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Fran Cotton

Fran Cotton

Three tours, 7 Tests, 1974-80

Three tours, 7 Tests, 1974-80

(1974: 4 Tests; 1977: 3 Tests)

Manager 1997

Fran Cotton not only contributed handsomely to two of the Lions' most famous series victories, he also starred in one of the most famous of all sporting photographs.

The England prop is revered as one of the pillars of the team that went unbeaten through South Africa in 1974, but became known beyond rugby circles as the man beneath the all-over mud pack in the Lions' 1977 match against New Zealand Juniors.

While fellow Lions legend Tony O'Reilly was once put forward for the lead in Ben Hur, Cotton starred in his very own version of The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

The Loughborough and Coventry forward was anything but a muddied oaf, though. Sufficiently versatile to pack down at tighthead in four Lions Tests against South Africa and at loosehead in three against New Zealand , he was also good enough with ball in hand to have captained England in the inaugural World Sevens tournament of 1973.

At 6'2" tall, some observers thought Cotton too tall for the front row, yet his partnership with Ian McLauchlan - over whom he had half a foot in height - proved one of the most destructive propping partnerships South Africa had ever seen.

Cotton's height and turn of foot also made him a valuable contributor in both the lineout and the loose, even though he never scored a try in his 34 Lions matches.

That total included seven Tests, a tally that might have been higher but for the health scare that ended his 1980 tour of South Africa just six games in.

Cotton was taken to hospital after suffering chest pains during the game against the Proteas at Stellenbosch. Happily, the initial diagnosis of a mild heart attack proved wrong, but the viral pericarditis he did have required six to eight weeks rest, ruling him out of the rest of the trip.

That was not to be the end of the Lancastrian's Lions career, however, as he returned to South Africa in 1997 to manage the team to another series victory.

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