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Becoming a Lion: Bobby Windsor

Becoming a Lion: Bobby Windsor

Before the days of emails and text, rugby players like Pontypool hooker Bobby Windsor were told to prepare for the pinnacle of their careers, a British & Irish Lions Tour, with a letter through the post.

"I was the only player to be picked from Monmouthshire so I had plenty of pats on the back from all the boys in and around the valleys."

Before the days of emails and text, rugby players like Pontypool hooker Bobby Windsor were told to prepare for the pinnacle of their careers, a British & Irish Lions Tour, with a letter through the post.

The steelworker had only earned Wales selection earlier that season, making his debut against Australia in Cardiff in November 1973.

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But after impressive performances in the Five Nations, Lions selectors enquired as to Windsor’s availability for the 1974 Tour to South Africa. Selection though was still up in the air. 

Less than a year after his international debut though, Windsor, one third of the legendary Pontypool front row that would all travel to New Zealand with the Lions in 1977, received a treasured piece of post which players up and down the country all hoped and wanted to see drop through the letter box.

Windsor said: “I got a card through the door, you had a separate notification beforehand to see if you were available, and it was fantastic to see it.

“I was the only player to be picked from Monmouthshire so I had plenty of pats on the back from all the boys in and around the valleys.

“I had to get the money to go next, I didn’t have much and I went to London to catch the plane to South Africa with just £40 to last me the trip.

“The valley clubs were great, everyone was saying well done and having a few pints and had a collection to help me on my way.

“The Lions had notified me in writing asking if I would be available if selected and I obviously said yes. It’s the pinnacle of everything, I had been chuffed to be selected for Wales and the Lions was brilliant."
 

JJ Williams scored this great try on Bobby Windsor's second Lions Tour in 1977

THE VIET GWENT

With his impressive mix of technical skill, power and courage, Windsor was a key part of The British & Irish Lions squad that went on to beat the Springboks 3-0 in the four Test series.

Windsor started all four Tests on that Tour, and as he recalled last year, he used an unusual technique in the scrum, hooking with his head rather than his foot!

Three years later and it was a similar story as Windsor was selected for the Lions Tour of New Zealand but this time he had Pontypool teammates Charlie Faulkner and Graham Price alongside him, that legendary Pooler front row fondly known as the 'Viet Gwent'.

Terry Cobner also went on that Tour, with the quartet of Pontypool players the largest representation of any club on that Tour.

Windsor’s only Lions try came in 1977 against New Zealand Juniors as he played 14 games on the Tour including the first Test in Wellington.
 
BACK TO NEW ZEALAND 40 YEARS ON

Fast forward 40 years and another set of Lions hopefuls are waiting for the chance to head down to New Zealand under the guidance of head coach Warren Gatland.

The 53-year-old will name is squad on April 19 but not before Windsor highlighted a few forwards that he hopes will be on the plane to the Land of the Long White Cloud.

And interestingly his pick for captain is not a Welshman, but instead a hooker in his own mould.

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“If you look at all the players, there are good players and I am sure there will be some boys disappointed to be left out, you can’t take them all,” Windsor added.

“I think from a Welsh point of view, Justin Tipuric was Man of the Match twice in the RBS 6 Nations so I hope he will go.

“Alun Wyn Jones has been fantastic for Wales, one of the best Wales have ever had, a really great player but personally I would have Rory Best as my pick as captain because he’s had a good season.”
 

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