Probyn pins the blame on Sir Clive and Campbell

JEFF Probyn believes the Lions' failure against New Zealand has exposed Sir Clive Woodward's real contribution to England's 2003 World Cup success and branded Alastair Campbell's presence on tour a "disaster".

The cream of British and Irish rugby - reportedly assembled at a cost of 9million - crashed to a humiliating 3-0 series whitewash against the All Blacks to guarantee that they will be remembered as one of the worst squads in the Lions' proud history.

And Probyn - who was capped 37 times in the front row by England and was a shock omission from the 1993 Lions squad - is in no doubt where the blame lies, expressing his dismay at Woodward's assessment that it had been a successful tour.

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"Clive has to take the blame. He was the one who made the promises. He asked for total control, got everything he wanted and then promised the Lions would come back victorious," said the former tighthead prop.

"He can't now say it was one of those things that they lost and it was a successful tour, because it clearly wasn't. It was all about winning the Tests. If we'd won Clive would be telling everybody what a great coach he is.

"He took the credit for England's World Cup success while ignoring all the disappointing performances he had presided over in the years before that - the 1999 World Cup failure, all the Grand Slam misses. He then releases a book called Winning when the reality is that as a coach he has spent more time losing.

"He had seven years of making mistakes and waiting for an England team to become successful before actually winning anything.

"There's no getting away from the fact he played a part in winning the World Cup but this Lions series has brought public perception of Clive's ability closer to the reality understood by those who know him.

"The public's perception of what he contributed to the 2003 World Cup success has been very different to the reality."

Woodward has come under heavy fire for the Lions' dismal performance, with bizarre team selections, outdated tactics and a refusal to play his Test team before the series opener all drawing criticism.

But nothing has sparked as much controversy as the involvement of Campbell, the tour media chief whose meddling during the fall-out of the Brian O'Driscoll spear tackle served to unite the All Blacks behind accused skipper Tana Umaga.

Probyn believes the appointment of the former Labour Party spin doctor was doomed to failure from the start and slammed Woodward's decision to invite him to give a team talk in the build-up to the second Test.

"The Campbell situation was a disaster and was always going to be a disaster," said Probyn. "The reality is that a rugby tour is not a political party. You can't spin results. The game is about winning.

"Campbell was there partly because of Clive's political ambitions. Why does a rugby team need a spin doctor? It's ridiculous. The fact Campbell gave a team talk to the players is ludicrous and insulting beyond belief.

"What the hell does he know about playing rugby at any level, let alone at Test level? He could say nothing of any relevance to facing an All Black team, or any side come to that. Clive must have thought it was a good idea, but that's typical Clive."

Probyn, who as England under-21 team manager worked with Woodward between 1995-97, continued: "I remember when we were on tour in the US and he'd read this book by a successful dentist who had taken the fear out of his patients by giving them VIP treatment.

"He served up tea and scones prior to the check-up and his profits went through the roof. Clive thought it was brilliant, and this guy's ideas - remember he was a dentist - became the mantra for the tour."

Woodward is scheduled to take up a position with Southampton Football Club next month, prompting Probyn to issue Saints boss Harry Redknapp with a word of warning.

"Harry Redknapp will have to be a very good football manager if he is going to deal with Clive week in, week out," he said.