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Dickie Jeeps

Three tours, 13 Tests, 1955-62

Three tours, 13 Tests, 1955-62

(1955: 4 Tests; 1959: 5 Tests, 1962: 4 Tests)

In 1955 , the uncapped Dickie Jeeps travelled to South Africa as the Lions' third-choice scrum-half; a kind of insurance policy to be activated when his elders and betters either fancied a break or suffered one. When he retired from international rugby seven years later, no-one had played more Tests (13) and matches (42) for the touring side.

On the last of his three tours, Jeeps was served with line-out ball by the only man who would break his record, Willie John McBride. The great Irishman was a tyro himself then, in only his first season of international rugby, but even that made him an old hand in comparison to Jeeps' status when he first arrived in the Republic the previous decade.

In 1955, the Northampton pivot had had only a single England trial and been named as a reserve for his country before being chosen for the touring party. Once in South Africa, though, the speed and consistent smoothness of his service from the base of the scrum made him the preferred partner of stand-off genius Cliff Morgan.

Jeeps played in 12 of the tour's 20 matches and all four in the Test series, which the Lions drew 2-2. Morgan's faith in his junior half-back partner paid off most importantly in the epic first Test , when Jeeps' perfect pass enabled him to make the run that put the tourists ahead just seconds after injury to Reg Higgins had reduced them to 14 men.

In 1959, Jeeps ability to serve up decent possession from apparently any angle led New Zealanders to dub him "the India Rubber man". They also rated him the most complete footballer of the Lions backs - no mean feat in company that included Bev Risman, David Hewitt, Tony O'Reilly, Peter Jackson and Ken Scotland.

Jeeps played in both Australian internationals that tour but injury in the third in New Zealand ended his ever-present Test record at nine. He returned to South Africa in 1962 to add another four Test appearances to his tally, now one of the squad's senior figures, having captained England in 13 of his 24 internationals.

Again the local judges rated him the best of the visiting backs, although this time the quality outside him was not quite of the stellar quality of the 1955 line-up and he caught the eye as much for his astute marshalling of his pack as for skill as an instigator of flashing attacks.

Although the Lions lost the series, Jeeps bowed out in fitting fashion, captaining the side in the final Test.

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