Friday September 21st 2018 - The Scene Indian Kitchen, 4a Leftbank, Manchester M3 3AN
Guest Speaker: John Bentley
Bentley had faced his own battle with Carling, winning two caps for England aged 21 before realising that his face and background didn't fit with the national selectors in quite the same way as did the army officer from the private school.
He had gone off to play rugby league with Halifax and Leeds, before returning as part of the Rob Andrew revolution at Newcastle at the start of 1996. He played well that season, but it was in the second tier; aged 30, still nowhere near a recall with England, he was in few people's minds when McGeechan prepared to name his squad to play World Cup holders South Africa.
To McGeechan, as creative with his selections as he was as a fly-half and centre on the Lions tours of 1974 and 1977, Bentley's background was exactly what made him fit.
To beat the Springboks on their own turf he needed players who were fit, resilient and aggressive. His legion of league returnees - Allan Bateman, Alan Tait, Scott Quinnell, Scott Gibbs and Dai Young - would give him exactly that at a time when union in the northern hemisphere was still stumbling out of the faux-amateur era.
What McGeechan might not have envisaged was how much else Bentley would bring to the party. While his 70-metre try against Gauteng at Ellis Park and running battle with Springbok totem James Small against Western Province were unforgettable, so too were his contributions off the pitch - relentlessly upbeat, finding fun everywhere, the embodiment of the perfect Lions tourist.