British and Irish Lions’ tours to forget

The British and Irish Lions have thrilled worldwide rugby audiences for more than a century, gaining many memorable victories on their travels.

But not all tours lived long in the memory bank for one reason or another.


Here, Press Association Sport rugby union correspondent Andrew Baldock recounts three trips to forget.

2005 (New Zealand)

Brian O'Driscoll suffered a tour-ending shoulder injury
Brian O’Driscoll suffered a tour-ending shoulder injury (David Davies/PA)

England’s World Cup-winning supremo Sir Clive Woodward was given the task of leading the Lions to New Zealand – traditionally their toughest destination – but it proved a miserable mission. Not only did the Lions lose all three Tests against a Dan Carter-inspired All Blacks – the aggregate score was 107-40 – but captain Brian O’Driscoll suffered a tour-ending shoulder injury after being spear-tackled during the opening minutes of the first Test in Christchurch. Woodward’s Lions were also beaten by the New Zealand Maori and there was precious little to enthuse about off the field either as a dark cloud of under-achievement rarely lifted.

1966 (Australia and New Zealand)

The Lions, led by Mike Campbell-Lamerton, lost all four Test matches to New Zealand
The Lions, led by Mike Campbell-Lamerton, lost all four Test matches to New Zealand (PA)

Captained by Scotland forward Mike Campbell-Lamerton, the Lions started a marathon 35-game trip by winning both Test matches against Australia. But the substantial New Zealand leg proved an altogether tougher proposition, with only a 60 per cent success rate from 25 matches, including defeats in all four Tests in Dunedin, Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland. There were also provincial losses to Southland, Otago, Wellington and Wanganui-King Country and when they stopped off on the way home for two games in Canada, the Lions came unstuck against British Colombia.

1924 (South Africa)

Skippered by Englishman Ronald Cove-Smith and under the management of former Wales international Harry Packer, the Lions lost three Tests and drew the other one. They also suffered six defeats away from the Test arena, prompting considerable questioning afterwards about selection and why players who might have made an impact were not chosen. Injuries, though, also proved a major factor as South Africa’s bone-dry pitches claimed a number of casualties and led to players having to cover gaps by featuring in unfamiliar positions.

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