World Cup-winning captain Nick Farr-Jones has ranked the pain of never winning a series against the British and Irish Lions as probably the biggest regret of his celebrated career and urged the Wallabies to seize the moment in Saturday’s first Test in Brisbane.
Farr-Jones says even almost a quarter of a century after leading Australia to a 2-1 series loss to the Lions he still has sleepless nights about missing his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to conquer the best of the British and Irish.
“The further you get away from it, particularly when you’ve got a big tour going on at the moment and it becomes topical, yeah, it shits me,” Farr-Jones told AAP.
Farr-Jones AM achieved just about every major honour in rugby.
He helped the Wallabies complete the fabled grand slam tour in 1984 with victories over England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, also featured in triumphant Bledisloe Cup series against New Zealand and crowned his career by hoisting the Webb Ellis Cup next to the Queen at Twickenham in 1991.
But the champion halfback still tosses and turns about the 1989 series defeat against the Lions.
“At the time, yeah you regretted losing to the Lions. As I speak 20 years into retirement, since my last game, the cracks in the ceiling are getting wider at 2am in the morning,” he said.
“You wake up and you really regret it because, as came to pass in World Cups, we got a second roll of the dice.
“I was a part of `87, the inaugural one and part of the disappointment of losing to the French (in the semi-finals).
“But at least I got another roll of the dice and we were lucky enough to win a World Cup.
“But when the Lions come down, you get one roll of the dice. And if I’ve got any damn regrets about the game looking back, it’s that we didn’t beat the bastards.”
Farr-Jones said the only other career disappointments that come close to losing to the Lions was not winning a first grade premiership in 14 seasons with Sydney University and seeing his great friend and teammate Tim Gavin miss the `91 World Cup through injury.
But it was the manner in which the Wallabies succumbed to the Lions in the pivotal and brutal second Test in Brisbane – known as the Battle of Ballymore – that gives Farr-Jones nightmares.
Farr-Jones was halfback and captain of Australia and the Lions hatched a plan for their forwards to monster him into submission.
“And it worked a treat,” he admitted 24 years later.
With the Wallabies having crushed the tourists 30-12 in the first Test, Farr-Jones said cheekily winking and blowing a kiss at Lions hooker Brian Moore early on in Brisbane was a big mistake.
“He proceeded to rip me apart after that and all the other forwards ripped into me,” he said.
Farr-Jones said as his game imploded at Ballymore, his teammates unravelled around him and he urged the Wallabies’ 2013 pack not to let the Lions forwards do a similar job on Australia’s influential No.9 Will Genia on Saturday.
“We should have knocked over the Lions,” Farr-Jones said.
“I’ve got no problem with the tactics that they turned on, particularly in that second Test. My only problem is that we didn’t match them toe-to-toe.
“So we’ve got to be combative up front and be very physical and we’ve got to try and give our backs that time and space.
“Genia is crucial.”