The lawyer for the British & Irish Lions rugby team is looking forward to Saturday’s final test with cautious optimism, pointing out that the fact the team has been hampered by injuries makes the result difficult to call.
Guildhall Chambers’ Richard Smith QC, who has been working with the England team since its high of winning the World Cup against Australia in Sydney in 2003, knows that, with Ireland centre Brian O’Driscoll and Adam Jones being sent home and Jamie Roberts also about to board a plane, injuries could lose the Lions the test.
That said, he still has high hopes for the team.
“It would be tremendous to win on a final note,” he said. “The team has done brilliantly, missing out by only a few points.”
Controversy has shadowed the game in the last week after South African flanker Schalk Burger was cited for eye gouging Lions player Luke Fitzgerald. Burger was suspended for eight weeks, but South Africa coach Peter de Villiers refused to apologise for Burger’s actions, an action that O’Driscoll branded “an absolute disgrace”.
While Smith works alongside the media team on managing how the players conduct themselves, he will understandably not be drawn on the eye gouging or subsequent war of words.
“People are allowed to express themselves,” he said of the controversy. “It’s sad because it’s a distraction from the game. But there have been individuals who have understandably spoken out.”
Smith became involved with the England team when Clive Woodward, who coached the team up to its world cup victory, decided that it would be a benefit to have a sports lawyer on side. “I played rugby with Andy Robinson [Woodward’s deputy] and things just came together,” Smith said.
Becoming lawyer to the Lions was a natural progression and, aside from problems like the eye gouging incident, Smith relishes his job as sports lawyer to the team.
“I’m having a great time,” he said. “I work with them on the sport disciplinary side of the game.”
This means that Smith is at the pitchside to deal with any illegalities during the game and is a resource for the team when it comes up against criminal issues outside the pitch.
“I come on tour and am in the situation where no one wants me to do anything,” he said.
That said, Smith will now have to be ready to compile evidence to put before the rugby disciplinary authorities should any player break the rules in the final.