Lions in South Africa 2009

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Scrum Sevens
Here comes trouble
May 28, 2009
Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll lies prone on the field with a dislocated shoulder following a dangerous tackle by Keven Mealamu and All Blacks captain Tana Umaga only moments into the first test. New Zealand v British and Irish Lions, First Test, Jade Stadium, June 25 2005.
Brian O'Driscoll enjoyed a torrid time in New Zealand in 2005 © Getty Images

With the Lions preparing to open their tour of South Africa against a Royal XV in Rustenberg on Saturday, they will be hoping for the perfect opening salvo. Having put the tour's apparent injury curse to one side they'll want a clockwork run in to the Test matches.

History shows that this isn't always possible however, and in our latest Scrum Seven we take a look back at some enduring Lions controversies.

Dobson's marching orders, Australia, 1904

David Dobson, of Oxford University, ended his rugby career with the unwanted distinction of being the first touring Lion to ever be shown a red card. The forward received his marching orders from the referee after showing off his vocabulary, mouthing an obscenity at the ref and earning himself an early bath and a place in the stands.

In 1968, Wales prop John O'Shea became the next to join the Lions' list of bad boys when he threw a punch and tried his best to fight the entire Eastern Transvaal pack. O'Shea was the first Lion to be sent-off for foul play and had his ignominious exit confirmed when the South African crowd pelted him with missiles.

Telfer talks tough, New Zealand, 1966

The 1966 Lions, led by Mike Campbell-Lamerton and managed by Des O'Brien, had been hailed as one of the best touring sides ever assembled before they set foot on New Zealand soil. The Lions had breezed through their games in Australia, winning seven and drawing one of their eight games, but they found New Zealand to be an all-too-different kind of challenge.

Incensed by what they saw as obscene amounts of foul play, the Lions slipped to four Test defeats against the All Blacks and also lost games to Southland, Otago, Wellington and Wanganui-King Country. Following a particularly bruising engagement with Canterbury Scotland's Jim Telfer stood firm and spoke out against the underhand tactics. He didn't skipper the Lions again.

"The 1966 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand left the deepest, most indelibly etched scars on me, physically and mentally, of my rugby career," he later said in his autobiography. "I attracted a lot of media attention halfway through the tour when I spoke out against what I believed was seriously dirty play and lost the captaincy."

Calling "99", South Africa, 1974

During the 1974 Lions tour of South Africa the tourists were subject to constant intimidation and foul play. Their captain, the legendary Willie John McBride, devised a plan to stop the Springboks in their tracks.

A simple concept of "one in, all in" the "99" required every Lion to "get their retaliation in first" and go after the nearest Springbok at any sign of intimidation, thus stopping the referee from taking action as he couldn't send off all of the offenders.

During the third Test, christened "The Battle of Boet Erasmus", the call went up, with Welsh fullback JPR Williams famously charging the length of the field before laying in to Springbok lock Moaner van Heerden. Williams has since expressed his regret for his part in the "99", but the image has become one of the most famous in the Lions' history.

The citing officer strikes, South Africa, 1997

The 1997 Lions are one of the most famous in history after their series win over the Springboks, and one of the most celebrated images from that tour came when Welsh centre Scott Gibbs flattened South African prop Os Du Randt on one of his trademark midfield surges. This famous moment was nearly lost forever though, as Gibbs became the first Lion to be banned.

In a fiercely contested tour game against Northern Transvaal Gibbs smacked Grant Esterhuizen, earning himself a ban for the tour match against Gauteng and almost ruling him out of the opening Test victory. The Lions lost the game against Transvaal, but it could have been much worse for one ex-rugby league star.

Fighting, talking and betrayal, Australia, 2001

In 2001 New Zealander Graham Henry, at the time coach of Wales, became the first foreigner to coach the Lions after a sensational run at the helm of the Welsh national side. His reign in Australia was blighted by outbursts in the media however, with Austin Healey living up to his 'Leicester Lip' nickname.

Calling Brumbies lock Justin Harrison "a plod", "an ape" and "a plank" in his newspaper column, Healey earned himself censure from the Lions management - whom he wasn't too fond of either. Christening the secretive and authoritarian Henry "Emperor Ming" and calling him an idiot to his face during training, Healey probably isn't on his Christmas card list. On the field, Henry's Lions lost the Test series 2-1 thanks to, in part, a stolen lineout by you-know-who...Justin Harrison.

Clive Woodward's red and white army, New Zealand, 2005

Lions tours have a wide and varied tradition - a fact that seemingly mattered little to England's World Cup-winning coach and former Lions tourist Clive Woodward. He took control of the 2005 tour to New Zealand and took with him the largest-ever squad, a mere 44 players, and a 26-strong management team including spin-doctor Alastair Campbell.

Team spirit was non-existent, with the midweek side being led by Ian McGeechan and player form being ignored in favour of a Test side laden with stalwarts from Woodward's 2003 England side. Wales centre Gavin Henson, fresh from helping his side to a Six Nations Grand Slam, was the biggest casualty. He was left out of the squad for the first Test in favour of an out-of-position Jonny Wilkinson, and a staged photo of him with Woodward caused uproar and cast further shadows across a troubled tour.

BOD's spear, New Zealand, 2005

The icing was put on a rancid cake in the opening moments of the first Test in Christchurch in 2005 when Lions skipper Brian O'Driscoll was spear tackled by All Blacks Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu.

O'Driscoll dislocated his shoulder and missed the rest of the tour, while the event became synonymous with the Lions' crushing failure at the hands of Woodward. The Lions were thrashed 21-3 in the first Test and made the wrong sort of headlines themselves when lock Danny Grewcock was banned for two months after biting All Blacks hooker Mealamu during the game.

Woodward turned to video evidence to fight his captain's corner - but the writing was on the wall for his hapless Lions. They comfortably lost 3-0 in the Test series as a star was born in the form of All Black fly-half Dan Carter.

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