<DIV =leadarticle-line>Ex-Lions boss defiant over series failure</DIV>
<DIV =article-sub>Clive Woodward accepts mistakes but says injuries were key to whitewash</DIV>
<DIV =article-byline>Alan Hubbard </DIV>
FORMER Lions coach Clive Woodward admits it took him a long time to get over his experience in New Zealand four years ago, and believes more will have to go right this time out for Ian McGeechan's side to win the series in South Africa.
Woodward is now part of the British Olympic team that performed well in Beijing last year, and is responsible for unearthing more talent ahead of the Winter Games in Vancouver next year and the Olympics in 2012.
But it was after leaving rugby following great success in seven years with England, and that disastrous experience with the Lions – plus a brief coaching stint at Southampton FC – that Woodward joined the British Olympic Association (BOA) in September 2006 on the premise of overhauling top coaching in Olympic sports and enhancing performances.
However, some said Woodward's hapless Lions tour left an indelible stain on his otherwise reputable coaching CV and he agrees that it was not the most auspicious six weeks of his life.
"You come back and lie awake at night questioning everything," said Woodward. "I would probably change a few things if I had the time over again. Perhaps we tried to cram too much into those six weeks. But sport is about winning and losing. You win, you get a pat on the back, you lose and you get shot.
"Things did not go well and it's no use making excuses because it's all part of sport, but remember the Lions have been to New Zealand 11 times and lost on 10, so I am in a bracket of 10.
"It wasn't as if we were going to wallop them. It's not exactly that I'm an exception. It's a tough place to go. We lost key players like Brian O'Driscoll and Lawrence Dallaglio and you can't pick up injuries to your star men and still hope to win in a scratch environment.
"Yes, it was a hard time but I prefer to look back on my seven years with England as opposed to six weeks with the Lions."
He reckons if the Lions get lucky with injuries on the upcoming tour and South Africa pick up a few, they might do okay. "They've got a good team but playing away from home they'll need a bit of luck," added Woodward. "We may think the Lions are big over here but the South Africans themselves are even bigger over there. There are players in their team who were kids when they lost 12 years ago and they see it as their chance to redeem that. No bones about it, it's going to be tough."
Then there was his controversial venture into the round-ball game with Harry Redknapp at Southampton. "I enjoyed football and would probably still be in the game now if I had not had that call from Colin Moynihan (BOA chairman)." Though probably not at Southampton. "No, it's sad what has happened there. They are a great club but it just shows that if you get it wrong off the field you'll never get it right on it, and they've been getting it wrong off the field for a long time."
Now the 53-year-old Woodward is focusing on his 2012 mission: "When I first shook hands with Colin I assured him I would be here until 2012 and now I feel there is no logical reason why I should want to leave after that... it has enabled me to get into vital areas of sport.
"I believe what we are developing can be a powerful product, not only for Olympic sport but all British sport, and I've no plans to go back into anything else."</DIV>