Injuries on Lions Tours

Tomas O’Leary’s misfortune started us thinking here at The Rugby Blog about the importance of injuries in the fortunes of the British and Irish Lions.

Tomas O'Leary

Every man and his dog has selected their ideal Test XV, and it has been alluded to by some that the likelihood of anyone predicting the exact lineup is so slim, simply because it is almost inevitable that some players will miss out through injury.

The 2009 squad has already been affected by O’Leary’s leg problem, and arguably by the injuries to Gavin Henson and Jonny Wilkinson, both of whom could well have featured. So which players could we not live without?

In 2005, Lawrence Dallaglio saw just 20 minutes of action before hobbling home with a knee injury, and Brian O’Driscoll was bundled out of the first Test within minutes and played no further part – two collossal figures in any team, and a severe blow to any slim hopes Woodward’s Lions had of winning the series. It also didn’t help that Richard Hill and Tom Shanklin also played no further part after that first Test.

In 2001, Rob Howley, Dan Luger, Mike Catt, Simon Taylor and Lawrence Dallaglio featured on the injury list, and whilst the result was closer, there was another series defeat for the Lions.

In 1997, injuries were less of an issue, although tears were in the eyes of everyone watching as Doddy Weir was sent home after an horrific kick in the knee. We shouldn’t forget that Will Greenwood nearly died, but generally, injuries played a smaller part and the Lions were victorious.

Stu Peel can probably fill us on in every other injury from 1888 onwards, but it’s clear to me that injuries could make or break the tour.

Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll stand out for me as the two we’d least like to wave off on the plane midway through the tour, but who else can we not win without?

Let us know what you think.

8 thoughts on “Injuries on Lions Tours

  1. David Wallace cannot get injured. He’s hands down our best back rower. Jenkins and Byrne would be massive losses but everyone else (bar O’Conn/BOD) are replaceable.

  2. The 1980 Lions Tour to South Africa was carnage on the injury front. See quote below from Wikipedia

    “The tour party was disrupted by an unusually high number of injuries and replacements throughout the 10-week long tour. Eight players flew to South Africa to reinforce the original 30 tourists; Gareth Williams, Tony Ward, Ian Stephens, John Robbie, Phil Orr, Andy Irvine, Paul Dodge and Steve Smith.

    Smith joined the tour as cover prior to the final test and did not appear in any games. Irvine was in the original 30 selected tourists but withdrew due to injury prior to leaving the UK. He was replaced by Elgan Rees but joined the tour later when Slemen withdrew.

    Nine players left the tour, including Mike Slemen who went home due to family illness. The eight players who were ruled out by injury were Rodney O’Donnell (neck), David Richards (shoulder), Gareth Davies (shoulder and knee), Terry Holmes (shoulder and knee), Stuart Lane (knee), Phil Blakeway (rib) and Fran Cotton (suspected heart trouble). Lane’s injury occurred after 55 seconds of the opening game and gave him the shortest career of any Lions tourist. He never played international rugby again. O’Donnell’s neck injury ended his rugby career completely.”

  3. Simon Taylor of Scotland has to be one of the unluckiest Lions. In 2001 he scored a try in the opening match and was injured and went home. In 2005 he did a hamstring and didn’t even play.

    Robert Howley injured his shoulder in 1997 and didn’t get to play in the tests. In Aus in 2001 he did manage two tests but was again injured and missed the third.

    It’s an ill wind however Matt Dawson was instrumental in the win in 1997, Ryan Jones grew in stature when he arrived as a late replacement in 2005.

    I was discussing “who would be the player to have an influence on the tour but isn’t yet in the squad?” over a curry last night when I had a text to tell me about poor Tomas O’Leary. Who will replace him I wonder?

    There’s no one (not even the sainted BOD) who can be sure either of his place or of surviving the trip. (The skipper excluded from the selection issue of course.) That’s one of the things that makes the tour so exciting and makes great history.

  4. The one that sticks out to me is when Richard Hill got taken out by an outrageous cheap shot in the 2nd test in 2001. I’m pretty sure that it was Nathan Grey. Given how influential he was at the time (not sure he was quite the same player in 2005) I’d say this was a pretty pivotal moment in a pivotal test.

    This time around BOD and O’Connell are obvious. I’d say Stephen Jones as well to be honest. The way O’Gara got smashed around in the final 6N game is nothing compared to the treatment he would get from SA. And with a woeful lack of reserves at 10 at the moment it would take an incredible performance from someone to step in at short notice.

  5. Up to the point that Richard Hill was taken out the Lions were in total control in that second test but never regained the impetus afterwards . I think it was Grey and he wasn’t even cited it being deemed “accidental ” !

    Hill looked a very good player to those who watched him ,those who played against him however knew that he was superb by all accounts which says it all really.

  6. Can anyone help me to ascertain how to get a transport/lift from The Birchwood Hotel in Johannesburg to Pretoria for the second test as apparently there is no vacancy on the Thomas Cook arranged transport

  7. Let’s not forget the Springboks are facing their own injury problems – particularly at flyhalf and fullback. I guess it’s less of a problem for the host country because the logistics of replacing players isn’t as complicated. But still, any team has one or two key players who make such a big contribution that they’re virtually irreplaceable.

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