Lion King

On previous B&I tours to New Zealand it was pretty much expected that the job of the teams in the run up to the tests was to soften the Lions up before they met the All Blacks.

They often did it pretty well too.

One memorable time was on the 1971 tour in the match against Canterbury.

Both of the Lions likely test props ended up having to leave the tour through injury.

Tough lock Delme Thomas described it as the dirtiest game he ever played in & John Taylor said “Canterbury just went out to kick the s**t out of us”

The match was just one week before the first test!

A new book on 1971 has just been released to coincide with this year’s tour

The details of that game against Canterbury are documented. It was not pretty!

I played against 2 of that Lions side – John Bevan (v St Luke’s) & Arthur Lewis (when we played Ebbw Vale). They had a lot less trouble against me than the Canterbury backs, obviously!

Lion King Willie John McBride was on both the 71 & 74 tours and made sure that the Lions weren’t intimidated – inventing the famous ’99’ call.

Surprisingly, in a recent interview Willie John said that he thought the game today is a lot more physical and “verging on violence at times”!

I’ve seen videos of all the 5 tours WJ went on (playing 17 Lions tests) – if he thinks the game is more violent now I think he has a short memory.

Willie John ranks alongside Sir Ian McGeechan as real Lion kings.

WJ never took a backward step! Top man.


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