Eventmasters were delighted to welcome former England captain and British & Irish Lions international Phil Vickery to the 27th Annual Midlands Sportsman’s Luncheon at the Macdonald Burlington Hotel in Birmingham – and ‘The Raging Bull’ gave us his thoughts on the up-coming Six Nations and the British Lions tour to New Zealand in 2017.
The upcoming Six Nations is going to be fabulous as players battle for a place on the Lions tour to New Zealand.
That was the prediction from former England captain Phil Vickery speaking at the 27th Midlands Sportsman’s Luncheon organised by corporate hospitality specialists Eventmasters.
The competition, which begins with England v France at Twickenham on February 4, was always difficult to call, declared the Cornish farmer’s son who won 73 caps for his country between 1998 and 2010.
Grand Slam winners England were strong, so were Ireland, the French were showing signs of stirring, while Scotland had come close without getting the results.
“The Celtic nations always perform brilliantly in a Lions year,” he cautioned.
And Vickery knows a thing or two about playing at the highest level given his pedigree – he was a member of the British & Irish Lions squad during the 2001 tour to Australia and the 2009 tour to South Africa, winning five caps. He is a World Cup winner being part of the 2003 England team and captained England in the 2007 World Cup Final.
He said: “Northern hemisphere rugby is on an upward curve.
“England have been brilliant. After the World Cup it was all doom and gloom. But Eddie Jones has come in and England have been Grand Slam winners, we won 3-0 in the Australian Test series, and there were victories over Argentina, South Africa, Fiji, and Australia again in the autumn internationals.
“English rugby is in a fantastic place.”
Phil Vickery believes the British Lions have the players to beat New Zealand
Replacing Dylan Hartley as guest speaker after the England captain stood down following his red card and ban, Vickery was cautious about how the Lions might fare.
He commented: “We are capable of winning – we have the players and the coaches. Can we win – yes we can. Are we going to win – I just don’t know. The thing about New Zealand is that they perform at a higher level for longer periods of time. It will take a monumental effort to beat them. The Lions can certainly expect a difficult time.”
But, he suggested it was not wise to look too far ahead.
“A lot of rugby has to be played before then and a lot can change. I think we are going to see a great Six Nations as players strive to put themselves in pole position for the Lions.”
Vickery said the game was “in good hands” though there were issues at the grass roots level plus particular concern over concussions.
Admitting to have been knocked out more than 20 times in his career, and with an eight-year-old son now learning the sport, he insisted: “Sometimes we suffer as a game for being too honest about things like concussion.
“It has been brought to the forefront and rightly so. But the authorities are doing a great deal to make it safe for kids. Can we do more – yes we can. Are we doing a lot – yes we are.”
Fiercely patriotic, Vickery revealed that he always sang the national anthem, God Save The Queen, with passion that declared – “I’m with you, girl!”
Finally, on a light-hearted note, the 2011 Celebrity MasterChef winner was happy to praise the food on offer at the Burlington Hotel – a menu consisting of duck and leek tart, sirloin of beef, bread and butter pudding, and cheese and biscuits.
“The food was very nice – it was warm and the beef was pink. For me beef and Yorkshire pudding are mother’s milk.”
Midlands Sportsman’s Luncheon to Return in 2017
Eventmasters are delighted to announce that the Midlands Sportsman’s Luncheon will return for its 28th renewal in 2017. The fabulous Horton Suite, Macdonald Burlington Hotel will again host the lunch, which is scheduled for Thursday 14th December 2017.
For more information please visit our 28th Annual Midlands Sportsman’s Luncheon hospitality page.