Becoming a Lion: Bobby Windsor

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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.

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

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.

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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.

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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 Try 1977

THE INVINCIBLES

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!

The 1974 Tour went down in Lions history as one of the greatest ever, with the team going unbeaten, winning 21 out of 22 matches before drawing the final Test.

Windsor, sometimes known as The Duke or The Iron Duke, played an integral role in standing up to the formidable South African pack, with the Lions forwards more than holding their own to allow their dynamite backline to thrive on the hard grounds of South Africa.

THE VIET GWENT

Three years later and Windsor was once again 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’.

“We had quite a bad reputation in Welsh circles in those days for the style of play,” said Price.

“When Ray Prosser came back from the ’59 Lions Tour, he was so impressed with the way New Zealand were playing the game that when he took over as coach he brought in their methods.

Life of a Lion: Graham Price

“It was rather unique in Wales at the time and it didn’t go down all that well with a lot of the other clubs because it involved a bit of… brutality, I suppose is the word that could be used.

“We were quite robust in the way we put our point across on the field.

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.

It was not quite as successful a Tour for the Lions, who lost the Test series 3-1, but Windsor cemented his place in Lions history over the two Tours.

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