Lions Legend: Simon Shaw

Simon Shaw is a three-times Lions tourist who proved to be one of the standout performers on the 2009 tour of South Africa. [more]

Lions Legend: Simon Shaw

Simon Shaw is a three-times Lions tourist who proved to be one of the standout performers on the 2009 tour of South Africa.

The only member of the 1997 Lions squad who will still be playing professional rugby next season, Shaw will continue appearing for English giants London Wasps despite turning 37 this coming September.

Fresh from university, Shaw first played for the Lions at the age of 24 despite not taking up rugby properly until he was 16.

Having been part of the original touring party in 1997, Shaw missed out on selection in 2001 before being called up as a replacement for Ireland’s Malcolm O’Kelly in New Zealand in 2005.

A return to South Africa some 12 years after his first visit with the Lions was a huge achievement, particularly as he won his first and second Lions Test caps having missed out on his two previous tours.

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Shaw was deservedly named man of the match in the heroic second Test defeat to the Springboks, despite not having even been in the matchday squad for the opening rubber. 

The giant Wasps lock amassed 19 appearances on the Lions tours of 1997, 2005 and 2009, losing only twice.

He won his first England cap in 1996 and picked up a World Cup winners medal in 2003 after replacing the injured Danny Grewcock.

Simon Shaw’s factfile

Date of birth: September 1 1973
Clubs: Bristol, London Wasps
International caps: England 52
Height: 6ft 9in (2.05m)
Weight: 19 stone 10lbs (124kg)

Shaw’s Lions lowdown

Lions debut: Versus Eastern Province Invitation XV, May 24, 1997
Lions Tests: 2
Lions non-Test appearances: 17
Total Lions appearances: 19 (seven in 1997, five in 2005, seven in 2009)
Lions points: 10 (two tries)
Most recent Lions appearance: Versus South Africa, Johannesburg, July 4, 2009 

On why 1997 was so special

"I remember everything about 1997. It was such an amazing tour, not just the performances on the pitch but the whole experience, going out with the squad, trips that we went on while we were there, everything was just incredible.

"I’d just finished university and for me being relatively young and being with a lot of guys who I’d played junior levels with, it was just an incredible experience.

"It will go down in history as a bit of an iconic tour. It was the best of the old school tours combined with a real step up in performance levels. I think that’s what shocked South Africa most, the level of performance we were able to put in Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday, all through the tour. We only lost two games and our performances never really dipped throughout that tour."

On coping with South African physicality in 1997

"The South Africans undoubtedly had a plan and that was to soften us up for the Tests. But I think the class of player we had throughout the squad meant that whoever had the honour of representing the team on the Test matches was going to perform. Whether or not they managed to injure whoever it was at the time, there was always someone who would come in and do just as good a job."

On developing team spirit

"It’s very, very hard to create camaraderie. On tours like that, especially with the duration that the 1997 tour was, the biggest problem is making sure that there’s no poisonous elements within the squad that drag other members down. That can often start when players talk to their mates from whichever country they’re from and start moaning or niggling about selection or anything else really. I think that’s perhaps been the downfall of other tours."


Shaw goes on the charge against Manawatu five years ago

On 1997 and 2009 head coach Sir Ian McGeechan

"Ian had a massive impact on the 1997 tour. While the New Zealand tour in 2005 wasn’t that successful in terms of the Test matches, the side that he looked after went unbeaten and that says a lot about him. That side probably enjoyed the tour more than the side that predominantly played on a Saturday. He was able to keep spirits high and to keep things positive. That’s something he does very well." 

On finally winning his first Lions Test cap in 2009

"It’s been a long while. Midway through the season I didn’t really think I had a chance of even making the plane.

"It has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point. The tour didn’t really start that well for me and I then began to think I might go back empty handed again in terms of a Test cap.

"When the Test squads are announced it’s a pretty miserable time if you’re not selected. The day after you learn to justify it in your brain and accept it.

"Over the years I’ve learnt you’ve just got to keep plugging away and keep trying. Then, hopefully, someone will see something positive in you and give you a chance.

"I think it’s just self belief. Your friends and your family will keep telling you that you’re the best but, at the end of the day, you have to believe it yourself. I just kept trying to believe it and now it’s finally happened."

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