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The “I Can’t Believe They Were Picked By The Lions” XV

Melbourne Rebels v British & Irish Lions

Every four years we are told how special it is to be selected by the Lions and how those players rank among a unique few to have worn the famous red jersey.

However, thanks to overeager broadcasters replaying tapes of hair-raising speeches and famous tries, so much of what made the Lions extraordinary is becoming mundane.

In fact, the mythology once associated with the Lions has become so intertwined with branding exercises and product placement that at times it feels as though the Lions have sold their souls to the highest bidder.

Although marketing campaigns have become part and parcel of the professional game, using archival footage to infer the existence of a symbiotic relationship between the 1971 and 2017 touring parties is simply false.

Since the dawn of professionalism, the Lions have been forced to evolve and adapt to their modern surroundings in order to remain relevant in a climate that has become increasingly hostile.

If the Premiership Rugby have their way, tours will be shortened further so as to limit the number of warm-up fixtures, thus reducing the chances of the Lions claiming a famous triumph in the southern hemisphere.

This though is to digress from what supposed to be a light-hearted article. Although there are many faults with the modern incarnation of the Lions, globalisation has enabled coaches to simply pick up a phone and call in a replacement on short notice.

However, despite the availability of daily flights between the UK and Ireland, Tom Court found himself among the 2013 touring party due to the fact that he happened to be on holiday in Australia at the same time.

Shane Williams also became an inadvertent Lion in 2013 while in Australia commentating on the tour. At the time there was a great deal of debate surrounding the inclusion of Court, Williams and Christian Wade, who was flown in from Argentina where England were enjoying a three-match tour, and if their presence devalued the jersey.

Indeed, since 2013, neither Wade or Court have made a much of an impact upon the international game. This got us thinking about Lions we had either forgotten about or were shocked to learn they donned the famous red jersey.


[tie_slide]1. Tim Payne (2009 tour of South Africa)

Emerging Springboks v British & Irish lions

Following concerns over a back injury sustained by Andrew Sheridan, Ian McGeechan called on the services of Tim Payne as the Lions faced the prospect of playing against the emerging Springboks and South Africa in the space of five days.

19 minutes into the game against the former, he gave away a penalty as the Lions struggled at scrum time in Cape Town.



[tie_slide]2. Andy Titterell (2005 tour of New Zealand)

British and Irish Lions v Southland

Andy Titterell was a surprise inclusion in Clive Woodward’s 2005 Lions squad. Selected ahead of the much more experienced Mefin Davies, Titterell had only made his international debut for England the previous season.

Unsurprisingly Titterell wasn’t included in the test team that was humiliated by the All Blacks.


[tie_slide]3. Tom Court (2013 tour of Australia)

Melbourne Rebels v British & Irish Lions


When Ireland were forced to rely on either John Hayes or Mike Ross to hold up a scrum, Tom Court was their “in case of emergency, break glass” option.

Thankfully, Ireland now have much more depth in the front row, and have even managed to dispense with the much maligned Michael Bent.


[tie_slide]4. Brent Cockbain (2005 tour of New Zealand)

British And Irish Lions Brent Cockbain Breaks Past

Not only was Brent Cockbain overlooked in the initial touring party, but was ignored by Woodward when Simon Shaw was called into replace Malcolm O’Kelly.

However, after Danny Grewcock received a two-month ban for biting Keven Mealamu, Grand Slam winner Cockbain found himself part of the malaise that was the 2005 tour.


[tie_slide]5. Ian Evans (2013 tour of South Africa)

ACT Brumbies v British & Irish Lions

Following a strong 2013 Six Nations campaign in which Wales retained their title, Ian Evans was one of 16 Welsh players selection in McGeechan’s touring squad.

However he never really made an impact, falling behind Geoff Parling in the pecking order for a place in the midweek side.


[tie_slide]6. Eric Miller (1997 tour of South Africa)

Eric Miller

Once regarded as the great white hope of Irish rugby, Eric Miller was selected to tour in 1997 after making only four international appearances.

Although he featured in five tour matches and was the youngest member of the touring party, Miller’s career slowly petered out thereafter, as a new generation of Irish back row forwards emerged.


[tie_slide]7. Tony Diprose (1997 tour of South Africa)

1997 British Lions Tour

After making his England debut against Argentina in May 1997, Tony Diprose was called into the Lions squad to replace the injured Scott Quinnell.

However, unlike Miller, Diprose failed to really make an impact and only saw action against the Junior Springboks and Northern Free State.

The former Saracens and Harlequins back row went onto to win 10 England caps, but couldn’t retain his place after 1998.


[tie_slide]8. Andy Powell (2009 tour of South Africa)

Cheetahs v British & Irish Lions

For a two year period between 2008 and 2010, Andy Powell was the darling of Welsh rugby. However, in spite of possessing tremendous power, he didn’t bring much variety and was soon found out at international level.

Nevertheless, he remains a cult hero in Wales, despite failing to break into the 2009 Lions test match squad.



[tie_slide]9. Tomas O’Leary (2009 tour of South Africa)

Ireland v Australia

Like Andy Powell, Tomas O’Leary was at the peak of his powers when he was selected to tour with the Lions in 2009.

However, unlike Powell, the Irish scrum-half was unable to travel with the squad after breaking his ankle against the Scarlets that April.

In any event, O’Leary’s career slowly fell away thereafter, as his form dipped allowing for the emergence of Conor Murray.


[tie_slide]10. Charlie Hodgson (2005 tour of New Zealand)

British and Irish Lions v Auckland

One of four fly-halves selected by Woodward in 2005, Charlie Hodgson was poorly treated by the coach who seemed to ignore his good form.

Indeed, despite starting more games and scoring more points than his rivals, the former Sale Sharks and Saracens playmaker was left out of the test side.


[tie_slide]11. Christian Wade (2013 tour of Australia)

ACT Brumbies v British & Irish Lions

If Christian Wade never plays for England again, he will be one of the few players to have made as many appearances for the Lions as his national team.

A potential pub quiz question of the future…


[tie_slide]12. Billy Twelvetrees (2013 Lions tour of Australia)

ACT Brumbies v British & Irish Lions

A talented but much-maligned footballer, Billy Twelvetrees was called into the Lions squad in 2013 as injury cover.

However, as Owen Farrell, Johnny Sexton and Manu Tuilagi were carrying injuries at the time, his call up probably owed more to the fact that he could cover both fly-half and centre.


[tie_slide]13. Riki Flutey (2009 tour of South Africa)

South Africa v British & Irish Lions - 3rd Test

One year after New Zealand-born Riki Flutey was named in the England squad, he became the first player to represent and play against the Lions when he was named in McGeechan’s touring party.

He went on to feature in five warm-up games and even played in the final test match against the Springboks.


[tie_slide]14. Tyrone Howe (2001 tour of Australia)

Tyrone Howe

Called into the 2001 squad to replace the injured Dan Luger, Tyrone Howe made one appearance for the Lions against a NSW Country Districts side.


[tie_slide]15. Geordan Murphy (2005 Lions tour of New Zealand)

British And Irish Lions Geordan Murphy Steps Insid

Geordan Murphy came to be regarded as the forgotten man of Irish rugby and even titled his autobiography “the Outsider” after struggling to displace Girvan Dempsey in the Irish team.

However, although Dempsey won more Ireland caps, Murphy featured on seven occasions for the Lions during the 2005 tour, including two test appearances against Argentina and New Zealand.



Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena


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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.