May 24, 2009 / 2:05 AM / 10 years ago

FACTBOX-Rugby-The evolution of the British and Irish Lions

 May 24 (Reuters) - The evolution of the British and Irish
Lions since the first tour in 1888.
 
 BIRTH OF A SPORTING LEGACY
 * Though the Lions first journeyed abroad in 1888 and did so
another six times until 1910, the last tour before the First
World War was the first official one as it represented all four
Home Unions (England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales).
 * The captain for the trip to Australia and New Zealand in
1888, Bob Seddon, was tragically killed in a sculling accident,
and almost a third of the games were played as Australian Rules
football matches in order to attract bigger crowds.
 * On the 1891 tour, the first undertaken by the Rugby
Football Union (RFU), Griqualand West were presented with the
Currie Cup, which to this day is the biggest domestic prize in
South African rugby.
 
 KIT CHANGES
 * From 1888 to 1938 the shirt varied from red with white and
blue hoops, to a red and white top in 1908 when the Scottish and
Irish unions declined to send any players, and finally to a dark
blue jersey, which clashed with New Zealand's black kit in 1930
and forced the hosts to wear all white.
 * When the Lions returned in 1950, however, they adopted the
distinctive kit of red jersey, white shorts and green and blue
shorts, incorporating the colours of all four home nations, to
avoid a repeat of 1930.
 FIXTURES
 * The 1888 tour consisted of 53 matches. The tourists had
only 20 players, reduced to 19 after Seddon's death.
 * Three years later in South Africa test matches were first
played, part of 20 fixtures this time around.
 * Not until 1989 were the number of matches reduced further.
The Lions played 12 games on that tour, 13 on their last visit
to South Africa in 1997, and will play 10 in 2009.
 
 WHAT'S IN A NAME?
 * The team set off for South Africa in 1924 as the British
Isles Rugby Union Team but returned as the Lions, a name coined
because of the lion emblem on their ties.
 * From 1950 to 2001 the team was officially known as the
British Isles, usually referred to as the British Lions, though
they are now known as the British and Irish Lions.
 
 GLORY YEARS
 * The Lions finally broke their duck in New Zealand in 1971.
A large and very talented Welsh contingent helped the tourists
to a series victory, their first in six tours since 1904. It was
the last combined tour of Australia and NZ.
 * In South Africa (1974) the visitors won all but one of 22
matches, drawing the fourth test 13-13.
 * Coach Ian McGeechan masterminded the Lions 1997 victory
over 1995 world champions South Africa.
 
 MCGEECHAN'S LIONS
 * Having travelled as a player in 1974 and 1977 and now set
to coach for a fourth time, it is little wonder McGeechan is
nicknamed Mr Lions.
 * He took the team to Australia in 1989, winning the series
2-1, was in charge of the last tour of the amateur age in 1993,
and in 1997 made it three in a row when the Lions triumphed 2-1.
 * After stepping down for 2001, when New Zealander Graham
Henry became the first coach from outside the British Isles, and
coaching the midweek team in 2005 under Clive Woodward,
McGeechan is back for another tilt at the world champions.
 
 Sourced from www.lionsrugby.com
 - - - -
 (Writing by Tom Pilcher, Editing by Mitch Phillips; to query
or comment on this story email
sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com))




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