Lions Legend: Brian Moore

Twice a Lion in the last throws of amateurism, Brian Moore's infectious personality and unbounded enthusiasm make him a hard man to forget. [more]

Lions Legend: Brian Moore

Twice a Lion in the last throws of amateurism, Brian Moore’s infectious personality and unbounded enthusiasm make him a hard man to forget.

The England hooker was a mainstay of the 1989 and 1993 tours and, although those series' had vastly different outcomes, Moore had a significant impact on both.

Widely seen as the second choice No2 prior to his first Lions experience, Moore battled against the odds to secure a starting spot in all three internationals against the Wallabies.

His refusal to take defeat lightly rubbed off on his fellow Lions as Ian McGeechan's men turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 series win for the first time in their official history.

Moore's celebrations on the night of that third Test victory in Australia are almost as legendary as the wholehearted approach he showed throughout the duration of his eight-year international career. After downing a full bottle of red wine and the remaining third of a bottle belonging to an Australian dinner guest who had failed to match his drinking abilities, Moore lasted just another 20 minutes or so at the post-match function. He admits he was later found by two English journalists doing aeroplane impressions across Sydney Harbour Bridge!

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Unfortunately for Moore and his fellow Lions, there was far less to celebrate four years later in New Zealand. The Lions lost the series and took a number of mid-week beatings, although Moore was again one of the brighter lights of an otherwise disappointing tour.

With rumours of discontent among members of the dirt trackers side, Moore bucked the trend by working his way up through the ranks, past Scotland's Kenny Milne and into the Test side for the second and third internationals.

His inclusion in that second Test helped the Lions to an incredible 20-7 victory over the All Blacks but his Lions career ended on a low when New Zealand made amends a week later with a crushing 30-13 win in Auckland.


Brian Moore (centre) impressed for the Lions in 1989 and here in 1993

Despite measuring only 5ft 9in and weighing just 14 stone 6lbs, Moore never allowed size to become an issue, even at the dizzy heights of the international game.

He often faced challenges from far bigger men, in respect of both the opposition and competition from his own team-mates, but the Birmingham-born and Yorkshire-educated Moore always punched above his weight and continued to surpass expectation.

Although admittedly a keen fan of the social aspects of the game, the qualified solicitor worked harder than most to improve areas of his own performance. Knowing that he would never be the biggest of front row forwards, Moore worked tirelessly on the technical aspects of his position, such as his throwing in and striking of the ball, as well as the attributes that would make him an effective player in the loose.

His speed and handling abilities were unusual for a hooker, with the former schoolboy centre almost as comfortable in open ground as he was in the confined spaces of scrums, rucks and mauls.

A Grand Slam winner of three occasions in 1991, 1992 and 1995, Moore also featured in a hat-trick of World Cups, playing in the Twickenham final when England lost to Australia 18 years ago and winning a total of 64 caps for his country.

A decade before the introduction of the IRB World Player of the Year award scheme, Moore was given a similar honour by being voted the Rugby World Player of the Year in 1991.

Having started his senior career with Nottingham, where he graduated with a law degree from the City's university, Moore impressed with Harlequins before ending his career with local rivals Richmond.

After retiring from the playing side of the game, Moore again strayed away from convention by becoming a qualified manicurist. When his wife opened a nail bar, Moore took the necessary qualifications to be able to help out – quite possibly a first for an international front row, especially one who went by the nickname of 'Pitbull'.

Although he is also still qualified to practice law, Moore has not done so for six years and is now employed as a regular commentator for rugby union on the BBC. As opinionated in his commentary as he was on the pitch, Moore's no-nonsense approach ensures he receives a similar public reaction to that which he did as a player.

Loved by many who appreciate his honesty and openness but disliked by others for his outspoken nature and in-your-face attitude, Moore does not go in search of popularity for popularity's sake. Instead, just as he did as a player, he wears his heart on his sleeve and gives nothing if not a true account of himself whenever called upon.

