THE LATE Clem Thomas and his son Greg produced what most regard as the best Lions history yet published. But proving that you can’t have too much of a good thing, Scottish rugby writers Jeff Connor and Martin Hannan have weighed in with a book of real quality, writes Rugby World deputy editor Alan Pearey.

Based on both the authors’ own tour experiences and fresh interviews with a host of legendary players, Once Were Lions manages to neatly sum up the Lions’ history while addressing some burning questions of modern times. If you want to know why Gerald Davies didn’t tour in 1974 or Gareth Edwards skipped 1977, the answer’s here; but Connor and Hannan have also taken the bull by the horns by examining such issues as Will Carling’s sulk in 1993, the Healey/Dawson dissent of 2001, the Kiwi violence of 1966, the drinking culture that undermined the early 1980s tours, the scathing manager reports that were covered up, and the hypocrisy of the Wilson government in trying to stop the 1974 tour while trade with South Africa increased.

The stories come thick and fast and none is more startling than the day Don Hayward, who emigrated to New Zealand, received a knock on the door from a 42-year-old woman. She was a love child from a one-night stand on the 1950 tour and for the last five years of his life Hayward cherished the daughter he never knew he had.

Each chapter concludes with news of what each tour’s Lions went on to do, and at times it makes painful reading. England’s John Williams, a popular 1955 tourist, developed Alzheimer’s so severely that he was detained under the Mental Health Act. The Lions Trust made a hefty donation to help pay for his care – being a Lion is to be part of a very special family.


BUY IT AT:  amazon.co.uk RRP:  £18.99  Published by:  Harper Collins

Got a rugby book or DVD you’d like us to review in the Armchair Zone? Email alan_pearey@ipcmedia.com

This article appeared in the July 2009 issue of Rugby World Magazine

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