Lions All-Time XV – Second row

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 installment of this series looking at the second row: tell us which pairing 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 – Second row

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 installment of this series looking at the second row: tell us which pairing you think should make the team, we’ll add up the votes and publish the all-time Lions XV, as selected by the fans.

In a debate over the greatest ever British and Irish Lions, Willie John McBride and Martin Johnson are likely to be near the top of the list.

So it comes as no surprise that they are the two stand-out favourites to win a berth in the second-row of our all-time team.

McBride went on a record-equalling five tours and won 17 test caps during those trips, a record that does not look like being broken any time soon.

The Ulsterman was a firebrand of a lock who never backed down from a confrontation and he played a key role on the 1971 tour win to New Zealand and the invincibles of 1974 in South Africa.

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But to mention McBride and not Gordon Brown would be bordering on sacreligious, the Scottish lock going on three Lions tours.

He played two Tests in 1971, three in 1974 and three more in 1977 and alongside McBride formed a fearsome second-row pairing that coincided with the most dominant run in the Lions history.

Next on the list of candidates has to be Bill Beaumont, the first Englishman to captain the Lions in 50 years when he led the tourists in 1980.

And although the Lions ended up losing that series 3-1 Beaumont’s leadership was superb and he remains one of the most influential captains amongst his teammates that the Lions have ever had.

A couple more Englishmen stand out before we can begin to talk about Johnson however: Paul Ackford and Wade Dooley.

Both police officers, these two English locks wrote their name into Lions legend as they helped the tourists to produce a superb comeback in 1989 in Australia.

They rallied from 1-0 down to steal the series 2-1 and the second-row pairing were key figures as they overmatched the Wallabies physically en route to the series win.

But it is Johnson who stands out above all, the only man to captain the Lions on two separate tours.

The first of those saw Johnson stand toe-to-toe with the Springboks in 1997, leading from the front despite not being the England captain at the time.

The World Cup winner went on three Lions tours in all, travelling out in 1993 as a replacement but then featuring in two of the Tests.

And although he could not sign off with a win in Australia in 2001 there is no doubting Johnson’s place in the pantheon of Lions greats.

At this stage it would be an oversight to not mention Simon Shaw, so often a partner for Johnson with England, the man mountain was three times a Lions tourist but had to wait until 2009 for his first Test cap as he ended up as one of the standout performers of the tour.

Honourable mentions must also go to two Irishmen in Jeremy Davidson, who formed such a decisive pairing with Johnson in 1997, and Paul O’Connell, who captained in 2005 and was part of the winning side from this summer in Australia.

And last but by no means least, Alun Wyn Jones proves that Wales have produced their fair share of world-class locks as well.

The Ospreys legend toured in 2009 and again this summer and featured in all six Tests, sealing his place in Lions folklore as he captained the tourists to their decisive win in Sydney this summer, the first time the tourists had won a series in 16 years.

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