Lions All-Time XV – Fly-half

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 fly-halves: 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 – Fly-half

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 fly-halves: 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.

There is no more iconic shirt in rugby than that famous red Lions No.10 jersey and the candidates for best-ever, unsurprisingly, have a distinctly Welsh feel.

But if we are going through chronologically then the first stop has to be Ireland’s Jack Kyle.

Named the greatest ever Irish player by the IRFU in 2002, and an IRB Hall of Fame inductee, Kyle only ever went on one Lions tour, to New Zealand and Australia in 1950.

They won the series 2-0 against the Wallabies but went down 3-0 to the All Blacks with one drawn Test but despite the defeat Kyle was so impressive that he was named by the New Zealand Rugby Almanac as one of the six players of the year.

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Kyle’s mantle as Lions’ creator-in-chief was inherited by the first Welshman on our list, the legendary Cliff Morgan.

The Welsh wizard helped the 1955 Lions to draw the series with South Africa, the first time the Lions had avoided defeat against the Springboks for 59 years.

But the next line on the list needs only one word of introduction – the king.

Barry John may have retired from the sport while still only 27 but his short career carried enough highlights to last a lifetime.

The Welsh No.10 led the Lions to the their first, and to this day only, series win against the All Blacks in 1971, finishing as the top points-scorer in the Test series and forming a devastating half-back pairing with Gareth Edwards.

John also went on the 1968 tour to South Africa but his time there was curtailed by injury after only three games.

After John’s shock retirement there was already a replacement waiting in the wings in Phil Bennett and the fellow Welshman wrote his name into the history books in 1974.

With dazzling feet Bennett pulled the strings of the famous 1974 invincible Lions that emerged unbeaten from their tour to South Africa.

He also captained the Lions in 1977 when they returned to the New Zealand but failed to repeat the heroics of ’71.

As we approach the modern professional era there is one more man worthy of mention, England’s Rob Andrew who toured in 1989 and again in 1993.

Originally left out of the Lions squad that went to Australia in 1989, Paul Dean’s injury saw the fly-half summoned Down Under.

And the England star proved his worth, starting the decisive second and third Tests as the Lions overturned a 1-0 deficit to claim a famous series victory.

After the advent of the professional game Gregor Townsend was the man at the helm in the famous 1997 tour victory, charged with getting his backline firing he did just that while full-back Neil Jenkins focused on kicking the goals.

A discussion of great fly-halves can hardly go by without mention of Jonny Wilkinson.

The World Cup winner started all three Test in Australia in 2001 although the Lions let slip a 1-0 lead in the series to lose it 2-1, but Wilkinson was back in 2005, starting the first two Tests against the All Blacks before an injury ruled him out of the third.

And last but by no means least Jonny Sexton deserves a shout out for his role in the victory Down Under this summer, starting all three Tests the 28-year-old was inspirational for the tourists and could still be around for the 2017 tour to New Zealand.  

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