Every four years the British and Irish Lions tour one of the big three powers of Southern Hemisphere rugby. Whilst this allows the best of the British Isles to showcase their talents it is a once in a career prospect for those down south, only coming round every 12 years.
And while they have faced off against some superstars of the Southern hemisphere, who are some of the high-profile figures that, for whatever reason, they didn’t play against?
The Paekakariki Express is one of the most dangerous players ever to play the game of rugby union. Blessed with lightning pace and exquisite footwork he had the ability to score tries from everywhere. A ridiculous strike rate of 46 tries in 58 caps for the All Blacks and plaudits all over the world for his attacking flair were however never rewarded with an appearance against the infamous tourists. Earning his first cap in 1996 and then venturing north to represent Munster in 2003 meant he never had the opportunity.
The emergence of Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu, however, made up for this loss when they put the Lions to the sword.
103 caps for Australia and two World Cup final appearances spread out over a 12-year international career. Just missing the 2001 tour and not even considered for the 2013 tour due to a falling out with Robbie Deans. Giteau was exiled by the ex-Wallabies head coach for calling the camp a ‘toxic environment’. Ultimately an action that rendered him surplus to requirements.
One of the finest inside centres of the professional game, with an enormous skill set, quick wit and beautiful vision. His presence would have made the tour even more exciting and would surely have made the men in gold stronger,
The openside has been described as a cat burglar in a bodybuilders body, and nothing could be more fitting. A behemoth of a man, he has occupied the Australia back row whenever available since making his debut in 2008. Inopportunely though he had to undergo knee reconstruction surgery after only a handful of appearances for the Brumbies.
In his injury absence, the Lions managed to get relative parity in the breakdown on the way to an historic win. I struggle to imagine they would have achieved this had Pocock not been injured.
The forgotten man of world rugby? The Afrikaans centre only represented the Springboks in 24 tests between 1980 and 1992. A victim of the sporting isolation enforced on South Africa due to apartheid. The Lions did not tour between 1977 and 1997. A dynamic and agile centre blessed with strength and grit he scored 19 tries internationally. Inducted into the IRB hall of fame in 2007 he has been selected in Bill Mclaren and Martin Johnsons all time XVs.
A real loss for the game of rugby that he never tested the Lions in a test match.
The original rugby superstar, no player has ever been able to match his popularity and impact. He burst onto the scene at the 1995 world cup at the age of 20, with an immense pace and power game that nobody had ever seen before. Famously scored 4 tries against England in the semi-final, with Will Carling describing him as a ‘freak’. Standing at 6’5 and weighing in at 120kg he was rumoured to be able to run 100m in 10.8 seconds.
Heartbreakingly diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome at the peak of his powers. Too unwell to be considered for selection in 2005 due to a kidney transplant. His absence from a Lions series doesn’t compare to the absence felt by friends and family after he passed away in 2015. A phenomenal player and person, surely no other play will ever compare to the big man
Aled Price, Pundit Arena
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Read More About: 2017 British and Irish Lions, 2017 lions tour, 2017 Lions tour to New Zealand, All Blacks, Apartheid, christian cullen, danie gerber, david pocock, jonah lomu, Jonah Lomu Tribute, matt giteau, south africa rugby, Wallabies