The Lions Down Under: 1966

The Lions of 1966 aren't held in too high a regard in New Zealand but they do deserve credit for their success in Australia. [more]

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The Lions of 1966 aren’t held in too high a regard in New Zealand but they do deserve credit for their success in Australia.

The tourists may have lost four and drawn two of their 21 non-Test fixtures in New Zealand and then been whitewashed by the All Blacks in the four-match series but they did leave Australia with a far better record and reputation.

New Zealand once again provided the bulk of fixtures but the Lions’ success in their mini tour of Australia shouldn’t be overlooked.

The class of ’66 were the first since 1904 to leave Australia without a defeat to their name – no mean feat considering the Wallabies could call upon the likes of all-time great Ken Catchpole and half-back partner Phil Hawthorne.

The tour began with eight games against Australian opposition, including two Test matches.

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Only one of those games wasn’t won by the Lions – a 6-6 draw with New South Wales in game five – as the Lions got their tour off to a promising start.

The opening two fixtures were won by 60 points to 3 and 38 points to 11, while Queensland were beaten 26-3 in the penultimate game before the Lions crossed the Tasman.

The Test series was won 2-0, although the first and second internationals were in stark contrast to each other.

The Lions scraped home in the first encounter with the Wallabies, winning 11-8 in front of a then Sydney Cricket Ground record crowd of just over 42,000. Two second-half tries helped the Lions overturn an 8-0 interval deficit and avoid what would have been a demoralising defeat.

The second Test was far more comfortable, with the Lions racking up a 31-0 victory that included five converted tries.

After leaving Australia and then New Zealand, the Lions followed their 1959 counterparts by stopping off in Canada. The sole Test was won 19-8 but the Lions were beaten 8-3 by British Columbia in Vancouver.

A little bit of history

In the year that the Lions made their third-post WWII visit to Australia and New Zealand, Queen Elizabeth II was two years short of matching her father’s 16-year reign; Lyndon Johnson was into his third year as US President following JFK’s assassination; Mao Tse-tung proclaimed the Cultural Revolution; David Cameron, Halle Berry, Cindy Crawford and Eric Cantona all took their first breaths; the first Jewish was born in Spain since the 1492 expulsion; John Lennon said The Beatles were more popular than Jesus; Myra Hindley and Ian Brady were sentenced to life in prison for the Moors Murders; David Bowie released his first record; Batman premiered on American TV; Muhammad Ali knocked out Henry Cooper in six rounds and England won the football World Cup for the first, and so far only, time in the tournament’s history

The Lions arrived in Australia two years after The Beatles toured the country and compulsory conscription was reintroduced for Australian men between the ages of 18 and 25; a year after indigenous Australians gained the right to vote in the state of Queensland; the same year that Robert Menzies retired as Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister and the country’s currency was changed from the Australian pound to the Australian dollar; and a year before the constitution was changed to allow Aboriginal Australians to be included in the population count.

Did you know?

The second Test against Australia was played at a rugby league venue. This might not seem too big a deal in the modern-day game but it almost proved a massive stumbling block in the amateur version of the sport.

With no rugby union ground available for that fixture, the Lions required special dispensation from the International Rugby Board to play at Lang Park in Brisbane in order to prevent them from becoming professionalised!

Star performer

There was no doubt that the Lions’ backs were a more potent force than their forwards.

Welshmen Dewi Bebb and David Watkins stood out, while Scotland full back Stuart Wilson also impressed.

The squad’s most complete player was Ireland’s Mike Gibson, a true Lions hero who would go on to play in 12 Tests for tourists against the best the southern hemisphere had to offer.

Gibson played in 19 of the 25 games in New Zealand in 1966 but he didn’t feature once in Australia!

The squad

The 1996 Lions were the first to have a coach. Former Welsh international John Robins toured alongside the 30 original players, two replacements and team manager Des O’Brien – a move that has been followed by every Lions team ever since.

The Lions were led by Scotland’s Mike Campbell-Lamerton, a controversial choice given the popularity of Wales back row Alun Pask, the man who had the Dragons to the Five Nations Championship that same year.

Campbell-Lamerton faced even further criticism when his tour form failed to live up to expectation, putting both he and the management under considerable pressure.

The affable second row and future British Army Colonel showed great honour and dignity by putting the needs of the team above his own personal pride when it came to selection.

Having played in both Tests in Australia, Campbell-Lamerton stood down from two of the four internationals in New Zealand – a true measure of a man who, although not the greatest player or on-field leader, won the utmost respect of his Lions colleagues and kept the group united on what was a tiring and difficult tour.

Welsh fly-half David Watkins captained the tourists when Campbell-Lamerton stood down from Test selection. The Newport playmaker would later become the only man to skipper both the Lions and the Great Britain Rugby League team.

WD Thomas was the only uncapped member of a squad that featured 11 other Welshmen, nine Irishmen, six Scots and five Englishmen.

Lions legend Willie-John McBride took part in his second Lions adventure, missing out on the Tests in Australia but playing in three of the four in New Zealand.

Gibson made the first of his five Lions tours, while Jim Telfer would later help guide the 1997 Lions to series success in South Africa.

Full backs

TG Price Llanelli and Wales
D Rutherford Gloucester and England
S Wilson London Scottish and Scotland

Three-quarters

DIE Bebb Swansea and Wales
FPK Bresnihan Wanderers and Ireland
AJW Hinshelwood London Scottish and Scotland
DK Jones Cardiff and Wales
CW McFadyean Moseley and England
KF Savage Northampton and England
JC Walsh Sunday’s Well and Ireland
SJ Watkins Newport and Wales
MP Weston Durham City and England

Half-backs

CMH Gibson Cambridge University and Ireland
AR Lewis Newport and Wales
D Watkins Newport and Wales
RM Young Queen’s University Belfast and Ireland

Forwards

MJ Campbell-Lamerton Cambridge University and Scotland (captain)
D Grant Hawick and Scotland
KW Kennedy CIYMS and Ireland
FAL Laidlaw Melrose and Scotland
RA Lamont Instonians and Ireland
WJ McBride Ballymena and Ireland
RJ McLoghlin Gosforth and Ireland
NAA Murphy Cork Constitution and Ireland
CH Norris Cardiff and Wales
AEI Pask Abertillery and Wales
DL Powell Northampton and England
B Price Newport and Wales
GJ Prothero Bridgend and Wales
JW Telfer Melrose and Scotland
WD Thomas Llanelli
D Williams Ebbw Vale and Wales

To view the full list of fixtures and results from the 1966 tour, simply click here

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