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Kings of Rugby 

commemorating the 50th anniversary of the  1959 Lions tour

The tour and the lives beyond 

  The Kings of Rugby is a fantastic presentation book featuring the British Lions and All Black players who faced each other during the 1959 British Lions tour of New Zealand. 

 “Never before and never again” is quite a call. But Father Time waits for no man. A few of these Legends have passed on. Forty-three remained alive when this project began. The survivors are mainly in their 70s and 80s. Even the brilliant Lions’ centre, David Hewitt – the ‘baby’ of the series at 19 years of age – is now “an old-age pensioner,” as he told the author, Paul Verdon.

In producing Kings of Rugby, a collector’s piece of intrinsic and historical value has been created. It’s all about quality – and quantity! This is a world first. Never before has such a project been achieved. All the All Blacks and all the Lions participated.  

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Meanwhile, among the many records set by the 1959 Lions, their feat as the highest-scoring international team ever to tour New Zealand , will never be beaten.

Here some of the legendary players who featured in the ‘ Battle for the World Crown’ …

Don Clarke, Colin ‘Pinetree’ Meads, Peter Jones, Kel Tremain, Wilson Whineray, ‘Tiny’ Hill, Terry Lineen, Ross Brown, Ian Clarke, Ron Hemi for the All Blacks …

And Tony O’Reilly, Peter Jackson, Ken Scotland, David Hewitt, Bev Risman, Dickie Jeeps, Ronnie Dawson, Hughie McLeod, Noel Murphy, Rhys Williams for the Lions ….......


Sample signed page



Kings of Rugby comes complete with a presentation box  

Players who have signed the book

The All Blacks

 Kevin Briscoe

Ross Brown

Ralph Caulton

Adrian Clarke

‘Red’ Conway

‘Tuppy’ Diack

‘Tiny’ Hill

Mark Irwin

Terry Lineen

Nev MacEwan

John McCullough

Bruce McPhail

Colin Meads

Rex Pickering

Pat Walsh

Wilson Whineray.


The Lions

Alan Ashcroft

Niall Brophy

Stan Coughtrie

Terry Davies

Ronnie Dawson

Mick English

Roddy Evans

John Faull

David Hewitt

Phil Horrocks-Taylor

Dick Jeeps

David Marques

Hugh McLeod

Bryn Meredith

Syd Millar

Haydn Morgan

Bill Mulcahy

Noel Murphy

Ray Prosser

Tony O’Reilly

Malcolm Price

Bev Risman

Ken Scotland

Ken Smith

Malcolm Thomas

Gordon Waddell

John Young




"Wonderful book" ...................

‘This wonderful book is a perfect example of what good sports
journalism should be. The documentation of the 1959 Lions Tour of New Zealand is a worthy and lasting gift to the library of world rugby.’ 
– Cliff Morgan, former Wales and British Lions star and BBC broadcast executive

"Astonishing new landmark"................... 

‘The grand old march of year-by-year rugby tour books which has slowed to a dawdle in these recent electronic days, will surge majestically back into the publicity parade with an astonishing volume called the “Kings of Rugby.”

The compiler, Paul Verdon, has recently built a reputation for carefully researched heavyweight books on New Zealand cricketers and rugby players, but his latest account of the 1959 British Lions tour of New Zealand sets a new landmark for this country’s sporting publications.

There has never been a New Zealand sports book quite like this one (1.5 kg, 255 pages, A4). To mark the approaching 50th anniversary of the Lions tour, Verdon began his fascinating tale by seeking out the 43 survivors of both the Lions and All Black teams that competed in that memorable test series, and obtaining their signatures and personal memories of the tour which covered Australia, New Zealand and Canada - 33 matches between May 23 and September 29, 1959.

Verdon was a very alert primary school lad at the time of the tour, and over the years the memories and his patient research have been combined in a pleasantly flowing story-line. Freddy Allen gives the book a special flourish in his foreword, the lay-outs are crisp and unfussy, and the numerous colour and black-and-white photos offer continual variation between on-field and off-field touring lives. Nor does he bypass the occasional and quirky trivia.

Best of all, Verdon captures the spirit and speed of the rugby, the gallantry between opponents, the often brilliant play of the Lions backline, the steadfast All Black play, Don Clarke’s dramatic impact, the vast crowds at the matches measured against small groups at far-away little stations waiting to wave to the Lions as they passed through.

The 1959 Lions may have been the best side to tour New Zealand . They certainly were a side chockful of champion players, some weird and wonderful characters, a tasty brand of mischief sometimes obscuring their high playing quality.

They make the rugby tourists of the 21st century appear as strait-jacketed, overpaid automatons with all their actions and plans designed by a small army of control-freaks. No need for the 1959 Lions to have a spin doctor as the 2005 Lions possessed. They had Tony O’Reilly and Andy Mulligan as walk-up, genuinely funny comics if there was any distracting to be done. No need for the modern press conference, with the rugby masters waffling along in stage-managed rugby-speak.

In those days, when T P McLean, Bryn Thomas and Vivian Jenkins led the pack, there was contact and simple respect among the newspapermen and the players.

Many wise people maintain that the 1959 British Lions tour was the greatest, most enjoyable, rugby expedition New Zealand -- and perhaps the rugby world -- has known.

The quality of Verdon’s book makes this appear a very sound judgement.

- Don Cameron for the NZ Herald.


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