Living with Lions

It’s the documentary that made people fall in love with rugby:

“Living with Lions” (1997).

I rank it #1 in my list of The Best Rugby Documentaries (15 and counting!)

Thanks to Sam Carp of SportsPro for alerting me to this classic.

Trailer for “Living with Lions”

The above isn’t an official trailer but it’s the best short clip of Living with Lions I could find

Watch “Living with Lions”

You can stream the full documentary for free on YouTube by clicking the video embed below:

…or by clicking here:

Strangely, I don’t see “Living with Lions” on any of the other major streamers (Netflix, Max, Hulu, etc.).

I’m in America but it looks like if you’re in Australia you can stream “Living with Lions” at if you have a subscription (there was a 30-day free trial when I last checked (March 13, 2024)

And if you still have that archaic thing called the DVD player, it looks like you can buy a “Living with Lions” DVD on Amazon — here are 2 places I saw it:

Check here for the latest streaming options:


  • My Rating: 98/100
  • IMDB Rating: 91/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Ratings: na

Review of “Living with Lions”

“Living with Lions” hits you and me like a tackle from Martin Johnson—hard, unexpected, and completely engrossing.

Picture this: It’s 1997, and you and I are tagging along with the British & Irish Lions rugby squad on their tour through South Africa.

Imagine a rock ‘n’ roll tour, but swap out the guitars for rugby balls and add a ton more bruises.

Let’s talk about the squad.

You’ve got legends like Johnson, practically a walking fortress.

And there’s Neil Jenkins, whose right foot could probably kickstart a jet engine.

These guys are on a mission to beat the Springboks on their own turf. It’s a bit like trying to out-sing the Beatles in Liverpool.

The directors (Duncan Humphreys and Fred Rees) got insane access for this 2 hr 47 min doc.

You and I are in the scrum, on the bus, in the locker room where the air’s thick with anticipation (and liniment).

When Lawrence Dallaglio goes down with a knee injury, we almost feel the pain ourselves.

And when Jenkins lines up for a kick, the silence is so intense, you and I can hear every heartbeat in the stadium.

I got to see (for the first time!) a “cauliflower ear” (the deformity of the outer ear that causes a bulky, misshapen ear due to abnormal cartilage buildup). It is commonly seen in wrestlers (and rugby).

But the beauty of Living with Lions is that it’s not just about the blood, sweat, and tackles.

You see the Lions’ unorthodox match prep.

There are trust-building games involving catapulting sponges and balancing on 20-foot tall stacks of crates.

The team developes a code of conduct in conference rooms that looks more like a McKinsey meeting than a sports team. They craft a list of behaviors they deem acceptable and unacceptable.

The team even does a mock press conference to try to anticipate questions from the press.

There’s a lot of laughter, pranks, and some impromptu singalongs.

These titans on the field are just a bunch of mates off it, having the time of their lives.

It’s like summer camp, if summer camp involved dodging 250-pound men trying to run you over.

The climax in Johannesburg? It’s a nail-biter.

Victory never tasted so sweet, especially when it’s snatched from the jaws of defeat, in front of a roaring crowd, thousands of miles from home.

A couple of bummers about the doc/video:

  • There are a couple of inappropriate moments in the sports club with women at 16min to 18:30 mark
  • An audio lowlight: There is no audio at the 44 to 47 min mark. I’m not sure what’s going on there but the YouTube and Australia links above are all I can find right now.

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac, Daily Doc