The Lions Down Under: 1950

The Lions that toured Australia and New Zealand in 1950 will go down in history as some of the greatest tourists of them all. [more]

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The Lions that toured Australia and New Zealand in 1950 will go down in history as some of the greatest tourists of them all.

The first post-Second World War Lions may have been beaten 3-0 by the All Blacks but they comfortably beat the Wallabies and returned home with their reputations enhanced.

Just as in 1930 when the Lions had last visited Australasia, fixtures in New Zealand dominated the tour.

The Lions were narrowly beaten 8-0, 6-3 and 11-8 by the All Blacks having drawn the first Test of the four-match series but they were widely regarded as the best-ever side to have toured the Land of the Long White Cloud by the New Zealand public.

Their dazzling back play was hugely appreciated by the hoards that watched them play but, unfortunately, the Lions lacked the strength up front to defeat the All Blacks.

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It was a different story in Australia, however, where the touring backline were given the platform to run riot.

The Lions scored 150 points in their six games in Australia, winning the first five before surprisingly losing their last match of the tour.

Those victories included a 47-3 thrashing of a New South Wales Combined Country side and convincing 19-6 and 24-3 Test wins in the two internationals they played against Australia.

A little bit of history

In the year that the Lions made their first overseas trip following the end of the Second World War, George VI had just two more years left on the throne; Harry Truman was a year into his second term as American President; the Korean War began; Karen Carpenter, Kenny Dalglish, Chris De Burgh, Lionel Richie and Bill Murray were all born but George Orwell passed away; Britain recognised the Communist government of China; the FBI began its ‘10 Most Wanted’ Fugitives’ programme; the first Farnborough Airshow took place; King Leopold returned to Belgium after six years in exile; the Peanuts cartoon featuring Charlie Brown and Snoopy first appeared in print and England were humiliated by the United States at the football World Cup.

The Lions arrived in Australia, five years after the first Sydney to Hobart Yacht race; a year after Australian citizenship is officially introduced (previously Australians had been subjects of Britain); the same year that Australians voted ‘No’ in a referendum that would have allowed the country’s government to ban the Communist Party and four years before the new Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip visited Australia.

Did you know?

Lewis Jones became the first Lions replacement and the first Lion to travel by air.

The Llanelli full back was called up to the squad after George Norton broke his arm in the fifth game of the tour.

While the rest of the squad had travelled by sea, Jones made his way south on a plane, arriving in late June and featuring in the latter part of the New Zealand leg of the tour and the entirety of the trip to Australia.

Star performer

Wales wing Ken Jones scored an incredible 16 tries in 16 games in New Zealand but injury prevented him from featuring in Australia.

Legendary Ireland fly-half Jack Kyle dazzled the host nations with his almost magical skills, while Bleddyn Williams and Jack Matthews took their form for club and country with to the southern hemisphere as they formed a near-perfect centre partnership.

Both Jones and Williams were recognised by the Rugby Almanack of New Zealand as among the five best players of the year alongside three All Blacks.

The squad

The 1950 Lions squad was the first in which every player had represented his country prior to departure.

All 30 original members of the squad, plus replacement Lewis Jones had been capped at international level before wearing Lions colours – something that the Lions never came close to achieving during the pioneering early years of touring.

The tour was to first on which players from England didn’t make up the majority of the party. Only three Englishmen made the tour alongside 14 Welshmen, nine Irishmen and five Scots.

Having won the Grand Slam in 1950, Wales provided no fewer than nine players in each of the five Tests on tour.

The tour party was captained by DR Karl Mullen, the man who led Ireland to their first-ever Grand Slam two years earlier.

The squad’s vice-captain was Williams, the Prince of Centres who would later captain both Cardiff and Wales to victory over the All Blacks.

Mullen acted as forwards coach, while Williams and fellow Welsh centre Matthews coached the backs.

Full backs

WB Cleaver Cardiff and Wales
BL Jones Llanelli and Wales
GW Norton Bective Rangers and Ireland


NJ Henderson Queen’s University Belfast and Ireland
KJ Jones Newport and Wales
MF Lane University College Cork and Ireland
R Macdonald Edinburgh University and Scotland
J Matthews Cardiff and Wales
DWC Smith London Scottish and Scotland
MC Thomas Newport and Wales
BL Williams Cardiff and Wales


AW Black Edinburgh University and Scotland
JW Kyle Queen’s University Belfast and Ireland
I Preece Coventry and England
G Rimmer Waterloo and England
WR Willis Cardiff and Wales


GM Budge Edinburgh Wanderers and Scotland
T Clifford Munster and Ireland
C Davies Cardiff and Wales
DM Davies Somerset Police and Wales
RT Evans Newport and Wales
DJ Hayward Newbridge and Wales
ER John Neath and Wales
PW Kininmoth Richmond and Scotland
JS McCarthy Dolphin and Ireland
JW McKay Queen’s University Belfast and Ireland
KD Mullen Old Belvedere and Ireland
JE Nelson Malone and Ireland
VG Roberts Penryn and England
JD Robins Birkenhead Park and Wales
JRG Stephens Neath and Wales

To view the full list of fixtures and results from the 1950 tour, simply click here

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