The British & Irish Lions

Tour to New Zealand 2017

1908 | New Zealand & Australia

Lions Rugby 1908 Australia & New ZealandIn the early years of British & Irish Lions tours, lengthy visits to Australia had become habit forming, with excursions to New Zealand almost tacked on as an apparent afterthought. By 1908, however, the pre-eminence of Kiwi rugby was now reflected in the visitors' itinerary. Only nine of the 26 games were staged in Australia, none of which were accorded Test match status, while a full three-match international series was contested in New Zealand.

Once more, the touring party was not fully representative, albeit this time as a consequence of the Irish and Scottish unions declining to participate in a venture conceived primarily as a means of preventing rugby league making inroads into Australasian union territory. The 28-man squad, playing in broad red and white hoops and led by the Welsh forward Arthur 'Boxer' Harding on his second tour down under, contained six Welsh internationals and five England caps, but the two nations found it harder to gel than all four had previously. They also lacked the backline class of their 1904 predecessors and struggled to impose themselves throughout, failing to impress in Australia and winning only nine of their 17 matches in New Zealand.

Again the tourists struggled to get to grips with the ploy of the 'rover' hovering around the fringes of the scrum and the fact that they drew the second Test in Wellington was largely due to the leveling factor of the appalling conditions in which the game was played.

In the first and third Tests, the New Zealanders inflicted heavy defeats on Harding's side, running in seven and nine tries as they strolled to victory by 32-5 and 29-0. The tourists now knew they would need the strength of all four nations to compete in future.

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