Lions stars of the recent and not-so recent past helped raise over £1.1 million for a charity which supports the rehabilitation of injured service personnel on Saturday afternoon.
A total of 12 former Lions were in action in front of a 52,000-strong crowd as a Help for Heroes XV took on an International XV on a glorious summer’s day at Twickenham.
1997 hero and three-times Lions tourist Scott Gibbs skippered the International XV against a Lawrence Dallaglio led Help for Heroes side, with 10 other former Lions named in the matchday squads.
Another ex-Lion, Ieuan Evans, took control of the management duties for the International XV, while former England skipper Phil de Glanville performed the same role for the Help the Heroes side.
Gibbs was joined by Darren Morris and Colin Charvis, who both toured with the Lions eight years ago, Scottish international Gordon Bulloch who featured in 2001 and 2005 and Ireland’s Shane Byrne, a Test starter in New Zealand three years ago.
The star attraction of the whole event was undoubtedly England manager Martin Johnson, who retired from the sport in May 2005 having been involved in three Lions tours, including two as captain.
The former Leicester second row started among the replacements for the Help for Heroes XV but received a rapturous welcome when he appeared with the game 48 minutes old.
Richard Hill, Will Greenwood, Mark Regan, Dan Luger and Jason Robinson all matched Johnson in throwing their weight behind a cause that has received some much-deserved publicity in recent weeks.
Now retired 1997, 2001 and 2005 tourists Greenwood and Hill were among the try scorers as Help for Heroes ran out 29-10 winners in a game that was played at an impressive pace despite it’s charity status.
It was the international XV who opened the scoring with eight minutes played after Gibbs had carved through the opposition midfield before supplying the scoring pass to 18-year-old Ospreys wing Kristian Phillips 40 metres out.
Hill’s try, together with a conversion and a penalty from Saracens’ outside-half Alex Goode, pushed Help for Heroes into a 10-5 lead, before a Nathan Catt score stretched the advantage to 10 points on the stroke of half-time.
Gibbs’ men struck back through a Kenny Logan try five minutes after the break, with Priestland hitting the post with his conversion attempt from the left-hand touchline.
Greenwood revived memories of his glory days by crossing for the Help for Heroes XV’s third try of the day with 15 minutes left to play, before Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson settled matters with the final play of the game.
Dallaglio then showed another string to his seemingly endless bow by adding the conversion, albeit from directly underneath the posts.
Help for Heroes XV: M Roberts (Army); M Odejobi (Wasps), W Greenwood (England, Lions), J Robinson (England, Lions), D Luger (England, Lions), A Goode (Saracens), J Simpson (Wasps); N Catt (Bath), M Regan (Bristol, England, Lions), T Mercey (Saracens), R Sugden (Army), S Hobson (Bath), M Cornish (Royal Air Force), R Hill (England, Lions), L Dallaglio (England, Lions, capt)
Replacements: M Johnson (England, Lions), T O’Keeffe (Royal Marines), R Matthews (Royal Air Force), P Volley (London Scottish), M Offiah (Wigan Warriors, Great Britain RL), D Pascoe (Royal Navy), D Shabbo (London Irish), G Leonard (Royal Air Force), H Barratt (London Wasps)
International XV; J Bishop (Doncaster, Ireland); K Phillips (Ospreys), A Flammia (Royal Air Force), S Gibbs (Wales, Lions, capt), K Logan (Wasps, Scotland); R Priestland (Scarlets), G Easterby (Otley, Ireland); D Hilton (Bristol), G Bulloch (West of Scotland, Scotland, Lions), D Morris (Worcester, Wales, Lions), G Llewellyn (Wales), H Parr (Royal Air Force), D Jones (Scarlets, Wales), C Charvis (Newport Gwent Dragons, Wales, Lions), J Kava (Army)
Replacements: S Byrne (Saracens, Ireland, Lions), S Ruwers (Worcester), M Cormack (Royal Navy), M Lee (Army), Z Feaunati (Bath, Samoa), M Young (Newcastle), M Rhodes (Royal Marines), D Hewitt (Cardiff Blues), M Stephenson (Bath, England)