All the men who have captained the famous rugby side in Test matches on tour
British & Irish Lions Captains – 1910-1888
1910 – John Raphael (Lion #164, England), Argentina
Two different tours took place in 1910 – with an unofficial one going to Argentina to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Revolucion de Mayo.
Their Belgium-born captain, John Raphael, was the heir to a banking dynasty and also played cricket for Surrey. Aided by his excellent kicking from full-back, the Lions would win all six matches, including Argentina’s first International.
He’d be the second British & Irish Lions captain to die in the First World War, succumbing to injuries sustained at the Battle of Messines.
1910 – Jack Jones (Lion #132, Wales), South Africa
First appearing for Pontypool at only 16, Jones was the first Welshman to earn the title ‘Prince of Centres’. Two of his brothers also played for Wales – only one other family, the Goulds, have ever contributed three brothers to the national side.
The last survivor from the 1908 squad, he was a natural choice to replace the injured Smyth for the first Test, at the time level with Frank Stout for most Lions appearances. His team would narrowly lose 14-10 in Kimberley.
1910 – Tommy Smyth (Lion #183, Ireland), South Africa
Because of World War One, this would be the final tour for 14 years. The squad had only 26 players, but they were credited with being the first side to play with a scrum-half and fly-half – teams previously playing with ‘left’ and ‘right’ half-backs.
A prop forward from Belfast, Smyth was picked as captain after scoring the winning try in that year’s Test against England. However, he’d be injured for the first Test and his side would lose the series 2-1.
1908 – Arthur Harding (Lion #111, Wales), New Zealand
‘Boxer’ Harding’s team was made up only of English and Welsh players – and the team played in red and white hoops to reflect that. In this sense, Harding was the perfect choice of captain to straddle the division of the border – a London Welsh player who was born in Lincolnshire but played for Wales. He was known for his pace, unusual for a flanker of that era.
The Lions would lose the series 2-0 with one draw – the first in a long run of defeats to New Zealand. He’d later emigrate to the country and become a stationmaster in the picturesque surrounds of Greymouth on the South Island.
1904 – Teddy Morgan (Lion #114, Wales), Australia and New Zealand
Bedell-Sivright broke his leg against Canterbury in the New Zealand leg of the tour, leaving the Lions without a captain. Teddy Morgan took over, becoming the first Welshman to lead the Lions. His countrymen were the stars of this back-line and the winger was one of the tour’s leading try-scorers.
Morgan was best known for his exploits against New Zealand in 1905, where he scored the winning try against the All Blacks and led the singing of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau in response to the haka – the first time an anthem had been sung at a sporting event.
However, he couldn’t inspire the Lions to victory, as they fell to a 9-3 defeat.
1904 – David Bedell-Sivright (Lion #86, Scotland), New Zealand and Australia
The 1904 British & Irish Lions captain was a remarkable character. A Scottish flanker known as one of rugby’s original enforcers, Bedell-Sivright played 22 times for Scotland and appeared in four Varsity Matches, but these are the least of his exploits.
A Scottish heavyweight boxing champion, as well as their rugby captain, the police were once called to reports that he had rugby tackled a carthorse outside Murrayfield.
He led the Lions to a 3-0 win over Australia but was best known for one of the more infamous moments in the team’s history, which took place against Northern Districts. After English forward Denys Dobson was accused of swearing at the referee, Bedell-Sivright removed his team from the field in protest, before sheepishly returning 20 minutes later to continue the game.
A surgeon by trade, he died in battle at Gallipoli in 1915.
1903 – Mark Morrison (Lion #93, Scotland), South Africa
The first Lions side to lose a series, playing a South Africa team who would go on to dominate world rugby for the next 50 years. In a tight battle, the Springboks would triumph 1-0, with two draws.
Morrison was a farmer from the Firth of Forth, a precocious talent who was first capped by Scotland as a teenager. Leading his country to three Home Nations victories, he was known as a brilliant leader. Described as a “real roughhouse of a man” by opposing South African flanker Jimmy Sinclair.
