With the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand all wrapped up, here are some stats that will shed light on how unique this tour has been.
Between the drawn series after the unconvincing warm-up matches, it was a tour that will live long in the memory.
0 – The number of Scottish players selected for any of the Test matches against the All Black for the first time since the Anglo-Welsh tour of 1908. Eight of the last eleven Lions Tests have featured no Scottish players at all, but if it weren’t for Stuart Hogg running into Conor Murray’s elbow midway through the tour there arguably would have been one Scot featuring at some point against the All Blacks.
1 – The number of red cards handed out over the course of the tour, with Sonny Bill Williams receiving it for a shoulder charge to the head of Anthony Watson in the second Test. What an important decision that was as it helped the Lions to a win in the second Test, arguably changing what many predicted to be a series whitewash for the All Blacks.
2 – This is the second Lions tour in history to end with a Test series draw. The first was the 1955 tour of South Africa which lasted over three months, saw 25 matches (including four Tests) take place in England, South Africa and Kenya.
3 – The total number of minutes the Lions held the lead in the three-match Test series with New Zealand. Despite having so little time with the upper hand on the scoreboard, Gatland’s Lions managed to draw the series with the reigning world champions.
9 – The number of Lions Tests that Welsh stalwart Alun Wyn Jones has played a part in dating back to 2009 against the Springboks (surpassing Brian O’Driscoll’s record of eight Tests), making the Welshman the most capped Lion of the professional era. A full house for the Ospreys and Wales captain (a series loss in 2009, a win in 2013 and a draw in 2017), whilst Irish legend Willie John McBride holds the record for most caps as a Lion at 17.
10 – The number of matches the Lions played in the space of five weeks facing off against the five Super Rugby franchises, the Maori All Blacks and three Tests against the world champion All Blacks. The 1971 tour of New Zealand saw the Lions play 29 matches in three months which included four Tests against the All Blacks and two matches against Australian opposition – It was the only Lions tour to win a Test series against New Zealand.
29 – The total number of penalties the Lions conceded over the three Test matches, conceding a tour low of five in the decisive Test and giving 13 away in the second Test. In contrast, New Zealand gave away 24 penalties in total, with nine coming in the final match.
73% – The average goal-kicking success rate of Beauden Barrett over the three Tests. A 100% success rate in the first Test was followed by 69% in the second and 50% in the third. It goes without saying that if Barrett had landed the five kicks at goal he missed, New Zealand would have won all three Tests and the series. In comparison, the Lions averaged an 83% success rate from the tee.
70,000 – The supposed amount paid (in sterling) to each player selected for the initial Lions touring party who went on to complete the tour. The “geography six” reportedly earned £15,000 for their call ups to the Lions squad, despite only two getting any actual game time.
The 2017 British and Irish Lions tour had many special and outstanding moments that will stick in the minds of fans, pundits, players and coaches for years to come, and has arguably cemented Warren Gatland’s place in British and Irish rugby history. A fitting end to a historic Lions tour was the fact that the Lions managed to prevent New Zealand winning at Eden Park for the first time since 1994 (a run of 38 wins).
Few gave the Lions a realistic chance of winning this year’s Test series against a side which boasts having won the last two World Cups, even fewer predicted a series draw. This crop of Lions has arguably rejuvenated the brand for at least two more tours, and to some extent exorcised the nightmares and reputation damage caused by the 2005 Lions tour of New Zealand. Now to beat South Africa.
Graham Manditsch, Pundit Arena