Dr Gary O’Driscoll, the Ireland team doctor, has been appointed to the 2009 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa, which follows four years on from his involvement with the Lions’ trip to New Zealand.
The 2009 British & Irish Lions management team met in London last week to review tour preparations and to continue administrative and operational planning.
This included comprehensive analysis of key planning areas such as player selection, pre-tour preparation, coaching, conditioning and training regimes, security, media and travel.
The Lions will depart the UK on May 24 to embark on a 10-match tour of South Africa, including three Test matches.
Commenting on last week’s meeting, tour manager Gerald Davies said: “It was a tremendously positive meeting and a major step in our preparations for the tour.
“The next step in terms of tour planning is a final pre-tour visit to South Africa later this month to finalise many aspects of the tour such as accommodation, internal travel and training facilities.
“As a management group, we are under no illusion of the challenges that we face when we travel to South Africa this summer.
“We will be facing the World champions on their home soil and therefore it is crucial that we are comfortable with all aspects of the tour logistics and that we have a suitable environment in place to allow the players to perform at their maximum,” he added.
Head coach Ian McGeechan also announced the next steps in terms of the player selection process.
“A key area of discussion was not only to look at how we will organise ourselves operationally but also the administrative elements that we need in relation to the selection of players that will form the tour party,” said the Scot.
“Selection of the tour party is the most important element of the tour as far as I am concerned.
“I want to ensure that we have every opportunity to make the best selection decisions and that we utilise expertise from outside the group, such as the national coaches of the home nations, to select the final group of players that will represent Britain and Ireland in South Africa.
“Instead of selecting and announcing a preliminary squad this month we have decided that we should instead work closely with each of the four home Union coaches in the lead up and during the Six Nations to determine which players are showing the form and application that will make them suitable tourists.
“Becoming a Lion is the pinnacle of a player’s career, it is a unique experience and nothing compares to it.
“We want to ensure that all players continue to see that they have a chance of playing themselves into contention for the final squad that we will be announcing in April as planned,” McGeechan explained.
Each player from the home Union national squads plus any additional players that fall outside of these national groups will receive a draft Lions contract that will become ‘live’ should they be named in the final squad in April.
Attendees at the planning meeting included recently appointed support personnel who will assist the senior tour management team:
Paul Stridgeon – assistant physical conditioner
Gary O’Driscoll – doctor
Phil Pask, Prav Mathema, Bob Stewart – physiotherapists
Richard Wegrzyk – masseur
Guy Richardson – logistics officer
Dave Campbell – chef
They join the senior coaching and management team: Gerald Davies (tour manager), Ian McGeechan (head coach), Warren Gatland (forwards coach), Shaun Edwards (defence coach), Rob Howley (backs coach), Graham Rowntree (scrum coach), Craig White (head of physical conditioning) James Robson (head of medical), Rhys Long (head of performance analysis), Greg Thomas (head of media) and Louise Ramsay (team operations manager).
Lions CEO John Feehan will also be with the tour party in South Africa.