Best of the rest: The greatest Lions of all-time
“If you get it right today, your lives will be different from this point on.”
— Sir Ian McGeechan
Being a British and Irish Lion is the pinnacle for a Northern Hemisphere rugby player; the ultimate honour, and reward to a player’s service to the game. As McGeechan said, winning a series puts you in the history books; changing your life forever.
The Lions is a unique squad for a number of reasons; mainly because those lucky enough to be selected usually resent one another, be it at international or domestic level.
This is why the cohesion and the togetherness of Lions’ squads over the years is so fascinating to observe. Intricacies on and off the field more interesting to follow than any other sporting team. And, over the years, some of Lions have got it absolutely bang on; the 1971 New Zealand, and 1974 South Africa winning series standing out over the Lions’ history more than any other.
It’s therefore no surprise that a lot of the players from those tours make the greatest Lions XV of all-time; who else joins the elite XV?
1) Fran Cotton
We had to include Fran purely for this, and his legacy behind Cotton Traders. Image Source: Warrelics
2) Keith Wood
One of the best hookers to grace the game; crucial in the '97 win over South Africa. Image Source: WalesOnline
3) Jason Leonard
Another member of the '97 winning tour, Leonard would be wanted in any Lions squad; used to be known as the 'The Fun Bus'; basically the main reason for his inclusion. Image Source: Colorsport
4) Martin Johnson
Three Lions tours, and twice captain of the squad; Johnson's leadership and quality means he would get into anyone's XV. Image Source: TheRugbyPaper
5) Willie John McBride
A record of 17 Lions Test caps, and five tours; add back-to-back victories over the Kiwis and the Boks in there for good measure; simply irreplaceable. Image Source: TimeIncUK
6) Fergus Slattery
What a player the former Irish captain was; had the speed of a winger, and was another key part in the successful '71 and '74 squad. Image Source: TimeIncUK
7) Richard Hill
Brilliant in South Africa '97, and despite defeat in 2001, Hill was the main man in Australia for the Lions before his injury. Image Source: LionsRugby
8) Mervyn Davies
What a shame '77 was for Merv, as illness ruled him out. The towering No.8 was one of the main reasons for Lions success in '71 and '74. Image Source: Telegraph
9) Gareth Edwards
The greatest Lions player of all-time. Image Source: WalesOnline
10) Ian McGeechan
Known as Mr Lions, and the best fly-half operator the side has seen. Shout out to Jonny for just missing out. Image Source: DailyMail
11) Gerald Davies
Always a danger on the wing, the Welshman had one of the best sidesteps in the game. Image Source: WalesOnline
12) Jeremy Guscott
Crucial in the '89 victory, and that drop goal in '97 put Guscott up there as one of the greatest ever Lions. Image Source: The1014
13) Brian O’Driscoll
Four tests, and one of the greatest ever tries in the game in 2001. Rightly left 2013 with a series victory - even if he was left out - and BOD was that good that the All Blacks had to cheat their way to victory in 2005. Image Source: IrishMirror
14) George North
Perhaps a slightly contrveorsial choice; but, with the winger's age at just 21 in 2013, his impact in the series and carry on Israel Folau was one of the finest Lions moments. aImage Source: WalesOnline
15) JPR Williams
The greatest fullback to grace the game; worthy to get into any side on his sideburns alone. Image Source: Pinterest
Noticeable mentions should go to the likes of Lawrence Dallaglio, Paul O’Connell and Gavin Hastings; the Northern Hemisphere may be regarded as being behind the Southern Hemisphere, but it’s produced some of the best players to grace the game.
Although this year’s touring team has started slowly, there is still enough quality in the side to test the All Blacks; however, only North is worthy of a slot in the greatest Lions team of all-time.