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Wales & the British Lions



The British Lions is a team made up from the home four countries, Wales, England, Scotland & Ireland. The first tour by a British representative side was in 1888 when two cricket promoters Alfred Shaw & Arthur Shrewsbury took a team to Australia & New Zealand. As businessmen they needed to turn a 'profit' and the matches even included one against Victoria under the laws of 'Australian Rules'. Tragedy befell the tour when captain Robert Seddon died in a rowing accident and he was replaced by the England cricket captain AE Stoddart. The earlier tours were dominated by English players and Welshmen were few and far between. The legendary Welsh captain Gwyn Nicholls was the first Welsh tourist when he played 19 of the 21 matches on the tour of Australia in 1899 It was in the first test that he scored the first ever try against Australia. The first sizable compliment of Welsh players was when 7 Welsh & London Welsh based players travelled on the 1904 tour of New Zealand & Australia. This tour saw the first official fixture between New Zealand and a British representative side, the colonial XV running out winners in the only test 9 - 3. 

British teams travelling overseas up until the 1950s were never full strength, the best that these islands could offer. Many players turned down the chance to represent the Lions because of financial constraints, taking time off work to tour was quite often more than a working man could afford. Tours have been made regularly to the major rugby playing nations in the southern hemisphere, New Zealand, South Africa & Australia each tour with a good compliment of Welshmen. 


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1959 LIONS Train headboard. When the Lions had to travel by train in NZ on this tour they had the same trains for each trip. The front of this train was decorated with a large Lions Tour sign. Beautifully illustrated this sign travelled throughout New Zealand with this great team. The illustration shows a similar headboard which accompanied the 1956 Springboks.   (WRM-0308)

Wallchart itinerary and photos of Lions players   (WRM-0359)


It was during the 1971 tour of New Zealand that the British Lions really captured the public's imagination and took rugby to a new level. Names like Barry John, Gareth Edwards & JPR Williams were on everybody's lips as the tourists went into the final test and a 50 yard drop goal by JPR drew the match 14 points apiece. This team became the first ever British team to win a test series in NZ and there was a distinct Welsh flavour, coached by Llanelli's master tactician Carwyn James and captained by London Welsh's John Dawes it included the majority of the 1971 Grand Slam team. In the final test 8 Welshmen took the field with another 3 on the bench. If you thought that act hard to follow, the 1974 tourists certainly did not. Captained by the Irish legend Willie John McBride the squad returned home invincible winning 21 of the 22 matches with the last test drawn. Once again the test team drew it's main strength from the Welsh contingent of the tour party, Welsh legends of the 1970s including Phil Bennett, Edwards, Mervyn Davies, JPR and JJ Williams each played a major role in the success of this side. 

British Lions tours are still a regular occurrence, last year's tour to New Zealand was the 27th* by a British team overseas and Welsh players are still playing a major part. Gareth Thomas, Michael Owen, Gavin Henson, Ryan Jones were just some of our current stars taking the field. Not forgetting of course the 'magic' Shane Williams whose five tries against Manawatu brightened up the tour for many. We pay tribute to those Welshmen who have helped shape the history of the British Lions and wish luck to those future Lions from Wales.


09.jpg (18946 bytes) 08.jpg (67073 bytes) 1971 Lions - And they're off.................. The BOAC flight menu booklet for the first half of the outward journey to NZ signed by the complete squad apart from Scottish lock forward Gordon Brown. The flight path for the team was London, Frankfurt, Rome, Delhi, Hong Kong   (WRM-0141)
05.jpg (276816 bytes) A complete set of programmes for the tour, some of them signed. Including the first match against Queensland where a jetlagged Lions team went down 15 - 11 to the home team. This prompted the Queensland coach Des Connor who had played against the 1959 Lions to say that 'this was the worst Lions team to be sent to NZ ever' How wrong first impressions can be !   (WRM-0148-0173)

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1971 British Lions No 6 jersey that belonged to Derek Quinnell. Quinnell has the distinction of being capped by the Lions before he earned his Welsh Cap as a replacement in 1972. He played in the third test at Wellington where Carwyn James brought him in to 'look after' Sid Going on the blind side. The Lions won this test 13-3 to go into a 2-1 lead in the series. 

Several players have represented the Lions before winning their Welsh cap, a good example is Neath's own Elgan Rees who travelled with the 1977 British Lions to New Zealand before representing Wales in 1979. Another famous example is the above Derek Quinnell who's first cap for Wales came after his appearance in a Lions shirt................


04.jpg (196714 bytes) Newspapers relating to the tour, the headlines say it all "'71 Lions, now the greatest 13-3.   (WRM-0143-0147)
07.jpg (39264 bytes) 06.jpg (24907 bytes) Post tour dinner held to honour the British Lions at the Cafe Royal. The menu is signed by guests Harry Secombe & Dennis Compton.    (WRM-0140)
04.jpg (51028 bytes) "The Victorious Lions" by John Reason, a book of the 1971 tour (WRM-0137)



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