yourself to another level. Because that’s what being a Lion is all about. It’s not about anything more than that. It’s not about participating, it’s not about being here, it’s about winning.”

The Lions won 41-16.

These moments acquired mythic status over the years for fans, but most tellingly, they provided insight into the emotional and technical impact Farrell had on the tour, underpinning his reputation as a coach at the highest levels of international rugby. .

Despite playing most of his career in the league, there were no players in that Sydney hotel room who had any doubt that Farrell understood what the Lions were all about. It was also one of the moments that would sow the seed for his appointment as head coach on Thursday, appropriately for the tour of Australia next year.

By the time of the next tour, to New Zealand in 2017, Farrell had moved to Ireland, quickly appointed by Joe Schmidt as his defense coach after incoming England head coach Eddie Jones sacked him following the 2015 World Cup. .

Video footage from that historic tour, which culminated in a 1-1 series tie, revealed the happier side of his personality.

During another speech to the team in Auckland, Farrell’s presentation skills were put to the test when a mobile phone’s ‘Siri’ function interrupted his talk.

“So far six guys have approached me to do a little more. Just five minutes, that’s all,” Farrell said, only for ‘Siri’ to respond: “Sorry, I’m not sure what you said.”

Without breaking stride, Farrell responded, “I said six guys came up to me…” The team burst out laughing. “This is serious,” he added with a beaming smile. His point was made clear.

Gatland, who had laid the succession blocks by first selecting Farrell for the 2013 tour ahead of his then Wales defense coach Shaun Edwards, at the time a painful and controversial decision, was impressed by his ability to connect with Players.

“I caught a glimpse of Faz’s innovation during an early defensive meeting when Paul ‘Bobby’ Stridgeon, our strength and conditioning coach, interrupted the meeting when his phone rang. Faz gave him both barrels and demanded that Bobby repeat the defensive structure and strategy he had outlined,” Gatland recalled.

“We all sat in our seats embarrassed for Bobby, but were stunned when he repeated word for word what Faz had said. Only later did I discover that everything had been organized as a ploy by Faz to convey his message to the players. If the fitness guy can remember our defense, so can they.”

‘One of the best brains in rugby’

Jamie George, who had been selected for the tour of New Zealand despite not starting a match for England and ended up in the Test squad, agrees that Farrell’s ability to get his message across and also make each player feeling special was a strong point. outstanding feature of his contribution to the Lions.

“He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with,” George said. “He is one of the best rugby brains I have ever met. The way he conveys a message is very clear, but very thought out. But I also think he was special because of his understanding of people and what people need because he was there and did that in a very similar way.

“He understands people and understands that playing international rugby is a pretty high-pressure environment and his ability to give people time when they need it, time with their families, is perfect for a Lions coach.

“It’s something that Warren Gatland has done very well, and I think it’s something that Andy will take on and execute and I have no doubt that he will be very successful.”

Andy Farrell points his finger while making a comment during training on the Lions' 2017 tour to New ZealandAndy Farrell points his finger while making a comment during training on the Lions' 2017 tour to New Zealand

Farrell expresses his views on the Lions’ 2017 tour to New Zealand – Shutterstock

“In 2017, I felt like I had a relationship with every player and I had plans for every player, if that makes sense,” George added. “I would finish a game and review my performance with Steve Borthwick, who was on tour. But Andy would also call me and give me an alternative opinion.

“He’d say, ‘What did you think about X, Y and Z?’ He was the defense coach but he also talked to me about how we attack, how we work without the ball. He drives standards and is very clear about what he wants.

“But it was very individualized. I felt like Andy had a plan for me, and then I looked across the room and he was having a very similar conversation with Peter O’Mahony and then with Owen. [Farrell]. “That’s rare, that’s unique and I think that probably sums up Andy as a person and as a coach.”

And he would once again leave an indelible mark on the 2017 tour, when he delivered another inspiring and iconic speech before the third test against the All Blacks in Auckland.

“I started by telling everyone, ‘How far can we go with this?’ Well, it’s here,” Farrell told the team. “That’s it. You dream about it, guys. In fact, I’m trying to ask myself, ‘Faz, what are you looking for?’ Honestly, it is something that is unbeatable.

“We are a fire team and if we are going to steal we have to be fucking precise. Performance, all together, we haven’t done it yet. It will be too much for them, they will not be able to bear it. We have fucking winners in this room. I believe that tomorrow you will become the best team in the world.”

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