DCSIMG

Nathan Hines: 'This was rugby of the highest class, brilliant'

HOW GOOD was this game? This was rugby of the highest class, an absolutely brilliant performance from the boys and totally deserved after everything we've put in over the last six weeks. I said last week that it would have been criminal had we gone down 3-0 in the series but there was never any danger of that. In a word: awesome.

It's hard to sum up the tour. So much has happened, so much agony and joy, so many sensational performances and special moments. Here's a taste of it...

Man of the series: Tough one, right? I could mention a heap of guys. Forwards and backs. So many contenders in all positions. I have to pick one. I'll go for Rob Kearney. He came on in the first Test and was fantastic. And somehow managed to get better from there. Skill and bravery, first rate. Attacking nous, world class. He'll do for me.

Unsung hero: Mike Blair. He didn't get much of a look-in but he was an exceptional tourist. Never dropped the head once, was always upbeat and positive. The rest of the boys thought he was great.

Arch villain: Peter de Villiers comes pretty close for saying that gouging is part of rugby. Stupid and untrue. But Schalk Burger was worse. He was a lucky boy to get just eight weeks. Should have got a red card as well. Would that have changed the face of the second Test? Let's not go there.

Biggest high: Yesterday. For me, it was emotional. I didn't play in the Tests but one of the great things about this tour was that everyone felt a part of it, nobody was left out, we were all in it together. I was proud of them.

Biggest low: That penalty. You know the one. Haven't watched it again. Won't watch it. Horrible.

The tour in three words: A rollercoaster ride.

The refereeing in three words: Open to interpretation.

Ian McGeechan in a nutshell: He congratulated us yesterday on sticking by each other, on being so close in adversity and coming through it. He was right. We were a very tight group all along but he was largely responsible for that. He said he can't remember a better bond on any of his Lions tours and that's a great compliment. There were no egos. There was a great humility and respect for the history of the Lions and Geech brought all of that to the group.

Greatest case of mistaken identity: Yesterday again. I'm up in the stand as the boys are warming up before the match. I'm chatting to this nice South African fella who's telling me I've played really well on tour. Ah, thanks mate, I appreciate it. He says he doesn't know why I'm not in the squad. I say, "Well, some you win and some you lose". We say farewell. "Nice talking to you, Simon". Er, riiight. I'd say 20 times in the last week people have mistaken me for Shawsy. In which case, I'm a two-Test Lion. Sweeeeet.

Silliest gesture: The arm bands the Springboks were wearing yesterday with Justice for Bakkies written on them. Victor Matfield had it written on his headgear. Justice for Bakkies? The guy came into a ruck shoulder first and bust another player's shoulder. Where was the justice there? Those armbands were pretty arrogant.

Funny throwback: Chokegate. Remember the time Eddie O'Sullivan accused me of choking Ronan O'Gara? Load of nonsense which Rog exposed as garbage in his autobiography. Anyway, Drico and Donners (Donncha O'Callaghan) had fun with it. They claimed that Denis Leamy had seen me do it. Then they said, "Mind you, Leamy claims he saw who shot JFK".

Newest pal: I hardly knew any of the boys before the tour. Apart from the Scots I had never had much of a conversation with most of them. I can say now I've made a huge amount of friends. Hard to pick one. Jamie Roberts was terrific. But across the board this was a prima donna-free zone.

Regrets: None. Zero. Didn't make the Test team but did everything I could. Perpignan won the French championship while I was away. No regrets about that either. I made the right decision coming here. It's not something I'll ever forget.

Australia 2013: I'll be 36, much younger than Shawsy is now. Shawsy's at least 48 years old. So you never know.

Scotland: Well done Ross Ford and well played. You looked at home out there. We have to look forward now. It's a new era under Andy Robinson, an exciting time for us all. The target is that in four years' time all the players of great promise we have at the moment kick-on and wear the red jersey of the Lions.

What next: Get back to Heathrow at 6am Tuesday morning, flight directly to Australia from there and meet up with Leann and Josh for the first time in two months. Stay three weeks and then back to Perpignan for the new season. Bring on the autumn internationals!

 
 
 

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