The Greatest Irish Lions XV Of The Professional Era
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Ireland throughout the professional era have always had a considerable presence on the British & Irish Lions tours.
Both Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell have been named as tour captains, (2005 & 2009 respectively) while a host of other Irish players have started and played a huge part in some of the biggest test games against the southern hemisphere heavyweights.
While there have been many great Irish player’s who have represented Ireland throughout the professional era, we’ve decided to have a go at naming the very best, with out Irish Lions XV. Do you agree with our selection?
1. Cian Healy
His tour was cut short in 2009 because of injury, but leads the way regardless. Jack McGrath will surely take this spot in 2017.
2. Keith Wood
Played an integral role in the series win over the Springboks in 1997. Toured again in 2001, the same year he was named IRB world player of the year.
3. Paul Wallace
Wallace was selected to tour South Africa with the 1997 British and Irish Lions. He became one of only five members of the tour who played the full duration of all three tests. Paul was a very influential player in the winning of the series, facing Os du Randt in the scrum and was subsequently described by captain, Martin Johnson, as: “My player of the series” with tour manager Fran Cotton regarding him as the cornerstone of the Lions scrum.
4. Donncha O’Callaghan
Captained the Lions against the Southern Kings on the 16 June 2009 in their final tour match before the first Test against South Africa.
5. Paul O’Connell
(2005, 2009, 2013)
The towering lock started all three tests in 2005 and was captain in 2009, once again starting all three tests. Started the first test in 2013 before injury cut his tour short.
6. Stephen Ferris
Toured in 2009 and scored his first Lions try on 3 June, against the Golden Lions but was forced to withdraw from the squad on Tuesday 9 June after he tore the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during a training session.
7. David Wallace
One of the greatest sevens to have ever graced the game, toured twice with the Lions – to Australia in 2001 and South Africa in 2009 where he played in the three Test games.
8. Jamie Heaslip
Heaslip was a member of the British and Irish Lions squad for the 2009 tour to South Africa and the 2013 tour to Australia. He started all three tests on the 2009 tour. He also was nominated for the IRB International Player of the Year in 2009.
9. Conor Murray
Played second fiddle to Mike Phillips but shone in the third test against Australia. The clear favourite for the nine jersey in 2017.
10. Johnny Sexton
Started all three games in 2013 as they Lions picked up a series win over Australia. Gets the nod over O’Gara as he never performed to the best of his ability in a Lions jersey.
11. Keith Earls
A surprise pick in 2009, Earls shone throughout the midweek games and came very close to a test spot. Edges out Shane Horgan and Simon Zebo.
12. Rob Henderson
Went into the 2001 tour as one of the best centre’s in the world, starting all three tests
13. Brian O’Driscoll
(2001, 2005, 2009, 2013)
The only player in history to go on four tours. Famously dropped by Gatland in 2013, O’Driscoll will still go down in history as one of, if not the greatest Lions player(s) in history.
14. Tommy Bowe
Started all three tests in 2009, going on to be one of the player’s of the tournament. A broken hand limited him to two test games in 2013.
15. Rob Kearney
At the peak of his powers in 2009, he was a revelation in South Africa. Kept out by Leigh Halfpenny and Stuart Hogg in 2013.