2005 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand

2005 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand

In 2005 the British and Irish Lions Rugby union team toured New Zealand for the first time since 1993, suffering a 3–0 whitewash at the hands of the New Zealand All Blacks. For the Lions, having toured Australia in 2001 and South Africa in 1997, it was the first time for 22 years they lost every test match on tour. They left on 25 May and departed from Wales.

The team was managed by former England international Bill Beaumont, coached by former England coach Sir Clive Woodward, and originally captained by Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll. O'Driscoll however suffered a controversial tour-ending injury two minutes into the first test and England captain Martin Corry took over the captaincy for the remainder of that match. Wales captain Gareth Thomas took over as captain for the second and third tests.

The tour was marked by controversy. The Lions claimed that All Blacks captain Tana Umaga and hooker Keven Mealamu had executed a "spear tackle" on O'Driscoll and referred the matter to the match citing commissioner. Lions coach Woodward complained about the appointment of all-New Zealand officiating teams at all games other than the Test matches.

The failure of the 2005 Lions, despite having one of the most experienced playing squads and the largest management team of any Lions tour, prompted criticism of Sir Clive Woodward, particularly his selection policy, and prompted commentators to question the future of the Lions.


Sir Clive Woodward commissioned an "anthem" "The Power of Four" specially for the 2005 tour to New Zealand. Neil Myers composed the tune, and the piece was performed for the first time in public by Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins before the Lions' match against Argentina at the Millennium Stadium in 2005. It was played before all games on the tour, but it is not known whether the song will be used on future tours.


The Lions' campaign involved a warm-up match against Argentina (which was retroactively awarded Test status by the International Rugby Board in March 2008) before the departure for New Zealand, three Tests against the All Blacks, and several tour matches, where the quality of the opposition was expected to be high. This proved to be the case against New Zealand Māori and Auckland, and most of the other tour matches were close for at least the first half. But the match against Manawatu (the Lions' only opponent from the second division of New Zealand's domestic league, the National Provincial Championship) was a one-sided affair, the Lions winning by a score of 109–6.

Total: Played 12. Won 7, drew 1, lost 4. Points for 353, against 245.

Tour squad

The 44-man tour squad was announced on 11 April 2005, with 20 Englishmen, eleven Irishmen, ten Welshmen and three Scots selected. Three further Englishmen were selected subject to them proving their fitness. Many criticised this distribution as England had performed poorly in the 2004 and 2005 Six Nations Championship and Wales had won the 2005 Grand Slam. There was also concern that the squad included English players who had retired from international rugby, were returning from injury or had little international experience. The original 44-man squad was named as:

* Full backs / wingers
** Iain Balshaw (Leeds Tykes and England)
** Denis Hickie (Leinster and Ireland)
** Josh Lewsey (Wasps and England)
** Geordan Murphy (Leicester Tigers and Ireland)
** Jason Robinson (Sale Sharks and England)
** Gareth Thomas (Toulouse and Wales)
** Shane Williams (Ospreys and Wales)
** Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster and Ireland)
** Will Greenwood (Harlequins and England)
** Gavin Henson (Ospreys and Wales)
** Shane Horgan (Leinster and Ireland)
** Brian O'Driscoll (captain; Leinster and Ireland)
** Tom Shanklin (Cardiff Blues and Wales)
** Ollie Smith (Leicester Tigers and England)
** Charlie Hodgson (Sale Sharks and England)
** Stephen Jones (Clermont Auvergne and Wales)
** Ronan O'Gara (Munster and Ireland)
** Gareth Cooper (Newport Gwent Dragons and Wales)
** Chris Cusiter (The Borders and Scotland)
** Matt Dawson (Wasps and England)
** Dwayne Peel (Llanelli Scarlets and Wales)
** John Hayes (Munster and Ireland)
** Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues and Wales)
** Graham Rowntree (Leicester Tigers and England)
** Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks and England)
** Matt Stevens (Bath and England)
** Julian White (Leicester Tigers and England)
** Gordon Bulloch (Glasgow and Scotland)
** Shane Byrne (Leinster and Ireland)
** Steve Thompson (Northampton Saints and England)
** Andy Titterrell (Sale Sharks and England)
** Danny Grewcock (Bath and England)
** Ben Kay (Leicester Tigers and England)
** Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster and Ireland)
** Paul O'Connell (Munster and Ireland)
** Malcolm O'Kelly (Leinster and Ireland)
*Back Row
** Neil Back (Leicester Tigers and England)
** Martin Corry (Leicester Tigers and England)
** Lawrence Dallaglio (Wasps and England)
** Richard Hill (Saracens and England)
** Lewis Moody (Leicester Tigers and England)
** Michael Owen (Newport Gwent Dragons and Wales)
** Simon Taylor (Edinburgh and Scotland)
** Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues and Wales)

Injured England players Jonny Wilkinson, Phil Vickery and Mike Tindall were pencilled in, to be added to the squad subject if they regained fitness. Only Wilkinson subsequently did so and was called up on 8 May. Iain Balshaw suffered a torn thigh muscle and was replaced in the squad by Mark Cueto on 17 May. Additional players were called up when players suffered injury (and in one case a ban) during the tour proper. The full list of call ups is:

