Scrum Sevens
The lion kings of Scotland
Tom Hamilton
September 18, 2014
Andy Irvine in 1974 © Getty Images

The results of today's referendum in Scotland could have an impact on the British & Irish Lions. If Scotland votes 'Yes', it may have to re-brand to reflect the altered political landscape and constitutional agreement. From their 1891 roots as the 'British Isles', today's poll may see them eventually become simply 'The Lions'.

With this in mind, Scrum Sevens looks back at seven great Scottish players who gave body, blood and sweat for the British & Irish Lions' cause.

Gordon Brown - 1971, 1974, 1977

Sport was always in Brown's blood. His brother Peter captained Scotland's rugby side and his father Jock played in goal for the national football team and also had a knock at the Scottish Open. For Gordon - nicknamed 'Broon frae Troon' - his legacy is in rugby and is regarded as Scotland's finest second-row. He made 30 appearances for Scotland and also left an indelible mark on the Lions.

He was one half of that fearsome second-row partnership with Willie John McBride as he played in five Tests on their victorious tours of New Zealand in 1971 and South Africa three years later. He never shirked physicality, breaking his hand in Port Elizabeth in 1971, and also played in the Lions' 1977 jaunt to New Zealand.

He passed away in 2001 after a battle with cancer and fellow Lion Sir Ian McGeechan paid tribute to him, saying: "Gordon was one of life's exceptional characters."

Finlay Calder - 1989

He only played on one Lions tour, but he captained the tourists to a famous win on Australian soil in 1989. The team had a reputation for physicality and Calder spearheaded the team in the infamous 'Battle of Ballymore' game against the Wallabies. It was a Test that drew the series level at one apiece and the Lions went on to secure the series in Sydney winning 19-18.

For Scotland, Calder was one third of the famous back-row - alongside Derek White and John Jeffrey - that secured the 1990 Grand Slam and his playing style saw him have scant regard for self-preservation. His Scotland career finished after the 1991 World Cup but he will go down as one of their finest back-rowers.

Gavin Hastings - 1989, 1993

While Hastings experienced the highs of 1989, he also wore the 2-1 series loss to New Zealand four years later as skipper. "Gavin is a big man in every sense of the word... his greatest asset was to engender confidence in those around him and to lead by example when the opposition had to be taken on," McGeechan said of his fullback. "In New Zealand, they considered him simply the best fullback in the world."

He is second on the Lions' record points scorer list for Tests with 66 and at one stage held a similar milestone for Scotland until Chris Paterson came along. He also excelled in the defensive aspects of the game and was frequently putting in last-ditch tackles on would be scorers.

Andy Irvine - 1974, 1977, 1980

While Jonny Wilkinson holds the record for being the Lions' top points-scorer in Tests, Irvine is the man with the most overall for the tourists. He was a fullback by trade, but for the 1974 trip to South Africa, he was used on the wing due to the presence of JPR Williams at No.15.

His goal-kicking was one of his finest attributes but he was deadly with ball in hand and caused all sorts of havoc on the Lions' trip to New Zealand in 1977 where he started all four Tests. Come 1980, Irvine was carrying an injury when the squad was named but such was the injury crisis in South Africa, he was later drafted in and played in all three games against the Springboks. He was the Lions' tour manager on their recent trip to Australia and, wonderfully, failed to name the Lions' all-time records points scorer in a quiz early on in the tour.

Sir Ian McGeechan - 1974, 1977

He is regarded by many as Mr. Lions. While he played on two tours, he coached them in 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2009. He also journeyed to New Zealand in 2005 as one of Sir Clive Woodward's backroom staff. His contribution to the Lions can never be over-estimated and will always be synonymous with the tourists.

"The Lions are a sacred institution, one which is unique in the whole world of rugby and even across the whole world of sport," McGeechan said. "The players make the Lions what it is. They lend their own characters and identities and it all fuses into one. That is why the Lions are so unique. I love the jersey because it has changed me.

"The Lions have always had a particular magic for me. Little has changed since I first toured with them as a player. The tours may be shorter but the magic is still the same."

© Getty Images

Ian McLauchlan - 1971, 1974

'Mighty Mouse' played at loose-head for Scotland from 1969 through to 1979. He was small for his size, hence the nickname, but he caused the opposition all sorts of difficulty. In 1971 he was went on the tour behind Ray McLoughlin in the pecking order but when he was injured against Canterbury - something New Zealand welcomed as a weakening of the tourists - McLauchlan stepped into the void and dismantled the All Blacks' scrum.

Come 1974 he went to South Africa as Scotland's captain and alongside Bobby Windsor and Fran Cotton, helped the Lions to a famous series win. Tom Smith deserves an honourable mention here having played on the tours in 1997 and 2001.

Jim Telfer - 1966, 1968

Like McGeechan, Telfer's Lions reputation is entrenched both as player and coach. His working life took in a spells as a headmaster, a chemistry teacher, time as a Scotland international and also the 1966 and 1968 Lions tour but he will probably be best remembered for what is widely perceived to be the best ever speech in rugby. But while he was part of McGeechan's coaching set-up for the 1997 tour of South Africa, he was head honcho in 1983. It did not quite go to plan for the Lions side as they replicated the 1966 group's fortunes against the All Blacks and lost all four Tests. They also fell to defeats in two of their warm-up matches with Auckland and Canterbury both downing the tourists.

In 1997 he primarily looked after the forwards and made that famous Everest speech in the run up to their first Test with the Boks.

Warning: Strong language.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.