Syd Millar

Syd Millar.

Three tours, nine Tests

Three tours, nine Tests

(1959: 3 Tests; 1962: 4 Tests; 1968: 2 Tests)
Coach: 1974
Manager: 1980
Chairman: 2001

Not even the great Willie John McBride can match his Ballymena clubmate Syd Millar's record of involvement with the British & Irish Lions - three tours as a player, one as a series winning coach and another as a manager. On top of that he was also a member of the Lions committee in 1993 and 1997, a selector in 1977 and chairman at the time of the 2001 tour to Australia.

It all adds up to and amazing nine tours over six decades and, having completed his term as chairman of the IRB, he became a Trustee of the Lions Trust charity. Millar's longevity should come as no surprise: his Ireland career ran from 1958 to 1970 and, at 33, he showed the determination to battle back from three years out of the selectors' favour to win the final 14 of his 37 Ireland caps and make his third tour as a Lion.

The 16-stone front-rower started out as a stand-off and maintained those handling skills as a dangerous force in the loose. A tight head prop by preference, he was also sufficiently versatile to pack down at loose head in Tests on both the 1959 and 1962 tours. Millar was the Lions' most-used prop on that latter tour, playing in 16 of the 24 matches. He made 39 Lions appearances in all, scoring three tries.

Being a member of four successive Lions tours to South Africa made Millar the expert on the place, as he proved as coach in 1974 and manager in 1980 when meeting two very different challenges. On the latter tour, Millar superbly fielded the political flak coming the Lions' way as the international debate over sporting attitudes to apartheid reached its peak.

On the former, he produced a side manager Alun Thomas considered the best-prepared in the history of the game and was rewarded by becoming the only 20th century coach to beat the Springboks in a four-Test series in South Africa. Millar rated the 1959 side as the best he ever played in, but the triumph of 1974 still stands his finest Lions hour.

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