Lions No 8 Andy Powell lauded Ian McIntosh and labeled him the most influential coach in his career.
Powell, the shaggy-haired and ginger-bearded 118kg loose-forward, played under McIntosh at Newport and he said he feels indebted to the former Bok mentor. When McIntosh left Newport, Powell’s career spiralled out of control as he moved to three different clubs across Wales, England and France.
Powell has also undergone two shoulder reconstructions, but a phone call from McIntosh when Powell was in the wilderness got him on track again.
‘Ian was a key coach in my career,’ Powell told keo.co.za. ‘He got me up again and kick started my career. He’s a great guy to know and is a big part of my life. I initially started as a centre, but Mac gave me some tips in my move to the back of the scrum.
‘He’s a great motivator. When I was down in the dumps my mom and dad phoned him up and he got me out of it. The last time I spoke to him was about two months ago and I owe many thanks to him, although he’s on the other side now.’
Powell’s debut against the Boks last year catapulted him into Lions contention. He may have had a quiet Six Nations but that showing in November, where he matched the Boks’ physicality and repeatedly broke tackles and got over the gain-line, remained entrenched in Ian McGeechan’s mind.
‘It could’ve played a part,’ he said. ‘Actually, it probably played a big part in why I’m here. This is now the Everest of my career and it’s vitally important that I’ve got that first start [against the Royal XV on Saturday] to prove myself.’
That was one of Powell’s eight Tests and he said that 80 minutes will provide some crucial information on tour in South Africa.
‘We could’ve won that Test if we were more clinical with ball in hand. You have to take your opportunities versus these guys, otherwise you come off second best.
‘Arriving in South Africa has been a bit tough. The altitude makes a huge difference when you’re sucking in air, but we’re getting used to it quietly.
‘In terms of the matches, we have to make a massive physical statement. South Africans are big, strong and powerful. We have to be more physical.’
By Grant Ball, in Johannesburg