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  1. #1
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    Best ever Lions -Full back





    Lions 100: Who was the greatest full-back?

    Who, among the legends that have worn the famous red jersey, is the greatest full-back to have played for the British and Irish Lions?



    By Brendan Gallagher
    Last Updated: 8:52AM GMT 19 Nov 2008
    Comments 13 | Comment on this article

    First 15s: Full-backs JPR Williams (left) and Gavin Hastings Photo: COLORSPORT / GETTY IMAGES


    They say you have to be slightly mad to play at full-back and a quick scroll down the Lions roll of honour and our shortlist will do little to dispel that theory.
    And if the contenders for the full-back spot in our best-ever Lions XV were not completely crazy, there were invariably signs of eccentricity and bravery to the point of insanity. Yet they could also show an uncanny calmness under pressure.
    It has always been one of the great sporting mysteries how some of the great goal-kicking full-backs – Scotland’s Gavin Hastings particularly comes to mind – could disentangle themselves from the physical fray and adrenaline rush of combat to compose themselves, reduce their heartbeat from 140 to 50 and kick their priceless goals.
    Test full-backs are definitely a breed apart and they often set the tone of the team itself. The superb innovative counter-attacking of Ken Scotland established right at the outset of the 1959 tour to New Zealand that the Lions were setting their stall out as a running, handling team. Graham Henry, the current All Blacks coach, paused earlier this week in Limerick to play particular credit to the 1959 Lions for “showing us in New Zealand how rugby could be a running, handling game”.
    Lewis Jones – a centre really – was another who revelled in the open spaces and was a sensation in 1950 when flown out to Australia and New Zealand as a replacement. Andy Irvine as well – there were few finer sights than the jinking, darting Irvine setting up yet another counter-attack for the Lions. And what a superb goal-kicker, the most prolific of all in Lions terms. A considerable all-round talent.
    At the other end of the spectrum, the selection of Neil Jenkins – the world’s most consistent goal-kicker during his era – out of position at full-back in 1997 sent out its own message to the Springboks. If you infringe we are going to punish you. You can attribute the Lions success in 1997 to many factors but the cold eye of history gives most credit to Jenkins and his record 41 points in the series.
    JPR Williams was the ultimate defensive rock, breathing defiance and confidence at all times, but remember he arrived in New Zealand in 1971 just two years after a singularly unsuccessful short tour against the All Blacks with Wales. His self-confidence was inbred - nothing could dent it.
    Unlike many full-backs of his era, JPR was not a frontline goal-kicker and I always felt that sharpened the rest of his game. He didn’t have a mass of points or match-winning kicks under his belt to measure his performance by. His sole opportunity of contributing was in run of play and he had to make every hit, every catch and every run count. Did he ever!
    Jack Bassett and Tom Kiernan came into the mould as well, men who met fire with fire when the going was tough. The Lions have been well-served by their full-backs and will need another top-notch player if they are to flourish in South Africa next summer.
    --
    The Lions greats
    ANDY IRVINE (Scotland): Tours: 1974, 1977, 1980. Tests: 9. Total matches: 42, Pts 274. Former Scotland captain Irvine is the all-time leading Lions points scorer and a veteran of three full tours. Played wing in two Tests in South Africa in 1974 but was the starting full-back in 1977 and 1980. Best suited to the hard, fast grounds of South Africa where his pace was often devastating.
    JPR WILLIAMS (Wales): Tours: 1971, 1974. Tests: 8. Total matches: 30, Pts 28. A key member of two of the greatest ever Lions sides - the 1971 team in New Zealand and the giants that toured South Africa three years later. Rugged, never-say-die competitor in attack and defence although no pretensions as a goal-kicker. Did, however land a 45-yard dropped goal to draw the fourth Test in 1971 and clinch the series.
    GAVIN HASTINGS (Scotland): Tours: 1989, 1993. Tests: 6. Total matches: 16, Pts 167. Another former Scotland captain, Hastings was a towering figure in defence in 1989 and the most popular of captains in 1993. A superb tourist and world-class goal-kicker.
    TOM KIERNAN (Ireland): Tours: 1962, 1966. Tests: 4. Total matches: 23, Pts 96. Former Ireland captain who performed notably well during two difficult Tours. Possessed a kick like a Cork mule and a tough man in defence. Nephew Michael toured with the 1983 Lions.
    NEIL JENKINS (Wales): Tours: 1997, 2001. Tests: 4. Total matches: 12, Pts 142. Rugby recognises him as the second most prolific fly-half in history but the Lions will always remember Jenks for his massive contribution at full-back in 1997, when he scored a record 41 points in the series. The Boks scored most of the tries but Jenkins ensured the Lions took the series.
    KEN SCOTLAND (Scotland): Tours: 1959. Tests: 5. Total matches: 21, Pts 62. Yet another Scottish full-back of the highest quality. Scotland redefined the attacking role of the modern day full-back and gave the talented and unlucky '59 Lions pace out wide and a reliable last line of defence. A spectacular match-winning effort against Bay of Plenty is still spoken about with awe.
    LEWIS JONES (Wales): Tour: 1950. Tests: 3. Total matches: 11, Pts 92. The wonder boy of Welsh rugby who shone gloriously before being lost to rugby league. Jones became the first ever Lion to arrive on tour by aeroplane when flown out as a replacement in 1950, and he soared magnificently for most of that Tour.
    JACK BASSETT (Wales): Tour: 1930. Tests: 5. Matches 15. Pts 5. The JPR of his day, the Penarth and Wales full-back was a fearsome tackler who terrified opposition backs. At his best against Australia and New Zealand in 1930 when he was generally considered to have shaded the hounours against legendary Kiwi full-back George Napia.

