British Lions Facts

Biritsh Lions Jersey 2013With the British and Irish Lions heading off down under in the summer of 2013 to take on the Wallabies, here are some of the lesser known facts about one of rugby’s great touring teams and their opponents.

  • William and Edward Bromet were the first pair of brothers to be capped together by the Lions.  The English duo appeared together in two internationals on the 1891 tour of South Africa, three years after William and Robert Burnet had toured Australasia on an adventure that didn’t feature any international matches.
  • The first pride of Lions to tour Australia didn’t just play rugby union against their hosts.  The 1888 tourists played 16 games in Oz and 19 in New Zealand but they also took part in 19 matches of Australian Rules Football.
  • Lewis Jones is the only Lion to have scored a ‘full house’ in a Test match on tour.  A replacement when The Lions travelled to Australia and New Zealand in 1950, the Welsh teenager scored two conversions, two penalties, a drop goal and a try in the first Test win over the Wallabies.
  • Willie John McBride has played more games for the Lions than anyone else.  The Irish second row wore Lions colours on 68 occasions across five tours in 1962, 1966, 1968, 1971 and 1974.
  • The record for the most points scored by a Lion in a single fixture is held by Alan Old.  The England fly-half scored 37 points in the 97-0 win over South West Districts on the 1974 tour of South Africa courtesy of a try, a penalty and 15 conversions.
  • Paul O’Connell’s appointment as captain for the 2009 tour saw The Lions follow a familiar pattern.  The second row’s selection meant that the two most recent tours have been led by Irishmen, with the two previous tours skippered by an Englishman and the two before that captained by Scotsmen.
  • Did you know that coaches are a relatively new phenomenon for Britain and Ireland’s elite.  The Lions didn’t travel with a coach until the 1966 adventure when John Robbins took on a role that even then was officially described as ‘assistant manager’.
  • The Lions’ second-Test win over Australia in Sydney in 1950 may have been big news for the tourists but the support of the natives appeared to be elsewhere.  A crowd of 25,000 turned out to watch the Lions clinch the two-match series against the Wallabies – some 50,000 less than were in attendance at a local rugby league match played on the adjacent Sydney Oval.  Somehow we don’t envisage 2013 following a similar trend!
  • A first Lions series in Australia since 1966 was worth the wait for the Lions back in 1989.  After losing the First Test by a comprehensive 30 points to 12 scoreline and then fighting back to win the Battle of Ballymore in game two, Sir Ian McGeechan’s squad sealed a series success in Sydney thanks to a Ieuan Evans try and five penalties from Gavin Hastings.
  • Paul O’Connell may have been the 10th Irishman to captain the Lions but he was just the second Munster player to do so.  O’Connell led the Lions in South Africa in 2009, 41 years after full back Tom Kiernan did the same.
  • There’s plenty of debate about who will lead the Lions in Australia but did you know that the captains of England, Scotland and Wales all missed out on initial selection for the 2009 Lions tour?  Steve Borthwick, Mike Blair and Ryan Jones didn’t make Sir Ian McGeechan’s original squad for the trip to South Africa despite being their country’s captains at the time of selection.
  • The age gap between the oldest and youngest Lions on the 2009 tour of South Africa was an incredible 15 years and nearly four months.  Simon Shaw was approaching 36 by the time the Lions left for home, while Leigh Halfpenny was only 20.
  • 80 – The number of separate pieces of kit the 2013 British & Irish Lions players will be issued with for Australia and Hong Kong…. as well as three Thomas Pink team outfits!
  • 842 Record number of points scored in New Zealand and Australia (by the 1959 Lions in 33 games).
  • Lions centre Jack Matthews boxed against the legendary Rocky Marciano.  Matthews, who was a Test Lion in 1950 and tour doctor in 1980, drew a three-round contest with the unbeaten future heavyweight world champion at RAF St Athan in 1943.

Now that’s an impressive line-up of facts and figures we’re sure you’ll agree.