Brian Moore factfile

Date of birth: January 11, 1962
Clubs: Nottingham, Harlequins, Richmond
International caps: England 64
Height: 5ft 9in (1.75m)
Weight: 14 stone 6lbs (92kg)

Moore's Lions lowdown

Lions debut: Versus Western Australia, June 10, 1989
Lions Tests: 5 (all three Tests in Aus in1989 and 2nd and 3rd Tests in NZ in 1993)
Lions non-Test appearances: 9
Total Lions appearances: 14 (7 in 1989 and 7 in 1993)
Lions points: 5* (one try) *under the current system of five points for a try
Final Lions appearance: Versus New Zealand, Auckland, July 3, 199


Moore won 64 caps for his country over an eight-year period

On underdog status first time around

"Steve Smith for hooker. It was like a mantra, and it made me furious. In the run up to the Lions tour to Australia in 1989, every pundit, amateur and professional, every last barstool expert, declared that the Lions Test hooker would quite obviously be Steve Smith, from Ballymena and Ireland. The second choice, an afterthought to make the tour party but only as benched understudy to Smith, seemed to be between Kenny Milne of Scotland and myself.

"Australia's Test hooker was the enormous Tom Lawton, a giant of over 18 stone – and if Australia had a giant, then we had to have a giant to match him. Smith, who was over 17 stone, was their man.

"It annoyed me. It really did annoy me. Nothing has motivated me more throughout my career than another hooker competing for a jersey that I wanted to wear.

"I worked incredibly hard before the tour. I trained twice a day for two months. All the bits I could improve, I did improve.

"On the tour I focussed on Smith and our battle. I stayed out on the field after all the early training sessions. It was designed to make me even fitter, and it was also designed to be seen by the tour management. I made a conscious decision not to get friendly with Smith and it was only late in the tour that this changed.

"I never made up the four stone. Smith and Lawton were still giants on the tour. But I achieved what I set out for. I played in all three Tests. When it mattered, I got the nod. In the Test series, we never went backwards in the scrum, we handled Lawton with something approaching comfort. We won the series. End of argument."

On 1989 tour captain Finlay Calder

"We were not quite then into the bitterest years of the England-Scotland feud but enough roots of that feud were showing to make all the English contingent at least a little sceptical of the Scottish captain.

"Yet in the months of the tour I developed a tremendous respect for Calder. He is one of the most-direct men I have ever met, direct to the point of non-diplomacy. On the field, and off the field, he had an iron-hard competitive edge and attitude.

"When you play against someone like that, it is easy to hate them. You use it to build up an active dislike to take you into a mindset to return the aggression. When you play with a man like that, it is very reassuring. You could rely on him in the most difficult moments. That is a massive factor in the minds of fellow players."

On international differences in '89

"Another oddity of the international differences came through the Scots contingent when we were changing for the first match. As the kick-off neared, Mike Teague and I were doing our last-minute strapping. In that era, the England dressing room was becoming quieter and quieter. All the bawling and shouting had diminished and a far more constructive and contemplative atmosphere had replaced all the nonsense.

"But in Perth we were taken back to the old days. As they changed, the Scots players were bouncing off the walls, shouting 'Come on! Get into it.' Incredibly, the two players making the biggest noise were Gavin and Scott Hastings. Teague started to laugh. 'I can't believe this,' he said. 'That's our full back.' We had to move out and completed our preparations in the next changing room in case we both burst out laughing."


Moore (front row, far right) helped the Lions secure a series win 20 years ago

On Donal's Donuts (the mid-week side in '89)

"Donal Leinihan was able to swallow his disappointment that he was not a contender for a Test place by assuming, as the tour wore on, the leadership of the mid-week team.

"Players in the mid-week team often feel left out of the main tour, sensing something of a worthlessness. That is a completely mistaken summary. The mid-week team is of vital importance, and can turn a tour – it happened in a beneficial way in 1989, and a wholly disastrous way in 1993.

"Lenihan's mid-week team played the Australian Capital Territories at Canberra between the first and second Tests. At one stage the Lions trailed 17-0. Yet the Lions came back strongly, gradually dragged the game around, and eventually they won 41-25. It was a highly significant comeback.

"It is always the responsibility of the mid-week team to keep the tour on the road, especially before a major Saturday match. If we had lost that match the psychological blow would have been severe, even terminal."

On fighting for the cause

"The first two games of the tour had been quiet – too quiet. The first crunch game of the tour was against Queensland at Ballymore, in Brisbane. Suddenly, the tour took off, the first rumbles of thunder were heard. Mike Hall was trampled violently by Julian Gardner and other Queenslanders. There was no question of Hall lying on the ball and being fairly rucked out. He was kicked when he was not in the ruck.

