Lions all-time XV – centres

What would your dream British & Irish Lions XV of all-time look like? Here we look at the stand-out candidates at each position, with the next instalment of this series looking at the centres: tell us who you think should make the team, we'll add up the votes and publish the all-time Lions XV, as selected by the fans. [more]

Lions all-time XV – centres

What would your dream British & Irish Lions XV of all-time look like? Here we look at the stand-out candidates at each position, with the next instalment of this series looking at the centres: tell us who you think should make the team, we’ll add up the votes and publish the all-time Lions XV, as selected by the fans.

A legendary Dubliner, who still plies his trade for both club and country, is a certain contender for greatest centre in British and Irish Lions’ history.

However, another inhabitant of the Emerald Isle – a simple solicitor from Belfast – arguably is the most fabled of them all.

In 1971, Mike Gibson was one of the masterminds behind the Lions’ only ever Tour victory in New Zealand to date.

After proving a highlight in unsuccessful visits to Australia and the All Blacks in 1966 and South Africa in 1968, destiny beckoned in another trip to the Land of the Long White Cloud.

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His competitive spirit and mind-bending flair captured public hearts in both hemispheres, totalling five Tours before his last appearance at the age of 34.

But the class of ’71 would have been a lesser one without the presence of captain and Gibson’s centre partner, John Dawes.

The Welshman kept the engine ticking over, sparking attacks for Gibson, JPR Williams, Barry John et al to create history in New Zealand.

Of the current breed Brian O’Driscoll stands at the pinnacle of world rugby – and the Leinster man has justified his stature in the game none more so than in the red of a Lions shirt.

From a lung-busting solo try in his debut Tour to Australia in 2001, to captaincy in New Zealand cruelly shortened by injury four years later, the outside centre has experienced it all.

But in helping his side to victory Down Under this summer, O'Driscoll reaffirmed his place among the very elite in Lions history.

There were a slew of greats in the 70s – Sir Ian McGeechan another exceptional candidate for the all-time pantheon.

When PE teacher ‘Geech’ left school for the summer ahead of the 1974 South Africa tour, the understudy quickly elevated himself to first-choice centre through sheer force of will.

If a match-winner is what you require, look no further than Jeremy Guscott.

The three-tour veteran scored the winning drop-goal at the death in the second Test in South Africa 1997 – and his wizardry with the ball in hand was unmatched.

Before Gibson and Dawes there were the Welshmen and best mates Jack Matthews and Bleddyn Williams as one of the finest pairings to ever grace a Lions squad.

In the 1950 Tour to Australia and New Zealand, Williams was the creative genius to Matthews’ enforcer, particularly running riot in the Lions’ 2-0 triumph over the Wallabies.

The Welsh are well-represented in the bidding for greatest-ever centres and Scott Gibbs is one who never failed to make his presence felt.

Nicknamed ‘car crash’ for his ferocious tackling, Gibbs was named man of the series as the Lions won a heavyweight bout against then-world champions South Africa in 1997.

And the very first in a long lineage of supreme Lions centres was Gwyn Nicholls – the ‘prince of three-quarters’ – who carried the Red Dragon on his back as the only Welshman on tour in 1899, buffeting Australia in a 3-1 series win.

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