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Delme Thomas

Delme Thomas

Three tours, seven Tests, 1966-7

Three tours, seven Tests, 1966-71

(1966: 2 Tests; 1968: 2 Test; 1971: 3 Tests)

Picking uncapped Welsh lock Delme Thomas for the 1966 Lions tour to New Zealand ahead of some more illustrious rivals from England and Wales sparked major controversy before the tourists set off. By the time they returned, it looked like one of the management's few successful decisions.

Thomas had already played against the All Blacks on their tour of the British Isles in 1963 and been heavily influenced by what he had encountered, building himself up physically to become one of the game's finest line-out jumpers.

In 1966, the then 23-year-old, who had already proved his ability by filling the shoes of the great Rhys Williams at Stradey Park, justified his selection so completely that he forced his way into the second Test team at the expense of tour captain Mike Campbell-Lamerton.

And when Campbell-Lamerton returned to the side for the third international, the management's faith in Thomas extended to the point of playing him at prop for the first time in his life.

That versatility and commitment found him in the same position again on his second Lions tour, to South Africa in 1968, by which time he was a full international and anything but a controversial choice for the tour.

This time, he twice faced the might of the Springbok front row, firstly as a replacement for Mike Coulman in the third Test and then right from the start in the fourth.

Thomas was still without a Test match win as a Lion but he and several of the others who had endured the trials of the 1960s finally received their reward back in New Zealand in 1971.

Ever the perceptive observer, the long-serving Llanelli lock had by this time modifying his lineout technique to cope with the buffeting he received from the All Blacks on tour with Wales in 1969.

Two years later, he was in the thick of the action again, appearing in three of the four Tests (in the last as a replacement) and playing an important role in the victory of the series opener.

An overall 14 games out of a total of 24 were another measure of his indestructibility and determination.

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