Barry John

Barry John.

Two tours, 5 Tests, 1968-1971

Two tours, 5 Tests, 1968-1971

(1968: 1 Test; 1971: 4 Tests)

Barry JohnHe was rugby's first superstar, the oval ball's George Best, whose star shone brightest as he piloted the Lions to their first series victory in New Zealand , in 1971. Not for nothing did they call Barry John 'The King'.

South Africa were the first Lions opposition to catch on to the stand-off's elusive genius, singling out he and Gareth Edwards as the men to stop by any means necessary early on in the 1968 tour.

With his mesmeric side-step having instantly captured the rugby public's imagination, John's battle with the Springbok back row greats Jan Ellis and Piet Greyling was eagerly awaited. Sadly, it lasted only a quarter of an hour.

Making his second break of the first Test, John raced for the line, only for Ellis's desperate tackle to break the Welshman's collar-bone as he landed on the hard ground.

While John ended his first Lions tour as a casualty, in his second it was he who inflicted the damage as the tourists beat New Zealand 2-1, with the final Test drawn.

At 5'9" tall and weighing less than 12 stone, John's advantage over his opponents was always based on skill rather than strength, although the fact that only John Dawes and Ian McLauchlan played more games than him on the 1971 tour testifies to his durability.

Like almost all sporting greats, John's self-confidence and self-belief bordered on arrogance, but, pricelessly, rubbed off on the players around him and enabled him to try - and execute - things others would never attempt.

He scored a record 191 points in his 17 matches and 30 of the Lions' Test total of 48. He masterminded the 47-9 destruction of champion province Wellington and scored against New Zealand Universities a try so sublime it was greeted by a second of total silence while the crowd did a collective double-take at what they had witnessed.

He sat on the ball and taunted his opponents with sleight of hand in protest at the foul play of Hawkes Bay , and he bombed full-back Fergie McCormick out of the All Blacks team with his precise peppering of the corner flags in the opening international.

Whatever coach Carwyn James, required, John produced - dressed up, of course, with an added flourish of his own.

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