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Just The Stats: The Greatest Lions XV

Having researched the best XVs of all the leading rugby nations, we now move on to looking at the best players for the Lions, based entirely on statistics. Be prepared to be in for a shock as most of the teams are dominated by individuals from the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

However, perhaps that shouldn’t be such a surprise, given some of the most famous Lions teams come from those particular decades (such as the legendary 1971 test series victory over the All Blacks and the dominance of the 1974 squad in South Africa).

Winners XV

This team is made up of players with the most test wins for the British and Irish Lions.

The side is jam-packed with quality, but the most recent players to feature are Keith Wood, Jeremy Guscott and Ieuan Evans.

Many of the players come from those famous tours of the 1970s, a time of unprecedented success for the Lions.

British Lions
1) Ian McLauchlan (5 wins: 1971, 1974)
2) Ronnie Dawson (3 wins: 1959), Brian Moore (3 wins: 1989, 1993), Bobby Windsor (3: 1974), Keith Wood (3: 1997, 2001)
3) Fran Cotton (4 wins: 1974, 1977)
4) Froude Hancock (6 wins: 1891, 1896)
5) Gordon Brown (5 wins: 1971, 1974, 1977) / Willie John McBride (5 wins: 1962, 1966, 1968, 1971, 1974)
6) Blair Swannell (6 wins: 1899, 1904)
7) Noel Murphy (4 wins: 1959, 1966)
8) Mervyn Davies (5 wins: 1971, 1974)

9) Gareth Edwards (5 wins: 1968, 1971, 1974)
10) Phil Bennett (4 wins: 1974, 1977)
11) Tony O’Reilly (5 wins: 1955, 1959)
12) Jeremy Guscott (5 wins: 1989, 1993, 1997)
13) Ian McGeechan (4 wins: 1974, 1977)
14) JJ Williams (4 wins: 1974, 1977),  Ieuan Evans (4 wins: 1989, 1993, 1997)
15) JPR Williams (5 wins: 1971, 1974)

Most Tests XV

Of course, getting into the Lions test team is in itself a mark of quality. You have to be a pretty special player to get in ahead of your peers from across four different nations.

Irish lock Willie John McBride is the standout here, having played for the Lions over a 12-year period. His debut came at the tender age of 22 and he was 34 by the time he played his final game in the famous red shirt. To have been selected for all those tests over his entire career highlights what a truly outstanding talent he was.

England scrum-half Dickie Jeeps featured 13 times for the Lions across the 1950s and early 1960s.

1) Syd Millar (9)
2) Bryn Meredith (8)
3) Graham Price (12)
4) Willie John McBride (17)
5) Rhys Williams (10)
6) Noel Murphy (8)
7) Peter Winterbottom (7)
8) Mervyn Davies (8)

9) Dickie Jeeps (13)
10) Phil Bennett (8)
11) Tony O’Reilly (10)
12) Mike Gibson (12)
13) Ian McGeechan (8)
14) Dewi Bebb (9)
15) Andy Irvine (9)

Try Scorers XV

Who are the individuals with the most tries for the Lions in test matches? Well, it’s been pretty slim pickings for the forwards. Just five players in the pack have scored two tries in the history of the Lions.

England prop Alex Corbisiero, currently on a sabbatical from rugby, is one of only three looseheads to have ever scored for the Lions.

In the backs, Irish winger Tony O’Reilly is still the highest Lions try scorer in history, despite there having been some pretty outstanding wingers for the Lions since.

Ireland’s Rob Kearney is one of only five fullbacks to have scored for the team.

1) Ian McLauchlan (1), Clive Williams (1), Alex Corbisiero (1),
2) Ronnie Dawson (1), Ken Kennedy (1), Bryn Meredith (1)
3) Gerald ‘Beef’ Dancer (1), Ray McLoughlin (1), Graham Price (1)
4) Gordon Brown (2)
5) Jimmy Nelson (2)
6) Jim Greenwood (2), John O’Driscoll (2), Tom Croft (2)
7) Bob Alexander (1), Noel Murphy (1), Ken Smith (1), Neil Back (1), Lewis Moody (1)
8) Laurie Duff, Roy John (1), Mike Campbell-Lamerton (1), Willie Duggan (1), Scott Quinnell (1)

9) Matt Dawson (2)
10) Jack Spoors (3)
11) Tony O’Reilly (6)
12) Malcolm Price (4)
13) Carl Aarvold (4)
14) JJ Williams (5)
15) Arthur O’Brien (1), Lewis Jones (1), Andy Irvine (1), Gavin Hastings (1), Rob Kearney (1)

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. I imagine many of your favourites are here already, but perhaps this might have swayed you to make a couple of alterations to your ‘all-time’ Lions team.

Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team. If you would like to join the team, drop us an email at write@punditarena.com.