Peter Winterbottom

Peter Winterbottom

Two tours, Seven tests

Two tours, seven Tests, 1983-93

(1983: 4 Tests; 1993: 3 Tests)

New Zealand and South Africa knew all about the brilliance of Peter Winterbottom from the seasons in the 1980s he spent playing in the very toughest of their club rugby environments.

The Lions also recognised the value of the England flanker and paid him a rare and deserved tribute as he bowed out of international rugby at the end of the 1993 tour to New Zealand .

As the players emerged for the final training session ahead of the series-deciding third Test, they formed a tunnel to applaud Winterbottom onto the pitch.

And on matchday itself, it was not captain Gavin Hastings but the blond Yorkshireman who led the Lions onto Eden Park.

Typically, Winterbottom was embarrassed by the gesture and, relentless competitor that he was, would have preferred to have departed the scene quietly, but with a series victory in his pocket.

Over 10 years and two tours as a Lion, his form and commitment might have deserved such reward but the tourists came up empty on both his tours to New Zealand in 1983 and 1993.

Winterbottom was in his second season of international rugby when he made his Lions debut as one of the few successes in a side that lost the Test series 4-0.

His all-action, aggressive style, fierce tackling and raw toughness were all qualities the New Zealanders could admire and, by playing in 12 of the tour's 18 matches, including all four Tests, he established himself as one of the mainstays of the tourists' pack.

Winterbottom's international career was stalled by injury during the mid-1980s, but a move from Headingley to Harlequins at the end of the decade put him back on the road to another Lions call in 1993.

Back in New Zealand , the hard-running openside showed he had lost none of the characteristics that had made him stand out a decade earlier.

Now, however, experience had additionally honed his sixth sense of positional play to the point that his remarkable powers of anticipation took him to the breakdown crucial seconds ahead of the opposition.

Despite the competition of a new generation of opensides - including Wales' Richard Webster, who came within a couple of feet of blowing his rival's foot off at a clay pigeon shoot - the 33-year-old Winterbottom retained his number seven jersey for all the important matches of the tour.

The send-off he received at journey's end was as well-deserved as it was heartfelt.

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