4. Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland) – 2005
By no fault of his own.
O’Driscoll appeared in all three British and Irish Lions Tests on the team’s 2001 tour of Australia where he announced himself as a world star with an outstanding individual try in the 1st Test victory at the Gabba in Brisbane.
Four years later, the centre was named captain of the team for their 2005 tour of New Zealand. O’Driscoll’s playing contribution to the 2005 Lions ended in the opening minutes of the first Test against the All Blacks in Christchurch on 25 June 2005, when he was carried off the field on a stretcher with a shoulder injury just after being spear tackled in tandem by All Blacks skipper Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu after the ball had been cleared out of a ruck. The incident is better known now as ‘Speargate’.
Although not Irishman’s fault, to lose a superstar so early was gutting for supporters. He’d go onto make up for it, representing and starring for the tourists in another two tours.