Lions Legend: Ian ‘Mighty Mouse’ McLauchlan

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British & Irish Lions Squad 1971

Ian ‘Mighty Mouse’ McLauchlan was the cornerstone of The British & Irish Lions packs when they enjoyed their most successful period in the 1970s.

The Scottish prop played 30 times for the Lions in 1971 and 1974, including all eight Tests on the victorious Tours of New Zealand and South Africa.

He became revered throughout the rugby playing world for his powerful scrummaging – and can lay claim to scoring one of the most famous Lions Test tries of all time.

McLauchlan was the only tryscorer in a 9-3 first-Test win over the All Blacks that set the Lions on their way to their only series victory over the Kiwis to date.

Names such as Gareth Edwards, Barry John, JPR Williams and Willie-John McBride may be the ones that roll off the tongue when looking back at the early tours of the ’70s, but McLauchlan’s presence carried equal importance.

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Having been considered far too small to be worth worrying about by the New Zealand public and media in ’71, the Jordanhill loosehead ensured both the All Blacks and the Boks had a far different opinion by the time McLauchlan ended his Lions career.

McLaughlan began the 1971 Tour as third-choice but stepped into the Test fold when Ray McLoughlin and Sandy Carmichael received injuries in the provincial encounter against Canterbury.

The 1971 Lions team

The then 29-year-old performed admirably, maintaining his place in the first XV for the next three Tests in New Zealand and then all four internationals when the Lions created history once more in South Africa three years later.

McLauchlan went on to play international rugby for a further five years after his return from South Africa in ’74. His outstanding technique in the tight ensured the first Ayr College and Jordanhill College product to wear Scotland colours did so until he was 38-years-old, ending a decade of international representation with 43 caps to his name.

Ian McLauchlan factfile

Date of birth: April 14, 1942
Clubs: Jordanhill
International caps: Scotland 43
Height: 5ft 9in (1.76m)
Weight: 14 stone 6lbs (92kg)

McLauchlan’s Lions lowdown

Lions debut: Versus Queensland, May 12, 1971
Lions Tests: 8 (all four Tests in NZ in 1971 and in SA in 1974)
Lions non-Test appearances: 22
Total Lions appearances: 30
Lions points: 5* (1 try) *under the current scoring system
Final Lions appearance: Versus South Africa, Johannesburg, July 27, 1974

On Lions selection

“It is the best accolade you can get in rugby – everything else pales into insignificance. Being picked to play for the Lions, and then making the Test side is the pinnacle of your career.

“Back in 1971, a journalist told me before the team came out that I was actually going. I don’t think my wife realised the length of the tour but at that point it was too late anyway, I was on my way.”

On paying his way

“I left in ’71 and I didn’t know whether I would get paid or not. I told one of my mates to sell my car, and I went to see the bank manager to make sure my wife would be ok if she needed anything. I told him I’d pay them back when I got home. They were all very good to her. I didn’t send my daily allowance back because the stamps cost more than the allowance!”

On achieving a landmark in ’71

“During the 1971 tour to Australia and New Zealand I was sharing a room with Gareth Edwards – I was in awe of him. I think he’s the best rugby player I’ve ever played against and the best I’ve ever seen.

“To be in the same room as him, talking to him almost as an equal, was beyond my wildest dreams.

“During the Tour the fact that we beat all the provinces quite easily gave us a real belief for the first Test. That first Test was probably the most intense game I have ever played in, but at the same time we won it which set the seal on the tour. If we’d lost that game, New Zealand would have grown in stature.

Gareth Edwards

“The dressing room afterwards was measured and tempered. There was a feeling of relief that we’d won the first Test. The boys were happy and content with the result, but we knew that it was only the start – that New Zealand would come again very hard in the second Test. And of course, the second Test was in Canterbury where they had never lost a Test match before.

“We actually played better in the second Test but lost. We won the third Test very convincingly, but in the final game of the series in Auckland, we played a bit below par.

