Greatest players never to wear the Lions jersey

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28 Jun 1997: Matt Dawson (centre) of the British Lions motivates his side during the second test match against South Africa at Kings Park in Durban, South Africa. The British Lions won 15-18 and secured the series win. Mandatory Credit: David Rogers /Allsport

There have been 835 British and Irish Lions dating all the way back to 1888. Jack Anderton of Salford was the first and Racing 92’s Finn Russell is the latest, but we’re going to look at the players who didn’t make the cut. Robert Rees looks through the history books and brings you the greatest players never to wear the Lions jersey.

Dai Morris

When asked who the greatest player to miss out on Lions selection, the answer is often ”Ah, the Dai Morris question.” That tells you all you need to know about this man’s impeccable CV on the rugby field that astonishingly never saw him become part of the illustrious club.

Capped for Wales between 1966-74 he was a stalwart across the back row and even contributed with six tries. A tough as they come, straight from the pits player who represented Neath amongst others. In 2002 he was voted as Wales’ blindside in an all-time XV.

A ferocious competitor who should have been in either the 68′ tour to South Africa or 1971 tour of New Zealand.

Kevin Morgan

The prolific try scorer throughout his career with Swansea, Pontypridd and the Dragons could play on both the wing and at full back. Scoring 12 tries in nearly 50 appearances for Wales left in in good form throughout the late nineties and early noughties.

With the Australia tour in 2001 and New Zealand in 2005 coming during his impressive tenure it’s quite a feat that he was kept out of the Lions squad.

Phil De Glanville

An international career that spanned almost a decade and notching up 50 tries for Bath would surely be enough to push the Lions. Playing at centre he was capped 38 times by his country and posed a deadly threat with ball in hand.

Standing at under six feet tall and weighing less than 14 stone is small by today’s margins, but De Glanville’s threat in midfield was to be admired with a hard knock running style. Both the 93′ tour to New Zealand and the 97′ South Africa series would have been a fitting tribute to one of the best finishers English rugby has ever seen.

Jeff Probyn

Despite making his England debut at the ripe old age of 31 Probyn was an exceptional scrummager. Powerful with his technique and fearless in his mind. The prop forward was one of the finest the game has ever seen.

His international career may have only lasted five years but his exclusion from the 1993 tour to New Zealand was mind boggling for those who has watched him succeed in the Red Rose jersey.

Garin Jenkins

Listed as 12th in WalesOnline’s article of ‘Hardest men in Welsh rugby’ the once record appearance holder for a Welsh hooker made his name at Swansea. Playing in three World Cups was a doff of the cap to his longevity.

He’d always put a shift in and was superb at controlling the set piece. This perhaps makes it more surprising as to why he didn’t tour in either 1997 or 2001. With a hard knock reputation and a few bans to his name it may well have been down to discipline when it came to his omission.

Chris Paterson

One of the greatest fly halves to grace the modern game; but also an accomplished fullback. An international career that spanned 12 years and amassing nearly 2000 points in his professional career is some feat. His game management and kicking game were the bane of many an opponent.

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With the 2001, 2005 and 2009 tours all falling in his impressively consistent career it amazed many a rugby fan when his name was omitted from the Lions squad.

Gareth Llewellyn

A versatile forward who could comfortably play in either the second or back row. A career spanning three decades and having played in three World Cups is nothing to be disappointed about.

Carrying form over such a long time should have seen him tour in either 1993, 97′ or 2001. With over 300 club games and over 90 caps for Wales he’s undoubtedly one of the greatest never to wear the Lions jersey.

He has taken up coaching since finishing his playing career.

Paul Thorburn

Known for THAT kick. The Wales full back still holds the record for the longest kick in international rugby history measuring at just over 64m at the Cardiff Arms Park. As incredible as that moment was Thorburn wasn’t a one trick pony.

A member of the 1987 World Cup team to win bronze he should have been a shoo-in for the 1989 tour to Australia. With a dynamic running style and huge boot, he’d have been a threat against anyone.

Peter Stringer

The Irish scrum half amassed over 350 club games and nearly 100 caps for Ireland. A stalwart at Munster throughout the early years of the new millennium his quick-thinking ability allowed any side he played for to worry the opposition.

Part of the 2005 Celtic Cup winning side it was rather surprising that he didn’t travel to New Zealand that summer to face the All Blacks. It remains baffling how Clive Woodward chose not to take him when they had four scrum halves in the squad (Dwayne Peel, Chris Cusiter, Gareth Cooper and Matt Dawson).

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His sharp mindedness allowed him to up the tempo against the best and it would certainly have given Woodward’s side a boost had he picked him. Since retiring he has kept in shape and now does plenty of fitness-based work.

Jonathan Davies

The Welsh utility back has been a part of rugby for over 30 years following his punditry career post retirement. An evasive runner who could threaten with ball in hand as well as with his boot.

Playing in Union until 1989 where he made the switch to play for Rugby League side Widnes it could have been the switch in codes that cost him a real chance at Lions stardom. The ’83 tour of New Zealand would have been a good shout but missing out on ’89 in Australia due to his move slimmed his chances.

He returned to Union in the mid-nineties but was never in with a real shout of Lions duty.

Gary Armstrong

The Scottish scrum half who was at the heart of their 1990 Grand Slam. He has the unfortunate honour of being selected for a Lions squad (1989) but never actually played a minute.

In 2015 he featured as the greatest ever Scottish rugby player and it’s not hard to see why with a dynamic ability to move the ball around. Such a silky passer of the ball he could command the Scottish backs into attack like a Siren at the waves.

Serious knee injuries in 1992 and 1994 ultimately ensured that a second Lions call-up was beyond him.

Clive Burgess

A marauding flanker whose nickname – Steel Claw – bowed down to his legendary mauling ability. He didn’t take up rugby until after he left the Merchant Navy aged 20. Despite his late entry to the sport he made up for lost time by becoming a key member of the 1977 Triple Crown side before going on to win the 1981 Welsh player of the year award.

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Despite a relatively short international career, his 297 games at Ebbw Vale before he moved to Italy to play showed his promise. Epitomising everything you want from your flankers, it was a shame as well as a shock that he missed out on both the 1977 and the 1980 tours.

Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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