Home Rugby The “I Can’t Believe They Were Never Capped By The Lions” XV

The “I Can’t Believe They Were Never Capped By The Lions” XV

This summer will see the latest crop of British and Irish Lions travel to New Zealand in an attempt to claim a famous series win over the All Blacks.

Like all previous tours, there has been and will continue to be a great deal of debate over the composition of the squad and the captaincy. Naturally, players who feel deserving of a place will be left out, while Warren Gatland will no doubt include a surprise selection or two.

As has been the case in the past, when it comes to filling out the squad, players who can play in a number of different positions often hold an advantage over specialists. This is particularly true in the back row, where the versatility of Sean O’Brien and James Haskell could see them included ahead of either Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric.

This got us thinking about the best players not to be capped by the Lions in the professional era. Although some of those included in our XV were members of touring squads, they failed to break into the test team for any number of reasons.

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1. Matt Stevens (England)

Melbourne Rebels v British & Irish Lions

Despite being able to play on both sides of the scrum and making 12 appearances over the course of the 2005 and 2013 tours of New Zealand and Australia, Matt Stevens never managed to gain a test cap with the Lions.

One of the best props of his generation, Stevens accumulated 39 England caps despite serving a two-year ban for cocaine use.

2. Jerry Flannery (Ireland)

CARDIFF, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 21: Jerry Flannery of Ireland celebrates winning the Grand Slam after the RBS 6 Nations Championship match between Wales and Ireland at the Millennium Stadium on March 21, 2009 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

At the peak of his powers, Jerry Flannery was arguably the best hooker in the world. Brilliant in the loose, aggressive at scrum time and a very reliable line-out thrower, the current Munster scrum coach seemed to have it all when he was selected to tour South Africa in 2009.

However, an elbow injury saw Flannery withdraw from the touring party and his subsequent retirement due to a number of long-term injuries in 2012 meant the 41 times capped Irish international would miss out on ever wearing the red jersey.

3. Euan Murray (Scotland)

France v Scotland - RBS Six Nations

Prior to the 2009 Lions tour, Euan Murray would have been seen as the leading contender for the tighthead’s jersey. A strong scrummager, Murray was one of only two Scottish players selected by Ian McGeechan before pulling out due to injury.

4. Simon Taylor (Scotland)

British Lions v WA

Selected by both Graham Henry and Clive Woodward for the 2001 and 2005 tours, injury limited Simon Taylor to only one Lions appearance against Western Australia.

5. Malcolm O’Kelly (Ireland)

Lawrence Dallaglio, Malcolm O''Kelly

Like his second row partner in our XV, Malcolm O’Kelly travelled to Australia and New Zealand in 2001 and 2005 respectively, but injury restricted him to three non-test appearances.

6. Alan Quinlan (Ireland)

Saracens v Munster - Heineken Cup Semi Final

Alan Quinlan was the type of player who pushed the laws of the game to their absolute limit, gave no quarter and asked for none in return.

However, he paid the price for overstepping the mark during Munster’s 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final defeat at the hands of Leinster, when the 27 times capped Irish international was banned for making contact with Leo Cullen’s eye.

7. Chris Robshaw (England)

England v Wales - RBS Six Nations

As a result of being primarily regarded as an openside flanker in 2013, Chris Robshaw was not guaranteed a place among Warren Gatland’s touring party.

To even get on the plane to Australia, the then England captain faced competition from Sam Warburton, Sean O’Brien and Justin Tipuric, while Dan Lydiate and Tom Croft offered options on the blindside.

Despite all the utterances suggesting Robshaw was close to being included, England’s 30-3 defeat at the hands of Wales on the final day of the Six Nations Championship sealed his fate.

8. Anthony Foley (Ireland)

EDINBURGH, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 12: Anthony Foley of Ireland breaks through the Scotland defence during the RBS Six Nations International between Scotland and Ireland at Murrayfield on February 12, 2005 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Despite being an important part of the Irish back during the late 1990s and early 2000s, Anthony Foley’s name never really entered the discussion when it came to the Lions.

This had more to do with the calibre of players he faced in the form of Michael Owen, Lawrence Dallaglio and Martin Corry during the same era, rather than his ability.

9. Peter Stringer (Ireland)

Heineken Cup Final: Munster v Biarritz Olympique

How many other players can claim to have earned 98 international caps for one of the home nations but fail to be included among a Lions touring party?

Although he might not have possessed a brilliant running game, he was a very consistent performer who delivered for both Ireland and Munster when they needed him most.

10. Charlie Hodgson (England)

Charlie Hodgson of the Lions

Picked as the fourth-choice fly-half in 2005, Charlie Hodgson was arguably the form playmaker when it came to selecting a side to face the All Blacks. A gifted footballer, the former Sale and Saracens player had the creative instincts the Lions craved in New Zealand.

11. Dan Luger (England)

British Lions v WA

One of the most potent wingers England ever produced, Dan Luger looked set to be included in the 2001 test side after scoring four tries in two matches against Western Australia and the Queensland Reds.

However, after fracturing his cheekbone in a training ground collision with Neil Back, Luger was ruled out of the series.

 

12. James Hook (Wales)

Emerging Springboks v British & Irish lions

Another gifted footballer, James Hook looked on as Ronan O’Gara and Stephen Jones competed for the number 10 shirt. Despite being a versatile player, his route into the test team was blocked by Jamie Roberts at inside centre, while Rob Kearney and Lee Byrne shared the duties at fullback.

Unfortunately for Hook, he was the only substitute not used during the final test match against South Africa in 2009.

 

13. Tom Shanklin (Wales)

British and Irish Lions v Southland

Although he was selected in both the 2005 and 2009 squads, Shanklin failed to break into the test side. A quality outside centre who could have filled in for Brian O’Driscoll in New Zealand had Woodward not chosen to move Gareth Thomas from fullback.

14. Ben Cohen (England)

26 Jun 2001: Ben Cohen of the British Lions runs with the ball during the Tour Match against NSW Country played at the International Sports Stadium, in Coffs Harbour, Australia. British Lions won the match 46-3. Mandatory Credit: Nick Wilson/Allsport

Despite being a 2001 Lions veteran and a mainstay in Clive Woodward’s England squad, the former Northampton Saints winger failed to be included in the 2005 touring party.

A strange omission considering how loyal Woodward remained to his World Cup winning team.

15. Chris Paterson (Scotland)

RBS Six Nations: Scotland v England

Despite making 109 appearances and scoring 809 points for Scotland between 1999 and 2011, Chris Paterson was overlooked by the Lions on three occasions.

Furthermore, given the fact that he could also slot in at either fly-half or on the wing, Scotland’s record points and caps holder can consider himself unlucky.

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This article was pulled from the PA archives and was originally published on February 23, 2017.

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