"While Hall was lying on the ground being treated, Finlay got us all around him. 'That is the last time it is going to happen on this tour. We are not going to allow our players to be put upon like that.' The resolve hardened in that instant and the tenor of the tour changed. There was a recognition that this was the way it was going to be.

"It was the start of some lurid tour coverage. As the tour progressed, wilder and wilder accusations against the Lions were thrown – that we had a deliberate policy of rough play and intimidation. We did not. We never formulated a policy, unless it was a policy that we would not start it, but if they started it, we would finish it off."

On a superb series victory

"By that time (the third Test) my confidence was high. I had played well on the tour, I had shoved criticism down people's throats, and I felt incredibly fit. Before the game I started my warm up. Usually I take time to loosen up; sometimes I feel horrible. But I stopped after five minutes because I felt completely loose. It was a feeling I had never had before and never since, but I was ready to play. It was not just the physical thing, the muscles; it was the inner feeling too. I knew that we were not going to lose.

On the overall success of the '89 tour

"The tour scored highly on all counts. The fact that we were allowed to play with an unapologetic, physical approach suited me down to the ground. We were not under the silly restraints of so-called good behaviour, our management recognised that we were engaged in an international rugby series. We played with a free rein. It made for an upbeat tour, the formation of a formidable pack. Socially, there were no bad apples in the barrel.

"It was also, to me, a perfect venue. I can remember training on just one wet field; otherwise it was firm, dry and warm. Australia became one of my favourite places. It was a lovely place, and a lovely feeling to know that you had beaten their rugby team."


In between his two Lions tours, Moore was a losing World Cup finalist

On falling short in '93

"The most obvious contrasts between the wonderful memories of the top-of-the-ground touring with the Lions in 1989 in Australia and the reality of my second Lions trip, to New Zealand, were that the place was greyer, the pitches softer, the weather colder and wetter, the diversions fewer, the facilities inferior.

"It was also a much harder tour. So many people say that New Zealand is the hardest place to tour, they speak ruefully of the incessant pressure on the field and off, the lack of escape and respite. True, all true. New Zealand may not be a heaven on rugby's earth but it is a compelling place to play if you really want to retire having experienced the whole range.

"I found the whole tour a gloomy experience. I had never been to New Zealand before, and the place is the very stuff of Lions legend, full of glorious deeds but, from the British point of view, relatively full of abject defeats.

"You have to be dedicated enough, brave enough and good enough, week in, week out. You have to set yourself, individually, for the challenge of your whole career. Any weakness in any touring party will be ruthlessly sought out and exposed.

"That is precisely what happened to the 1993 Lions. We did give one of the great one-off performances in Lions history, we did play some outstanding rugby; but we finished by the losing the Test series, with a poor overall record, and with more than a taste of bitterness. And to be frank, that great one-off performance stood between us and a shambles. We were tested and were found out."

On the controversy surrounding selection

"Some of those bad selections did not affect the top team, the combination which appeared in the Tests – at least not in personnel. But they did affect the Tests and the whole tour by the disgraceful collapse of the midweek team, which almost surrendered as the tour drew to a close. That did not do wonders for morale. Some of the vaunted Celtic contingent dishonoured the Lions jersey.

"In 1993, there was an atmosphere that everyone would do their own thing rather than everyone pulling together. It was almost a throwback because some players came with the attitude (or at least developed the attitude when they did not feature in the first-string line up in the big games) that they would do as well as they could while still having a good time off the field. The iron will to succeed never existed in a large section of the party. A Lions team needs complete concentration. In 1993, concentration wavered fatally."

On a stunning second-Test victory

"We were one match away from what would have been, had we lost, the end of the tour bar the shouting. And from that unpromising beginning came one of the great performances in Lions history. I doubt if there has ever been a better performance by a Lions pack on any tour.

"On that day in Wellington, thankfully bright, dry and without the normal Wellington hurricane screaming down the pitch, we shut out Sean Fitzpatrick and his pack totally. We shut them out in the lineout, where Martin Bayfield ruled, we drove at them in the loose, we tackled superbly. It was also a massive psychological boost for us that we scrummaged well to.

"It was difficult, considering what the victory meant to the team and to me personally, to keep tears from the eyes."

Quotes taken from Brian Moore: The Autobiography, with Brian Moore and Stephen Jones.

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