There are five Leicester Tigers players in the British & Irish Lions matchday 23, 11 players in the starting XV from the RaboDirect PRO12 and 10 Welshman overall, but they are not the most impressive statistics ahead of today’s opening Test.
The fact is that Whitland RFC helped to produce two of the back line, Gresham’s School boast two former pupils and so do Llandovery College. Never mind the professional clubs and national teams, let’s take a look at the rugby nurseries that launched the Lions of 2013 on their road to stardom.
George North and Alun Wyn Jones provide a direct link back to the inaugural tour in 1888 by following in the footsteps of Wales and Cambridge University forward Willie Thomas, who also attended Llandovery College, while Geoff Parling links back to Charlie Adamson, one of the stars of the inaugural Test series against the Wallabies in 1899, as an old boy of Durham School.
The England and Leicester second row, who is on the bench in Brisbane, will also provide Stockton rugby club with their first Lion if he gets on the field, as will Wales back row man Dan Lydiate for Rhayader RFC if he does the same.
Hamilton Boys High School, in New Zealand, already boasts the head coach of the 2013 Lions party, Warren Gatland, and everyone connected with the school, as well as Pirates rugby club in Tokorua, will be willing Scottish wing Sean Maitland to get on the field and complete his miraculous transformation from Crusaders discard to Test star.
Tom Croft’s old school, Oakham, are enjoying a busy summer following the fortunes of two of their old alumni. While Croft is in Australia trying to win a series with the Lions, his old classmate Stuart Broad is aiming to blast the England cricket team to Ashes glory later in the summer.
Mako Vunipola will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of former Millfield greats Gareth Edwards, JPR Williams and Matt Perry in playing in a Test for the Lions, while fellow England front rower Dan Cole will be aiming to add his name to that of Martin Johnson as pupils from the Robert Smyth Academy who have won a Test with the Lions.
Ace goalkicker Leigh Halfpenny should feel very much at home in Brisbane because a group of no fewer than 22 members from Gorseinon RFC have flown to Australia to support him. That is three more than went to South Africa four years ago, when he lasted one game and spent less time on tour than they did.
British & Irish Lions
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Penyrheol Comprehensive / Gorseinon RFC)
14. Alex Cuthbert (Newent Community School / Westbury-on-Severn RFC)
13. Brian O’Driscoll (Blackrock College / Blackrock RFC)
12. Jonathan Davies (Ysgol Dyffryn Taf / Whitland RFC)
11. George North (Llandovery College / Llangefni RFC)
10. Jonathan Sexton (St Mary’s College, Dublin / Bective Rangers RFC)
9. Mike Phillips (Ysgol Dyffryn Taf / Whitland RFC)
1. Alex Corbisiero (Hall School, Wimbledon / KCS Old Boys RFC)
2. Tom Youngs (Grehsam’s / Holt RFC)
3. Adam Jones (Maesyderrwen Comprehensive / Abercrave RFC)
4. Alun Wyn Jones (Llandovery College / Boynmaen RFC)
5. Paul O’Connell (Ardscoil Rís, Limerick / Young Munster RFC)
6. Tom Croft (Oakham School / Newbury RFC)
7. Sam Warburton (Whitchurch High School / Rhiwbina RFC)
8. Jamie Heaslip (Newbridge College / Naas RFC)
16. Richard Hibbard (Glan Afan Comprehensive / Aberavon Quins RFC)
17. Makovina Vunipola (Millfield / Thornbury RFC)
18. Dan Cole (Robert Smyth Academy / South Leicester RFC)
19. Geoff Parling (Durham School / Stockton RFC)
20. Dan Lydiate (Llandrindod Wells HS / Rhayader RFC)
21. Ben Youngs (Gresham’s / Holt RFC)
22. Owen Farrell (St John Fisher HS / Wigan St Patick’s)
23. Sean Maitland (Hamilton Boys HS / Pirates, Tokorua RFC)