Fergus Slattery

Fergus Slattery

Two tours, 4 Tests, 1971-74

Two tours, 4 Tests, 1971-74

(1974: 4 Tests)

Alongside Roger Uttley and Mervyn Davies, Fergus Slattery completed what is considered the best of all Lions back rows and played a crucial part in the destruction of the Springboks in 1974 .

Slattery took the openside flanker's berth, from which he used his punishing pace and nose for possession to harass the South African backs from first whistle to last. Where most number sevens targeted the stand-off from the scrum, the Ireland international was so quick off the mark he was able to get into the opposing centres as quickly as the ball.

His recycling ability was also essential to sustaining the Lions' attacks, and by general consent he should have been rewarded with a try that would have given the tourists a 4-0 clean sweep in the Tests.

With the scores level at 13-13 in the final international, Slattery went over the line to touch down, only for the referee to declare that he hadn't been able to see the Dubliner ground the ball and then blow the final whistle before the Lions could mount another attack from the five-yard scrum.

The draw was a fair result, however, and Slattery's reputation had long been confirmed by his tireless, committed displays across the country.

In New Zealand too he was already revered, having impressed there on his first Lions tour as a 22-year-old in 1971 . The Blackrock College player had only made his Ireland debut the previous year but played his way into the Test team for the third international, only to be ruled out on the morning of the game with a high temperature and sore throat.

Despite suffering concussion and two broken teeth in the infamous Canterbury game, Slattery played in half of the 24 matches and earned comparisons with his Irish predecessor in the position, the great Bill McKay, who stood out for the 1950 Lions with similar powers of pace, endeavour and fearlessness.

The endurance Slattery displayed on the field was reflected in his international career as a whole, which extended across a remarkable 14 years and made him the game's most-capped flanker with 61 appearances for Ireland.

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