1899 – Frank Stout (Lion #77, England), Australia
The man who took over the captaincy from Rev Mullineux was Frank Stout, who possessed a name for a no-nonsense forward if there ever was one. He’d lead his team to a 3-1 comeback win in the Test series and would also be selected to tour South Africa in 1903.
Gloucester’s first-ever international, he came from sporting stock – his father was a champion rower and his brother also played rugby for England. This made the Stouts the only brothers to each score a try for England until Rory and Tony Underwood in 1993.
Like his predecessors, he was also a First World War hero, awarded a Military Cross for supporting a defensive machine gunner on his shoulders for two hours. Stout by name…
1899 – Matthew Mullineux (Lion #63, England), Australia
Australia would not be the sole host of a Lions tour again until 1989, and the scrum-half from Blackheath was chosen as not only captain but also tour manager.
A veteran of the 1896 tour, Mullineux was an ordained priest, who became such a cult figure in his only Test appearance that the acclaimed bush poet Banjo Paterson composed an ode to his playing prowess. This might have confused Mullineux somewhat, who had dropped himself from the Test team for a poor performance after a 13-3 defeat!
He’d go on to win the Military Cross in the First World War for his work as a chaplain-captain when trapped by enemy fire for 12 hours.
1896 – Tom Crean (Lion #53, Ireland), South Africa
Tom Crean’s side were the final side to win a Test series in South Africa until 1974, triumphing 3-1 against rapidly improving opposition. One of only two blemishes on their record came in a draw against Western Province, which came immediately after a Champagne lunch with Prime Minister Sir Gordon Sprigg.
Crean was a member of the first Ireland team to win the Home Nations Championship and Triple Crown, and he’d play 21 times on tour, scoring in the second Test. Staying in South Africa after the series, he worked as a doctor before winning the Victoria Cross for his courage in the Boer War.
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1896 – Johnny Hammond (Lion #30, England), South Africa
Hammond was injured early in the 1896 tour, with Tom Crean taking over the captaincy, but had played every game in 1891. Perhaps it wasn’t surprising his body let him down – he was 36 at the time!
The man from Skipton never played for England despite his Lions career, but would go on to be team manager in 1903 in the next tour of South Africa.
1891 – Bill Maclagan (Lion #32, Scotland), South Africa
Known as the first official Lions tour, the side won every game, including two Tests against South Africa, and conceded only a single point. Maclagan, the captain, was a stylish full-back who scored eight times in 19 appearances and was later inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame. The first Scottish Lions captain, he made 25 appearances for his country between 1878 and 1890.
The tour was notable for containing more players from Cambridge University (ten) than internationals (nine). It also brought the Currie Cup to South Africa – the Lions bringing with them a trophy donated by Donald Currie of the Union Castle Shipping Line.
1888 – Andrew Stoddart (Lion #13, England), New Zealand and Australia
After original tour captain Robert Seddon’s unfortunate death, Andrew Stoddart took over the captaincy. It was arduous, with the squad away for nine months, playing 53 games with a squad of only 22 players.
Eighteen matches were Aussie Rules, which Stoddart was notable for picking up remarkably quickly, fast becoming the hero of the tour. He’s unique for being the only man to captain England in three sports – rugby, Aussie Rules and Test cricket, where he’d average 35.57 with a high score of 173.
The Lions lost only two games of 53 all tour – a remarkable achievement amidst tragedy.
1888 – Robert Seddon (Lion #11, England), New Zealand and Australia
The first-ever British & Irish Lions captain was England’s Robert Seddon, given the captaincy by cricketers Alfred Shaw and Arthur Shrewsbury, who organised the tour. The side played a range of provincial teams, though no Internationals, and were made up mainly of players from Northern England.
It ended tragically for Seddon, who drowned during the tour while rowing on the Hunter River in New South Wales.
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