Heard the one about the Kenyan, Israeli, Aussie, Kiwi and American? They are all touring with the British & Irish Lions in South Africa this summer.
That’s right, no fewer than five of the 37 players selected by Ian McGeechan to tackle the world champion Springboks this summer were born in foreign lands.
Not that there is anything new in that. London Wasps and England centre Riki Flutey will be the third New Zealand-born player to tour with the Lions.
Back in 1904, Pat McEvedy and Arthur O’Brien were among five Guy’s Hospital players picked to tour Australia and New Zealand. It was a return to home for the pair who came to England from their native New Zealand.
McEvedy, who was born in Taumutu, went on a second tour of his homeland in 1908 and actually became president of both the Wellington Union and the New Zealand Rugby Union in later life.
O’Brien, who was born in Westport, also became a Test player against the country in which he was born.
Flutey, who played against the Lions in 2005 as a replacement for Wellington, was born in Wairarapa and will become only the second player to play for and against the British and Irish tourists when he makes his debut for McGeechan’s men.
The first player to achieve that feat was Tom Reid. The Limerick lock played for the 1955 Lions before emigrating to Canada, where he played for Eastern Canada against the 1959 tourists.
Ronan O’Gara might already be heralded as one of Ireland’s greatest rugby players, but he could also be claimed as America’s finest player. That’s because the Munster points machine, who will be one of four Lions making their third tour in 2009, was born in San Diego.
Another Irish Grand Slammer born overseas is the Leinster No 8 Jamie Heaslip. Just like the 1989 Lion’s Test centre Brendan Mullin, who was born in Jerusalem, Heaslip was born in Israel, at the popular resort of Tiberias.
Jamie Heaslip of Leinster and Ireland is one of five 2009 Lions born overseas
London Wasps and England lock Simon Shaw is another player who will be making his third tour with the Lions. He is also the oldest member of the tour party at 35.
Shaw was born in Africa, in Nairobi, Kenya. That was the same for 1955 tourist Tug Wilson and 2001 Lions Test wing Dafydd James who were also born on that continent.
Wilson, who played for the Metropolitan Police and England in the back row, had spent the first eight years of his life in Wilderness, South Africa, and promptly returned to the land of his birth after the tour. Llanelli and Wales wing James was born in Mufulira, Zambia.
Mike Catt, a Lion in 1997 and 2001, was another born in South Africa, in his case Port Elizabeth, while 2005 tourist Matt Stevens was born in Durban.
Finally for the 2009 contingent, Scottish lock Nathan Hines provides the Australian influence in the tour party. He was born in Waga Waga in New South Wales and follows fellow New South Welshman Tom Richards into a Lions tour party.
Richards, whose father had emigrated from Cornwall to Australia, joined the 1910 Lions tour party in South Africa as a replacement. He was playing for Transvaal at the time and had also been playing for Bristol.
Scotland’s 2009 Lions lock Nathan Hines was born in Australia
A Lions team born overseas
The following team features players born overseas who have gone on to represent the Lions. Although missing a hooker, it’s a pretty competitive line up as far as lionsrugby.com is concerned.
15. Arthur O’Brien (Westport, New Zealand)
14. Tony Underwood (Ipoh, Malaysia)
13. Brendan Mullin (Jerusalem, Israel)
12. Riki Flutey (Wararapa, New Zealand)
11. Pat McEvedy (Taumutu, New Zealand)
10. Ronan O’Gara (San Diego, USA)
9. Andy Mulligan (Kasauli, India)
1. Matt Stevens (Durban, South Africa)
2. AN OTHER
3. Graham Price (Moascar, Egypt)
4. Paul Ackford (Hanover, Germany)
5. Nathan Hines (Waga Waga, Australia)
6. Jamie Heaslip (Tiberius, Israel)
7. Tug Wilson (Wilderness, South Africa)
8. Mike Campbell-Lamerton (Malta)
Clive Rees (Singapore)
Tom Richards (Emmaville, Australia)
Mike Catt (Port Elizabeth, South Africa)
Dafydd James (Mufulira, Zambia)
Grahame Budge (Hamiota, Canada)
Nick Jeavons (Calcutta, India)
Richard Sharp (Mysore, India)
Doug Baker (Las Palmas, Canary Islands)
Brian Black (South Africa)
Jeff Reynolds (Canton, China)
John Beattie (Borneo)
Cuthbert Mullins (Grahamstown, South Africa)