Come in #697 - your time is up
July 4, 2013
Wales winger Alex Cuthbert became Lions #777 as the first in alphabetical order among the eleven first-timers who started the match against the Barbarians in Hong Kong © PA Photos
Welcome to the latest edition of Ask John where renowned rugby historian John Griffiths will answer any rugby-related query you have!
So, if there's something you've always wanted to know about the game we love but didn't know who to ask, or you think you can stump our expert - then get involved by sending us a question.
In this edition, John answers queries about those numbers on the Lions' shirts, the Wallabies' kicking record in 2012, brothers who have started Tests for the Lions and the amount of times the Lions won a series after going into the final Test all-square.
I note that the each Lion now has their own unique number - Sam Warburton is 800 - who is 777? Apart from the current tour, have the previous Lions been made aware of their number? Mike C, England
It is a new departure on this tour - to bring the Lions into line with Test cricketers and to emphasise the link back to the pioneers of 1888.
The British & Irish Lions Board commissioned an historical exercise to number those who have played for the team, starting with player #1, Jack Anderton, from the original tour to Australia and New Zealand 125 years ago.
Lions who went on a tour but never took part in a match are excluded.
The Lions are numbered in the order they have worn the jersey. When a pride of Lions appear for the first time in the same match they are numbered alphabetically. Substitutes and replacements on debut are numbered in the order they take the field.
The list includes those who played on the "missionary" tours to Argentina in 1910, 1927 and 1936 and also those who appeared in the special IRB Centenary Match against the Rest of the World (1986) and the Paris bi-centenary game against France (1989).
Players are numbered once only. Thus Tommy Bowe, Tom Croft, Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Heaslip, Adam Jones, Alun-Wyn Jones, Rob Kearney, Paul O'Connell, Brian O'Driscoll, Mike Phillips, Jamie Roberts and Matt Stevens carry earlier numbers from those who are making their first Lions tour.
Brian O'Driscoll, who is the only survivor of the 2001 tour to Australia, is listed as Lion #697. Famous former Lions Gareth Edwards and Barry John are numbered 465 and 473 respectively.
There were 776 Lions honoured to the end of the last tour to South Africa in 2009. Lion #777, the first of the new cohort, is Alex Cuthbert - the first in alphabetical order among the eleven first-timers who started the match against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1.
It would be interesting to see the success rates for Australia's Test kickers in 2012. Berrick Barnes hardly seemed to miss a kick yet wasn't first-choice in the role for the Brisbane Test. David Morgan, England
The Wallabies played fifteen Tests in 2012 and used four place-kickers - Berrick Barnes, Kurtley Beale and Mike Harris. Skipper Nathan Sharpe took a conversion at the end of the Cardiff Test against Wales (and missed) on the occasion of his Test swansong.
The table supports the view that Barnes was their most successful place-kicker:
When was the last time the Lions made five changes to a run-on fifteen after winning the first Test of a series? John Stevens, Wales
Never before had a Lions side that won its first Test shown more than three changes to the run-on side for its second match of any series.
When the Lions previously opened a series with a Test win, they went into the second Tests as follows:
The other series started with either a defeat or draw.
Those marked * were two-Test mini-series in Australia.
Who are the brothers who have started Tests for the Lions? David Edwards, England
Tom and Ben Youngs became the fifth pair of brothers to start together for the Lions in a Test when they played against Australia at Melbourne. They were only the second pair to do so in the past hundred years.
The last were Scotland's Gavin and Scott Hastings who played together in the two winning Tests in Australia in 1989.
The five begin with the Bromet brothers from Tadcaster in Yorkshire who played together in two winning Tests against South Africa in the first-ever Lions Test series in 1891. They were followed by the Magees from the Bective Rangers club in Ireland who played together in two Tests against South Africa in 1896.
The only other pair to feature in a Lions Test starting fifteen were Wales's famous Jones boys, Jack and "Tuan" (who hailed from Pontypool) in two of the 1908 Tests against New Zealand.
How many times have the Lions won a series after going into the final Test all-square? Graham, England
In 125 years of touring the British & Irish Lions have won only eight major series (ie rubbers of three or more matches) - in South Africa (1891, 1896, 1974 and 1997), in New Zealand (in 1971) and in Australia (in 1899, 1904 and 1989). The 1955 series in South Africa was drawn.
They also managed mini-series wins in Australia in 1950, 1959 and 1966 when the major focus of the tour was the series with the All Blacks.
Of the eight major series wins, only the 1989 team in Australia went into the final Test level. Finlay Calder's side had been well beaten in the opening Test of the rubber but levelled matters in Brisbane, before taking the last Test by the narrowest of margins (19-18) at the Sydney Football Stadium.
The only Lions to win the first, lose the second but still take the Test series were John Dawes's team in New Zealand in 1971, during a four-hand rubber. They took the third Test 13-3 in Wellington before drawing 14-all in Auckland in the fourth and Final Test.
Their 2-1 series win with one draw had been predicted by Lions manager Dr Doug Smith when the side touched down in Auckland at the start of the visit.
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