Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
| Help
Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
History of the Lions: The 1950s
By Sean Davies
BBC Sport


Rugby quickly got back on its feet after the war and great excitement surrounded the 1950 tour of New Zealand and Australia.

The Irish hooker Karl Mullen was chosen as captain, but Wales had won the Grand Slam in 1949-50 and consequently supplied the bulk of the tour squad - 14 players, nine of whom featured in every Test.

It was the first Lions squad to consist entirely of capped players, and changing times were also reflected by the fact that this was the last Lions party to travel by boat to their southern hemisphere destination.

They received a huge reception in reaction to the post-war austerity. As a result, the 1950 trip came to be known as 'The Friendly Tour.'

New Zealand were as uncompromising as ever, though, and fought the Lions to a 9-9 draw at Dunedin in the first Test.

It soon became apparent the old story of uncompromising Kiwi packs being too much for the brilliance of the Lions backs would be repeated.

In Christchurch, the tourists fell to an 8-0 defeat as the vicious rucking of the home side upset the Lions' game plan, and the All Blacks wrapped up the series with a 6-3 win in Wellington followed by an 11-8 victory in Auckland.

Some consolation was gained by the tourists from their two wins against Australia on the final leg of the trip - 19-6 in Brisbane and 24-3 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.


The Springboks were acknowledged as the leading side in world rugby, having claimed the Grand Slam in Britain and Ireland in 1951-2 before going on to beat the Wallabies.

The Lions took a talented squad to South Africa in 1955, though, led by Irish lock Robin Thompson, and a world-record crowd of more than 100,000 turned out for the first Test at Ellis Park, Johannesburg.

The Springboks took an early lead, but the tourists stormed back and held on for a 23-22 win.

The Boks gained revenge with a 25-9 victory at Newlands, but the Lions reclaimed the advantage with a battling 9-6 triumph at Loftus Verstveldt.

The Springboks had earned their reputation as the world's best, though, and they blew the Lions away in the second half at Port Elizabeth for a 22-8 victory.

The series was shared, and the popular tourists were sent home in style when 3,000 South Africans turned up at the airport for their departure.

A game against an East African XV in Nairobi on the way home was won 39-12.


The 1959 tour was led by Irish hooker Ronnie Dawson and on the way to New Zealand they claimed two comfortable victories in Australia. A 17-6 win in Brisbane was followed by a 24-3 victory in Sydney.

The tourists were a talented side, committed to all-out attack, but they faced a daunting challenge in Wilson Whineray's tough, dour All Blacks.

At Dunedin in the first Test, the Lions ran in four tries to New Zealand's none, but the outstanding kicking of full-back Don Clarke provided all the home side's scores and saw them to an 18-17 victory.

A tough midweek fixture list took its toll on the tourists and they had to make eight changes for the second Test in Wellington where the Kiwis claimed an 11-8 success, Clarke scoring a late try and conversion.

The momentum had shifted to the home side and in Christchurch they were overwhelming, handing out a 22-8 walloping to the Lions.

The Lions showed improved form in the midweek fixtures and went into the final Test in Auckland in determined mood, their attacking flair seeing them to a 9-6 consolation win.


1950s Lions: Squads and results
18 May 05 |  Lions in NZ

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


E-mail services | Sport on mobiles/PDAs


Back to top

Sport Homepage | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League | Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Snooker | Horse Racing | Cycling | Disability Sport | Olympics 2012 | Sport Relief | Other Sport...

BBC Sport Academy >> | BBC News >> | BBC Weather >>
About the BBC | News sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy | Contact us
banner watch listen bbc sport