The British & Irish Lions Players Club has been formed to recognise the contribution and unique connection of every player who has pulled on the iconic jersey.
The Players Club – made up of players who have represented the Lions since 1888 – was officially launched at a dinner for 12 Tour captains (see below) in Dublin tonight.
British & Irish Lions Chairman Tom Grace said: “Since the inaugural Tour of 1888 only 807 players from the four Home Nations have represented the Lions. It is an exclusive group who have a unique connection with each other and the Lions.
“We have formed the Lions Players Club to recognise and celebrate the contributions and achievements that every Lion has made to this most loved touring team – a team that holds a special place in the hearts of players and fans alike.”
Each player already has a unique British & Irish Lions Number which can be found on Lionsrugby.com and fans can discover all the clubs they played for in the newly-launched Your Club Your Lions section on the site.
With support from the Home Unions all former Lions are currently being contacted to continue the process of connecting with the players who have made the iconic red jersey so special.
Grace added: “The Players Club is the next stage of a formal recognition programme to honour all those who have pulled on a Lions jersey.
"We will unveil details of the programme in due course but it was important to get the surviving Tour captains together from the start as their input into the Players Club and connection with each other and the Lions through the years is hugely important.”
British & Irish Lions Tour Captains:
Ronnie Dawson (Australia, New Zealand and Canada 1959)
Tom Kiernan (South Africa 1968)
John Dawes (Australia and New Zealand 1971)
Willie John McBride (South Africa 1974)
Phil Bennett (New Zealand and Fiji 1977)
Bill Beaumont (South Africa 1980)
Ciaran Fitzgerald (New Zealand 1983)
Finlay Calder (Australia 1989)
Gavin Hastings (New Zealand 1993)
Martin Johnson (South Africa 1997 and Australia 2001)
Brian O’Driscoll (New Zealand, 2005)
Paul O’Connell (South Africa, 2009)
Sam Warburton (Australia, 2013) – unable to attend the dinner because of Wales commitments
Pictured above at The Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin:
Back row L-R: Warren Gatland (Head Coach, 2017 Tour to New Zealand), Brian O’Driscoll (New Zealand, 2005), Paul O’Connell (South Africa, 2009), Martin Johnson (South Africa 1997 and Australia 2001), Gavin Hastings (New Zealand 1993), Charlie McEwen (Lions Chief Operating Officer).
Middle row L-R: Thelma O’Driscoll (Lions Finance Director), Martyn Phillips (WRU Chief Executive & Lions Board Member), Ciaran Fitzgerald (New Zealand 1983), Gareth Davies (WRU Chairman, 1980 Lion and Board Member), John Spencer (Tour Manager 2017 Tour to New Zealand, 1971 Lion and Board Member), Andy Irvine (1974, 1977, 1980 Lion and Board member), Finlay Calder (Australia, 1989), John Feehan (Lions Chief Executive Officer), Ian Ritchie (RFU Chief Executive and Lions Board Member).
Front-row L-R: Phil Bennett (New Zealand and Fiji 1977), John Dawes (Australia and New Zealand 1971), Willie John McBride (South Africa 1974), Tom Grace (Lions Board Chairman and 1974 Lion), Bill Beaumont (South Africa 1980), Tom Kiernan (South Africa 1968), Ronnie Dawson (Australia, New Zealand and Canada 1959).