I despise those who small-mindedly total up the number of players from each nationality in a Lions line-up; it defeats the object of what the British & Irish Lions are all about and it leads people to make pointless, infuriating and irrelevant arguments that have nothing to do with winning a rugby game.
However, the opprobrium that Warren Gatland has received in both the regular and social media has led me to spend a great deal of time doing that very thing I despise to make a point, because there’s nothing this blog won’t do to win an argument.
Looking back over every tour since 1971 (yes, I’m that stubborn) proves that selecting large number of players from one nation is very common, is usually linked to the most successful home nation at the time (as Wales are now), and certainly does not “disrespect the ethos of the Lions”.
Ah the seventies, everything was shades of brown and made of nylon, and Wales were the dominant force in rugby.
1971 vs the All Blacks saw 9 Welsh in the starting lineup for the first Test and 8 for the second.
1974, arguably the most famous of tours, saw Wales have the 6 players start the first Test, which would definitely had been seven had Gerald Davies ignored his conscience and toured.
1977, another trip to New Zealand, another 8 Welshman starting both of the first two tests
1983, another hiding against The Blackness, saw Wales and Ireland dominate the Test team, with 6 Wales and 5 Irish pulling on the red jersey for the first Test, this then shifted to 6 Irish for the other three Tests. Ireland were the top B&I team in that year’s Five Nations.
1989, the last victory in Australia and the Tour that is being touted as where the men of 2013 should take inspiration. Well, it seems that Ian McGeechan, another arch defender of BOD this week, wasn’t too keen on the Irish back then. The first Test, which saw a hammering dished out by the Wallabies, included 5 Welsh, 5 Scots, 1 Irishman and 4 English. The second outing had 8 English, 4 Scots, 3 Welsh and, count ‘em, 0 (zero) Irish. The third Test was the same starting lineup and there wasn’t even an Irishman on the bench, so not a single emerald islander anywhere in the match 21!
Funny that no-one mentions this or accuses Geech of destroying the Lions ethos while they wax in orgasmic tones of the glorious victory.
The Lions were nearly completely ruined in New Zealand in 1993 as 8 English started the first Test and 11 (ELEVEN!) started the second and third run-outs. Good job there was no Twitter around then as the internet might have imploded and sucked the world into an irrational, whingeing black hole.
1997, the last time a Lions team won, was admittedly a very good mix of nations. But still with a bias towards England.
2001, the last time the Lions were in the land of Oz saw 8 English start each Test, and in the second Test, if you count the bench, there were 13 England players in the match squad.
I’m not even looking at 2005, it’s too painful and Woodward took the two-thirds of the population of the country on tour.
2009, the epic battle in SA, saw a decent mix of players, most of whom got injured.
There you go then. Many tours have had lop-sided selections, including the legendary 1989 outing, and somehow the Lions have survived.