Knighthood for Lions legend McGeechan
Knighthood for Lions legend McGeechan
On the day in May 2008 that Ian McGeechan was announced as head coach of the British and Irish Lions, he posed for a photograph in a London taxi.
It was a picture which upset the Lions PR team because it was not taken with McGeechan in the right polo shirt or in front of a correctly branded sponsors backdrop.
But it was a snap which encapsulated the man's career and lifelong passion in one flash of the bulb. Leaning out of the taxi window, McGeechan beamed proudly above an advert for The Lion King.
''The Lions are special and unique. You can't compare them to anything else you'll do as a player or coach,'' said McGeechan.
''There is no feeling like rubbing shoulders in a Lions jersey.''
The 63-year-old has served on seven tours of duty with the Lions since 1974, when he played in all four Tests as the Invincibles swept unbeaten on a 22 match tour through South Africa.
McGeechan earned 32 caps for Scotland and made four more Lions Test appearances against New Zealand in 1977 before becoming one of the most decorated coaches in the global game.
In four Lions tours as head coach, McGeechan masterminded series victories over Australia in 1989 and South Africa in 1997.
At club level, McGeechan's greatest success came at Wasps where he won a full house of trophies - the Anglo-Welsh Cup, the Heineken Cup and the Guinness Premiership - in a coaching dream-team with Shaun Edwards.
McGeechan was awarded the OBE after leading Scotland to the 1990 Grand Slam with victory over England in the Five Nations title decider at Murrayfield.
Now he joins England's World Cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward in being honoured as a rugby knight in recognition of his services to the game at every level.
McGeechan's career began at the Headingley club in Leeds, where he combined rugby with work as a geography teacher. Mortgage payments were put on hold so he could tour with the Lions.
After hanging up his boots, McGeechan joined the Scotland set-up as assistant coach to Derrick Grant in 1986 before taking the reigns himself two years later, where he struck up a successful long-term partnership with Jim Telfer.
In 1989, McGeechan inspired the Lions to come back from 1-0 down in the series to beat Australia before returning home to guide Scotland to their Grand Slam.
The 1993 Lions were beaten by New Zealand but McGeechan returned to the helm in 1997 to mastermind a 2-1 series win against world champions South Africa.
The tour was captured on a legendary behind-the-scenes documentary which provided an insight into McGeechan's passion for rugby, for his players and for the Lions badge.
His team-talk, with the Lions 1-0 up heading into the second Test, still makes the hairs stand up.
''You will meet each other on a street in 30 years' time and there will be just a look, and you will know just how special some days in your life are,'' he told the players.
''We have proved that the Lion has claws. We have wounded the Springbok. We will go for the jugular. Every tackle, every pass and every kick is saying to the Springbok, you are dying.
''On that field today all that will be between you is a look, no words, just a look. It will say everything. The biggest thing it will say is, 'you are special, you are very, very special'. It has been and is a privilege. Go out, enjoy it, remember how you have got here and why, and finish it off. And be special for the rest of your lives.''
The Lions won the Test 18-15 and with it the series.
McGeechan returned to the Lions set-up in 2005 as one of Woodward's assistant coaches and he took charge of the unbeaten midweek team.
Woodward had attempted to modernise the Lions concept, splitting up the playing squads and the coaching squads. It proved a disaster as the All Blacks romped to a 3-0 series win.
When the Lions board met to discuss candidates for the 2009 coaching team, they unanimously agreed that McGeechan was the only man capable of mending a concept that had been so badly damaged.
Lions chairman Andy Irvine said at the time: ''He is as fired up as he has ever been and there are similarities in that between Geech and Sir Alex Ferguson.''
The Lions were beaten 2-1 by the Springboks in a brutal and brilliant Test series, described by McGeechan as the best he has ever been part of.
Even in defeat, the whole of British rugby celebrated the fact that McGeechan had succeeded in restoring the pride of the Lions.