Gerald the Great

Lions legends John Dawes and Mervyn Davies have rated 2009 tour manager Gerald Davies as the greatest player they ever played with. [more]

Gerald the Great

Lions legends John Dawes and Mervyn Davies have rated 2009 tour manager Gerald Davies as the greatest player they ever played with.

Speaking at a dinner in Cardiff, 1971 Lions skipper Dawes needed no time to think before naming his former London Welsh colleague as the man who would be first down on his dream team list.

"Without hesitation I’d name Gerald as the greatest player I ever played with. He could do things that other players could only dream about," said Dawes, who was Davies’ captain for club, country and the Lions.

"He was a magical man to have in your team because he could turn a game with one run. As a centre it was great knowing I had such a game breaker outside me and some of the tries he scored were breathtaking."

Dawes also revealed there was a cool and calm side to Davies on the big occasions.

"I remember being in the dressing room before the first Test against the All Blacks in 1971 and giving the final team talk," said Dawes.

"Willie-John McBride had the forwards in one corner and I was running through a few things with the backs. Gerald was listening in, but then broke away to comb his hair in the mirror.

"Willie-John, who was breathing fire and brimstone to his forwards, turned around and saw this and simply said: ‘I don’t think it is going to be that sort of game Gerald.’

"It was a priceless comment that eased any tension. We went on to win the game – and the series."

Mervyn Davies, who also played with Gerald for club, country and the Lions, voted his former colleague not only as the best player he had played with, but also the worst to play against.

"He was quick, had a devastating sidestep and he was also very strong for his size. That meant he was a dream to play with for any back row because he always made ground," said Davies, who won five and drew two of the eight Lions Tests he played in 1971 and 1974.

"And if he didn’t make ground he always managed to stay on his feet to give us a chance to regain the ball. He could break the hearts of opposing defences with his darting runs.

"I used to love watching him in action – although only when he was on my side. When I moved to Swansea and he joined Cardiff I used to hate having to play against him."

2009 tour manager Gerald Davies was a Lion in 1968 and 1971

Dawes, who captained the Lions in New Zealand in 1971 and then coached them in the same country in 1977, also entered the great captaincy debate for this summer’s tour to South Africa.

His vote was for fellow centre Brian O’Driscoll, while Davies, and fellow 1971 Lion Geoff Evans, urged Ian McGeechan to give the job to Paul O’Connell.

"For my money, centre is the perfect position from which to captain a side. Brian O’Driscoll is used to the job and is in great form at the moment," said Dawes.

"He would have his lieutenants up front, like Paul O’Connell and Ryan Jones, to look after the forwards. That’s the best solution for me."

But Davies and Evans, both imposing forwards in their playing days, were adamant that McGeechan needs a big man to lead his team against the Springboks.

"Just look back to 1997 when Ian was coach of the Lions in South Africa. He had Martin Johnson as his leader and I think he needs an imposing physical presence to lead his team once again against the 2009 Springboks," said Evans.

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