Geoff Parling: Ex-England lock ‘excited’ at facing British and Irish Lions

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  • author, Chris Jones
  • Role, Rugby union correspondent

Former England international Geoff Barling said training against the British and Irish Lions would be a “unique experience” that he could not understate.

In 2025, he will become the first man to play for the Lions in a Test series and coach against them.

“It’s going to be amazing – I can’t understate that – it’s going to be an amazing experience,” he said.

Speaking to Rugby Union Weekly, Barling, who has 29 caps for England, added: “It’s really exciting, but you also have to perform well. As we know, it can go one of two ways.

“So I’m really excited about that, but not only that [the Lions]. We play two Tests against Wales and one against Georgia in July. I’m also excited about the opportunity there.

“When I did the job with [former Australia coach] Dave Rainey in 2020 It was during Covid and my family couldn’t come to any of the games. So I’m excited to get my wife and three kids to experience an international match when I coach.

“So there are a lot of things before the Lions tour as well, but I appreciate that this is a very unique experience to be involved in again.”

Australian rugby is in desperate need of support. The Wallabies are currently ninth in the world rankings, and were knocked out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup at the pool stage, with coach Eddie Jones departing shortly after.

But the arrival of the decorated Schmidt has led to renewed optimism that Australian rugby can recover, with a Lions tour followed by the men’s Rugby World Cup in 2027 and the women’s tournament in 2029.

“Everyone is talking about the golden decade that lies ahead of us, and I think there is a golden opportunity ahead of us with the Lions Tour, the men’s World Cup and the women’s World Cup,” Barling said.

“Obviously for the lads who were involved in it [2023] The World Cup experience, there’s a lot of frustration there because things didn’t go well.

“But I think there’s a really good mix here of rugby and some really good athletes. Overall, people move better in Australia than in the UK. Population is the better driver. If you grew up overseas all the time, I think overall you move a little better .

“And you can combine that with some Pacific power here as well. There’s definitely an opportunity here, I’m telling you.”

“Australia is home now.”

After a trophy-laden career at Newcastle, Leicester and Exeter, Barling moved to Australia in 2018 to play briefly for the Melbourne Rebels.

“I came for six months to play, left for six months, and now I’ve been back for five years,” he explained.

“We thought we’d come on a six-month adventure and then come back. But an early offer of a job to coach here [changed things]. “I had a great opportunity to settle here and I thought it would be great.”

As well as coaching against the Lions, for which he played a key role in the 2013 series win, Barling will also face England at Twickenham during the Wallabies’ tour in November.

“There are two aspects when you coach. You put on your professional hat, and you realize you can coach the teams you love the most. That’s what happens,” Barling said.

“But there’s always a little bit of pressure on the heart when you’re coaching against – or – teams that mean a lot to you.

“Australia is my home now, and I’m actually a dual passport holder. So I feel like I almost have two homes now, they’re on different sides of the world.

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