Rugby

5 Of The Most Random Lions Tourists In Recent Memory

5 Of The Most Random Lions Tourists In Recent Memory

Warren Gatland has taken a lot of criticism for his decision to call up six players for Tuesday's games against the Chiefs. It's not the calling up of players that rugby folk have found objectionable, but the criteria used: four Welsh and two Scottish players have been called up to pad out the numbers for the midweek game ahead of the Test mainly because they didn't have far to travel.

So among the lengthy list of players to have been given the great honour of selection for the British and Irish Lions will forever be Finn Russell, Allan Dell, Kristian Dacey, Tomas Francis, Cory Hill and Gareth Davies.

But these are not the only surprising Lions tourists in the past. Here are five from the past:

Surprising Lions Tourists

Ollie Smith (2005)

surprising lions tourists

So disastrous was the last trip to New Zealand, the entire future of the Lions was called into question. Clive Woodward's enormous squad and staff proved to be a farce, with the inclusion of Alistair Campbell for PR reasons one of the lowest moments in Lions history. Such was the size of the squad - 44 players were included by Woodward - there were a few surprise inclusions. One of the most random lads ever called up to a Lions tour was Ollie Smith, who toured with Woodward's squad.

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Smith was a centre, and made five appearances for England before a knee injury forced his retirement in 2010. At the time of the Lions call-up, Smith had made just one start for England, so his call-up was startling. Smith played once on the tour, in a midweek game against Manawatu Turbos, in which he scored one of the Lions 17 tries in a facile win.

Andy Titterrell (2005)

surprising lions tourists

Titterrel another surprise inclusion on the ill-fated trip to New Zealand under Woodward. The hooker was selected by Woodward despite making just two appearances for England, both off the bench, against New Zealand and Canada.

Like Smith, he got the chance to shoot some Manawatu fish in a barrel.

Riki Flutey (2009)

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surprising lions tourists

Flutey will forever own a bit of rugby history: he was the first man to play for and against the Lions. (Elliot Daly has since become the second to do so, on this tour). Flutey played against the Lions with the New Zealand Maori in 2005, and in the years before the next Lions tour, he joined London Irish and declared for England under the residency rule ahead of the 2008/09 season. A fine Six Nations campaign for England followed, in which he ended as the tournament's joint-highest try scorer.

Ian McGeechan included him in the 2009 touring squad to South Africa, and made one appearance, in the third and final test. Flutey deserved his selection, but is included here for that odd quirk of fate.

Shane Williams (2013) 

surprising lions tourists

Williams certainly deserved his place on earlier tours, but his involvement four years ago was bizarre. With Gatland's back line decimated by injury ahead of the first test (Jamie Roberts, Tommy Bowe, George North and Manu Tuilagi were all out), Gatland called in a raft of players, including Christian Wade, Brad Barritt...and Williams. By this stage, Williams was 36 and was playing club rugby in Japan, but was in Brisbane to work as a commentator with TalkSPORT. With a dearth of bodies available for a midweek game with the Brumbies, Gatland decided to hand a late call-up to Williams, citing his proximity to the camp.

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It didn't work: Williams played in what proved to be the Lions first defeat on the tour, as they went down 14-12.

Tom Court (2013) 

surprising lions tourists

The Ulster prop had long since dropped down the pecking order at international level with Ireland by the time of his Lions call-up on the most recent tour. He had endured an utter nightmare at Twickenham, as Ireland's scrum was demolished with Court forced to play at tighthead in the absence of the injured Mike Ross. Fortune shone on Court with the Lions, however: he was holidaying in Australia, the country of his birth, when Gatland drafted him in at the last minute as cover for the injured Alex Corbisiero.

Court ultimately came off the bench to play 25 minutes against the Melbourne Rebels. Court became the 806th player to play for the Lions, and, glowing with pride afterward, said "I think 806 might be my new favourite number".

See Also: Reports: Warren Gatland Set To Make Surprise Omissions From Lions Squad

 

Gavin Cooney
Article written by
Changed the spelling of his name upon pressure from Michael Owen.

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