This year’s nominations for the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame focus largely on the achievements of a number of Lions greats.
The current set of candidates for inclusion into one of the world’s most-prestigious clubs has been chosen with a view to this summer’s highly-anticipated Lions tour of South Africa.
The vote for the class of 2009 is geared heavily towards the achievements of those players who have featured in Test series between Britain and Ireland’s elite and the Springboks in the 118 years since the Lions first visited South Africa.
The nominees for what is the fourth Hall of Fame induction have been split into three categories: 19th century, 20th century and 21st century, with current Lions head coach Ian McGeechan among they nominees in the last of those categories.
Such recognition would surely be fitting for McGeechan who will be hoping for a third series win in South Africa this summer following playing and coaching triumphs in 1974 and 1997.
The nominees for the 19th century feature several Lions heroes, including the legendary Scotsman Bill Maclagan, captain of the1891 pioneers.
Maclagan led the Lions on their first-ever tour of South Africa as his squad set a record that is unlikely ever to be broken. Under Maclagan’s leadership, the Lions won each of their 19 matches, including all three Tests, conceding just a single point along the way.
There are 10 Lions among the 20th century nominees, including Scotland back-row giant and master of “Total Rugby” Jim Greenwood.
Greenwood has achieved lasting world fame as a coach, author and mentor of students at Loughborough University as well as for his remarkable feats with Scotland and the 1955 Lions in South Africa.
His scintillating form in the 1955 Five Nations, coupled with his superb rugby brain and outstanding work-rate, won him a place in that year’s Lions touring party to South Africa, the first ever to travel by areoplane.
Greenwood played in all four Tests against the Springboks, scoring two tries.
He went on to captain Scotland until 1959, when an injury suffered against Ireland brought his playing career to an end, but not before he had led his country to a win over the Wallabies in 1958.
With his playing days behind him, Greenwood embarked on a teaching and coaching career that made him arguably the most influential rugby thinker of his time.
His book “Total Rugby”, first published in 1978 and four more times since, has been described as the most significant of all rugby coaching manuals.
Wayne Smith, the former All Black coach and currently Graham Henry’s assistant, said: “It took maybe 20 minutes to recognise that Jim’s way of coaching was the most effective I’d come across. I was an All Black then, and when I became the All Blacks coach I was into his methods, helped by his books.”
The 20th Century list of nominees also features 14 South African players alongside Greenwood and the other nine Lions, including one from the 1910 tour, the legendary Cherry Pillman of England and four from the 1955 Lions – the first to share the series with the Springboks last century – in England’s Jeff Butterfield, Cliff Morgan of Wales, Greenwood and flying Irish wing Tony O’Reilly.
They are joined by three Lions from the invincible 1974 tour in Willie John McBride of Ireland and Welsh duo Phil Bennett and JPR Williams, along with two from the 1980 tour in England’s Fran Cotton and Graham Price of Wales.
Why not have your say on who makes it into the IRB Hall of Fame this time around?
Click here if you’d like to cast your vote.