Lions’ firsts

There will be a number of firsts for the British & Irish Lions this weekend. [more]

Lions’ firsts

There will be a number of firsts for the British & Irish Lions this weekend.

The game against the Barbarians will be the first The Lions have played in Hong Kong and they will be playing with 23 players in their matchday squad for the first time.

Despite the fact there are 13 players who have played for the Lions before in the overall Tour party, there will be plenty of nervous and excited debutants after Warren Gatland picked 17 men in his matchday squad who haven't played for The Lions before.

But who will have the honour of scoring the first try of the Tour – and will it be a back or a forward?

Triple Lions tourist Ronan O’Gara scored the first points of the 2009 Tour with a penalty in the 37-25 victory over the Royal XV, but it was Tommy Bowe who raced away for the first try after 38 minutes.

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The Ulster and Ireland wing won't become the first player since English centre Jeremy Guscott to be the first scorer on successive tours, though, after he wasn't included for the Baa-Baas fixture. Guscott was the first Lions try scorer in 1993 and 1997 in wins over North Auckland and an Eastern Province Invitation XV.

Here is the list of the Lions’ first try scorers dating back to 1962:

Tour Scorer Number of Lions' tries in the game
     
2009 Tommy Bowe 4
2005 Ollie Smith 1
2001 Scott Quinnell 18
1997 Jeremy Guscott 5
1993 Jeremy Guscott 4
1989 Ieuan Evans 9
1983 Jeff Squire 5
1980 Mike Sleman 3
1977 JJ Williams 8
1974 Gordon Brown 9
1971 John Spencer 1
1968 Jim Telfer 4
1966 Jerry Walsh 12
1962 Arthur Smith 7
     

For any Lions fans who are worried about the outcome of the opening game against a highly experienced Barbarians line-up, there is some comfort in the fact that Britain and Ireland’s elite haven’t lost their opening Tour match since 1971. That was a 15-11 reverse against Queensland in Brisbane.

That shock result inspired the Queensland coach, Ken Donald, to say the 1971 team was the worst Lions side he had ever seen. He predicted a rough ride for them in New Zealand. How wrong he was!

The only other post-war defeat on opening night for the Lions came in South Africa in 1955, when they lost 9-6 to Western Transvaal. They then went on to share the series 2-2 with the Springboks.

Paul O'Connell captains the team after Sam Warburton sat out training with a knee niggle in Hong Kong but it isn’t always the Tour captain who leads the side in the first game.

O’Connell was the skipper in the opening game in 2009, but Michael Owen took charge of the game against Argentina in 2005 when Brian O'Driscoll was squad captain and Keith Wood was given the honour instead of Martin Johnson in Australia in 2001.

In fact, Johnson didn’t lead the side out in his first tour in charge in South Africa in 1997, either. That honour went to English team mate Jason Leonard, while Stuart Barnes had the arm band in the first game in New Zealand in 1993.

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