Six British & Irish Lions were among 11 rugby legends, who boast nearly 500 caps between them, to be inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin last week.
The British & Irish Lions and Australia themed Hall of Fame ceremony attracted a number of notable guests as the global rugby community came together to celebrate past glories.
The inductees were: Thomas Lawton Snr., John Thornett, Ken Catchpole, Mark Ella, David Campese and George Gregan from Australia, while Robert Seddon and the 1888 Lions’ team, David Bedell-Sivright, Bleddyn Williams and Jack Matthews, Ronnie Dawson and Gavin Hastings were all honoured.
Legendary individual players one and all, the Lions sextet, like their Australian counterparts, all broke the mould in one form or another; none more so than Salford-born Seddon, the first-ever captain of a British Isles touring side.
In 1888, a 20-strong squad, known as the ‘English footballers’ – despite fielding a combination of players from England, Scotland and Wales – set sail for New Zealand and Australia.
Eight months and 53 matches later they returned home probably unaware of the legacy they were about to create.
IRB Hall of Fame panel member Gerald Davies and John Spencer received the award on behalf of Seddon, who tragically died while sculling during the unofficial inaugural tour.
Seddon’s grave in New South Wales was visited by Davies and a number of Lions' players and coaches during the 2013 tour as an acknowledgment of the role he played in helping to establish one of sport’s most iconic teams.
On what was a busy night for Davies, the triple Grand Slam winner was also on hand to represent the all-Welsh centre partnership of Williams and Jack Matthews, both of whom sadly passed away in recent years.
The almost telepathic understanding developed while playing together for Cardiff and Wales saw Williams and Matthews play prominent roles on the 1950 Lions tour – the first of the post-War era.
Both went on to make significant contributions to rugby at the end of their playing days too, as a commentator and Lions doctor respectively.
Flying the flag for Scotland in Dublin were inductee Hastings and IRB Council member John Jeffrey, who was present to help honour the deceased Bedell-Sivright.
Bedell-Sivright captained the 1904 Lions, the first tourists, having won all 14 of their matches, to return home to the British Isles from the Australia leg unbeaten.
Hastings, meanwhile, needed little by way of an introduction as he stepped up to receive his cap.
One of the greatest full-backs to have played the game, ‘Big Gav’ won 61 caps, played in three Rugby World Cups and toured with the Lions, who he captained in 1993, on three occasions.
Hastings scored a total of 192 points during his Lions career, of which 66 points were against Australian opposition.
To say homegrown hero Dawson’s induction brought the roof down is probably not the best turn of phrase given his profession as an architect.
However it’s true to say the Dublin-born hooker received a great reception from those present at the Aviva Stadium. The Ireland international led the Lions six times, a record since matched by Martin Johnson, and went on to serve the tourists as both a coach and selector.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The IRB Hall of Fame recognises those who have made an indelible mark on our sport through feats on the field of play, displays of great character or through their tireless and inspirational work in driving forward our great Game.
“The British & Irish Lions are an institution, a symbol of our history, our present and our future and tours to Australia have delivered bountiful unforgettable memories. These inductees, legends in their own right, have stamped their own mark on this incredible piece of Rugby history.”