“The All Blacks, not surprisingly, raised their game, hoping to square the series 2-2. I think a lot of our boys were ready to go home. We played really well, but New Zealand are very proud rugby nation and they always want to beat you.

“It came out a draw in the end thanks to JPR’s amazing 50-yard drop goal. It was a great result for us because it gave us the series, and I think it was a fair result as well. If it had ended 2-2 I don’t think it would have done justice to the Lions.”

On the toughest of tours

“New Zealand is definitely the most intense country to tour – it is unrelenting.  Everybody loves you off the field and everybody hates you on it. They are massively competitive on the field. They want to win every game, and they think they can. The pressure is unrelenting – it’s always rugby, rugby, rugby, which is quite difficult to deal with.

“The fact that we won all of the provincial games went down well with some of the New Zealand public and they certainly liked the style of rugby we played.

“There were some dark moments, though, like the game in Canterbury. It was a bad game. Rugby is like boxing. You don’t need to go out and fight dirty, but if somebody is going to punch you, then you’ve got to lay into them. If you don’t, they will keep punching you. If you hit back, they won’t. It’s like bullies all over the world.

“They knew if they punched me I would punch them back with no hesitation, so they didn’t do it.  The Test matches were as clean as any game you played in – hard but clean, and hard because they knew that if they started it, we’d finish it.”

On formidable opponents and friends

“It was the end of an era for a couple of great New Zealand players on that 1971 Tour: Brian Lochore and Colin Meads.  I went out there a couple of years later and played with Ian Kirkpatrick and Sid Going, who are phenomenal guys.

“I never thought anybody could approach Gareth Edwards, but when I played with Sid Going I thought this is a player!  Props used to run at him and he used to turn them upside down. He was a huge guy.

“Kirkpatrick was always a gentleman – a very good athlete and player. And I always consider ‘Pinetree’ (Colin Meads) as my friend. He was as fearsome to play against on the field as his reputation suggested – very uncompromising.”

On ‘that’ try in the first Test

“It was a charge down basically. I saw the ball going back. John Bevan made the break and came inside. I thought he’d dropped the ball forward but New Zealand had picked it up and played it. Alan Sutherland was standing inside his 22 and somehow he took about a fortnight to wind his leg back to kick the ball and, by that time, I’d charged down his kick. The ball just bounced nicely and I popped it down for my first international try.

“As I walked back I thought it was a knock-on, so I wasn’t that euphoric. But afterwards was a phenomenal feeling. The try has to be a highlight looking back, but I don’t remember that much about it to be honest.”

On yet more history in ’74

“Returning after the 1971 Tour I sneaked a look at the 1974 trip and thought I’d like to go to South Africa. I probably played the best rugby of my life between 1971 and 1975 so I was quietly confident I’d go in 1974.

“I don’t think overall 1974 was a better team, but the forward unit was better. A lot of the guys had been in New Zealand and knew what to expect – they knew what was expected of them in Test-match rugby.

“Provincial games were not as difficult in South Africa compared to New Zealand. There were also fewer of them, so when we reached Test-match time we were ready and we were always sharp.

“There was a lot of talent around at that time. I thought my old Scottish team mate Jim Renwick was a shoe-in for the tour. I thought he would have been one of the best players that we had on the tour, but unfortunately you can’t take everyone.

“But then again there were some major success stories. You had Roger Uttley, who came in and played blindside; Fergus Slattery probably played the best rugby of his life, and then there was Mervyn Davies between them at No 8.  When you’ve got a back-row like that, it’s very creative. Slattery was immensely fast, and Uttley was a very good rugby player so you had everything there.

“And then we had Gareth Edwards, Phil  Bennett, two highly creative centres in Dick Milliken and Ian McGeechan and obviously JJ Williams. He scored two tries in two Tests. He used to look in the mirror and call himself a superstar! He asked me to do the same, but I wouldn’t do it!

“I really, really enjoyed the tour to South Africa. We had a great bunch of boys.  It was much better being one of the senior players at that point. I was a confidante of the coach, Syd Millar, so that was better than being just a player. I enjoyed the responsibility.”

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