Davies looks back on touring New Zealand in 1971

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A member of the Lions team who beat both the All Blacks and South Africa on the respective tours of 1971 and 1974, Davies was regarded as a frontrunner to captain the 1977 Lions to New Zealand before a brain haemorrhage, suffered while playing for his Swansea club, ruled him out.

 

Davies, a schoolteacher, penned an article for his school's magazine describing the pressures of touring, and the pressures of success. It was published in The Rugby Paper this week.

 

Davies said his pupils were probably sick of reading about the rugby success.

 

"There is little I can add to what has already been said about the 1971 Lions. You are probably as sick of reading the word 'Lions' in the newspapers as I am of being called one. It gets beyond a joke when every other person you meet asks if you enjoyed it!"

 

Davies said the success occurred for several reasons: good management, coaching, captaincy, dedication and team spirit, but added, "I prefer to think that we had 35 players on tour who were better than the top 35 players in New Zealand."

 

Davies said it was time to stop thinking about what the Lions had achieved and to look to the future. Celebrations and adulation had taken their toll on the players on their return home and the pressures helped force star five-eighths Barry John to retire at the age of 27.

 

Davies also made some acute, often humorous, points about New Zealand.

 

"New Zealand is a very beautiful country, with luxurious green vegetation, deep valleys, huge mountains, huge trees and huge rugby players. In fact, rugby players and trees are synonymous in New Zealand. People refer to pine-tree Colin Meads and bean-pole Mervyn Davies.

 

 

"Every male in New Zealand plays rugby. The only exceptions are those who are over 50 or under five…

 

"To be a rugby tourist in New Zealand is a marvellous experience. That doesn't help you, however, to be polite and look interested at about midnight when a local New Zealand heavy – henceforth referred to as a Zombie – wants to pick your brains about the present state of New Zealand rugby.

 

"Everywhere we went it was the same questions over and over again," he said.

 

The Lions eventually worked out a plan of retribution.

 

"In one particularly dull little town, a member of the party decided to go Zombie hunting. This was a favourite entertainment of the Lions – it involved finding a would-be Zombie, pinning him against a wall and ear-bashing him about the effects of the EEC [European Union] on New Zealand.

 

"By the end of the tour this became the No1 side-line, and, in fact there was a weekly competition to see who could earbash the most Zombies," he said.

 

The most effective Zombie-slayer proved to second-string fullback Bob Hiller.

 

At the same time, Davies acknowledged the challenge a tour of New Zealand represented.

 

"New Zealand was nevertheless a magnificent country to tour. A British Lions tour to New Zealand is perhaps the ambition of every rugby player in Britain. Those of us who were lucky enough to make it will never forget our experiences in New Zealand. Zombies and all," he said.

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