    Lions 100: Who was the greatest full-back?: Rugby Union - Telegraph

  2. #2
    Thailand Expat AntRobertson's Avatar
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    ^I don't think Hastings even deserves to be pictured alongside JPR IMHO. Good as he was we're talking two totally different classes of fullback.

    Actually my pick would be JPR. Or Ian Balshaw.

  3. #3
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    Yes my pick would also be JPR. He is easily ahead in the poll

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    Thailand Expat AntRobertson's Avatar
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    Yeah doesn't surprise me. Actually I was just watching some footage of the '71 Lions a couple of days ago. Can well imagine that the All Black supporters at the time would've been thinking: 'Oh fuck here we go again' everytime the ball even went remotely close to JPR.

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    Thailand Expat Bobcock's Avatar
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    JPR, superb full back, saw him play a lot of times, brave as fuck, mad as a hatter, surgeon and Junior Wimbledon champion.

    Totally different class to Hastings.

    Thoroughly unlikeable chap apparently.

  6. #6
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    ChiangMai noon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobcock
    JPR, superb full back, saw him play a lot of times, brave as fuck, mad as a hatter, surgeon and Junior Wimbledon champion.
    operated on my knee twice actually.

    right surly arrogant bastard.

  7. #7
    Thailand Expat AntRobertson's Avatar
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    I've heard rumours that, as good a rugby player as he was, when it came to being a surgeon he was a bit of an Ian Balshaw of the medical world.

    Apparently his reputation as the former saved his bacon as the latter on more than one occasion.

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    Thailand Expat Bobcock's Avatar
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    Not sure I'd agree with that, a close family friend trained under him as a surgeon and said he was brilliant, but a total shit as a person.

    Lets move onto the best lions winger....T.G.R. himself.

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    Thailand Expat AntRobertson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobcock View Post
    ....T.G.R. himself.
    The Great Redeemer, Graham Henry!?

    But he wasn't a winger!

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    Consultant Orthopaedic surgeon at St Mary Padington
    I thought he was a top bloke

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    punk douche bag
    ChiangMai noon's Avatar
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    ^
    maybe it was just his patients he didn't like.

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    Thailand Expat Bobcock's Avatar
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    Yep, St Mary's was where this guy trained under him.

    Certainly don't think there was much doubt about his ability, I'm told a lot of his problems stem from the fact that he can't accept others are not as talented as him.

  13. #13
    Thailand Expat AntRobertson's Avatar
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    Sounds like I'm thinking of someone else then. Is there another Welsh ex-international who became a surgeon/GP? Seem to recall something about a fondness for the drink too.

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    Andy Irving would kick GPR's arse as an attacking player.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AntRobertson
    Seem to recall something about a fondness for the drink too.
    Capital fellow

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    Thailand Expat Bobcock's Avatar
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    Who is GPR?

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    ^JPR...not GPR. (GPR is a fine pizza restaurant in Auckland... you welsh twit.

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    Thailand Expat Bobcock's Avatar
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    It wasn't me that typed it....pot, kettle, black...

    now....who is Andy Irving?

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    ^Andy Irvine you silly bugger.Jesus,some people are slow.......

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    Quote Originally Posted by Little Chuchok
    Andy Irving
    Never heard of him. Is he one of those 'League' players?

  21. #21
    Thailand Expat Bobcock's Avatar
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    Apparently he was a better full back going forward than JPR.

    Lets start a thread for the best full back going forward.

    Damn it's not Irvine, it's Blanco.... or Cullen....

    The best Lions full back going forward..... Balshaw?....dunno.

    But I do know that Irvine was not a good enough full back to be a full back in the greatest Lions team, in fact he played on the wing for Scotland on several occassions.

  22. #22
    Thailand Expat nedwalk's Avatar
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    i used to like mal micheal but he,s a prick now

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobcock View Post
    Apparently he was a better full back going forward than JPR.

    Lets start a thread for the best full back going forward.

    Damn it's not Irvine, it's Blanco.... or Cullen....

    The best Lions full back going forward..... Balshaw?....dunno.

    But I do know that Irvine was not a good enough full back to be a full back in the greatest Lions team, in fact he played on the wing for Scotland on several occassions.
    There is no doubting JPR's guts etc, but on attack, Irvine was the bees knees.Remember him well in 1977 when I was just a wee lad.Not a bad kicker either.Probably one of not too many fullbacks (in those days)that actually had the pace to be able to play on the wing as well.

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