* Jonny Wilkinson (Newcastle Falcons and England) — Added 8 May
* Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks and England) — Added 17 May for Iain Balshaw
* Simon Shaw (Wasps and England) — Added 2 June for Malcolm O'Kelly
* Simon Easterby (Llanelli Scarlets and Ireland) — Added 4 June for Lawrence Dallaglio
* Ryan Jones (Ospreys and Wales) — Added 10 June for Simon Taylor
* Brent Cockbain (Ospreys and Wales) — Added 26 June for Danny Grewcock, who was banned for 2 months after biting the All Blacks' Keven Mealamu during the first test.
* Jason White (Sale Sharks and Scotland) — Added 27 June for Richard Hill

Three team members did not travel to New Zealand with the bulk of the touring party. Jason Robinson was excused in order to spend time with his pregnant wife. Stephen Jones and Gareth Thomas were forced to delay their departures due to commitments to their French clubs. Jones arrived in New Zealand on 31 May, before the Lions played their first tour match, while Robinson arrived on 7 June. For a time, it was doubtful whether Thomas would be able to contend for a spot in the first Test, as he had not been released by his club, Toulouse. However, Toulouse, which were trying to add a French league title to their Heineken Cup, crashed out in the French semifinals, allowing Thomas to leave for New Zealand. Thomas also arrived in New Zealand on 7 June. Eventually, Thomas would substitute for Brian O'Driscoll as tour captain after O'Driscoll suffered a tour-ending dislocated shoulder soon after the start of the first All Blacks Test on 25 June.


There were 26 back room staff. After problems with the midweek team feeling disillusioned in 2001, the midweek team got their own coaches.

* Bill Beaumont: Tour manager
* Sir Clive Woodward: Head coach
* Louise Ramsay MBE: Team manager
* Andy Robinson: Coach
* Eddie O'Sullivan: Coach
* Ian McGeechan: Coach
* Gareth Jenkins: Coach
* Phil Larder: Defensive coach
* Mike Ford: Defensive coach
* Dave Alred: Kicking coach
* Dave Reddin: Fitness Coach
* Craig White: Fitness Coach
* David McHugh: Specialist Advisor (referee)
* Tony Biscombe: Video Analyst
* Gavin Scott: Video Analyst
* Dr James Robson: Head Doctor
* Dr Gary O'Driscoll: Doctor
* Phil Pask: Physiotherapist
* Stuart Barton: Physio / Masseur
* Bob Stewart: Physio / Masseur
* Richard Wegrzyk: Masseur
* John Feehan: Chief Executive
* Richard Smith: Legal Support
* Louisa Cheetham: Media Officer
* Alastair Campbell Press relations
* Dave Campbell: Chef
* Dave Tennison: Kit Technician

The matches


date = 20:00 BST
home = BILru
score = 25 – 25
away = ru|ARG
homescore = Try: Smith
Con: Wilkinson
Pen: Wilkinson (6)
awayscore = Try: Núñez Piossek
Con: Todeschini
Pen: Todeschini (6)
stadium = Millennium Stadium
attendance =
referee = Stuart Dickinson (Australia)

The Lions drew with Argentina at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on 23 May in a warm-up Test match. The Pumas were without 25 players who may have made their first-choice team due to club commitments and the Lions rested many of their top players to field a second-string combination. Tour captain Brian O'Driscoll was rested, so Wales vice-captain Michael Owen took his place.

The Lions looked disjointed, turning over the ball 15 times in open play. Their pack was outplayed; the Pumas shoved them off their own scrum three times. The Lions also conceded five penalties for holding on to the ball while grounded, usually because their support failed to arrive in time. In the meantime, the Pumas played a match that was almost universally called "inspired" by rugby media worldwide. The Pumas led 19–16 at half-time, and could easily have been ahead by more. The main plus for the Lions was the performance of Jonny Wilkinson, making his first appearance against international opposition since the 2003 World Cup, who set up their first try, converted it, and kicked six penalties. His last penalty saved the Lions from defeat, salvaging a 25–25 draw in the eighth minute of stoppage time.

Bay of Plenty

The first tour match was against the Bay of Plenty Steamers on 4 June in Rotorua. The Lions started the match strongly, with Josh Lewsey scoring a try after two minutes and then a second four minutes later. The Lions were up 17–0 after 11 minutes but the Steamers recovered for a 17–17 half-time score. The Lions controlled the second half and won 34–20. A significant injury was the fractured ankle suffered by experienced back-rower Lawrence Dallaglio, who had to withdraw from the tour.


Taranaki hosted the Lions on 8 June at New Plymouth. The first half was closely fought in more ways than one, as the Lions' Danny Grewcock and Taranaki's Paul Tito came to blows. Taranaki had a 7–6 lead at half time but soon after the break Martin Corry scored a Lions' try. Shortly afterwards, Taranaki's Andrew Hore was sin-binned for holding the ball, and the Lions took control. Consensus man of the match Charlie Hodgson kicked two penalties during Hore's absence, and the Lions kept their momentum even after Hore returned. Shane Horgan added a try and Geordan Murphy two as the Lions won 36–14.

New Zealand Māori

The Māori match at Hamilton on 11 June promised to be the most competitive test lead-up, being billed by rugby media as virtually a fourth Test. In the first half, the Māori had the better of possession and tackling, but the Lions had the better of the set pieces, and the half ended 6–6.

Just before the break, the Lions' Andrew Sheridan was sin-binned for punching Māori Luke McAlister. When the sin-bin period ended Sheridan was replaced by Gethin Jenkins. A McAlister penalty shortly afterwards, a Leon MacDonald try (converted by McAlister), and then a second McAlister penalty, gave the Māori a 19–6 lead. The last 15 minutes were the Lions' best period, rewarded by a Brian O'Driscoll try which was converted by Stephen Jones. The Lions threatened strongly but the Māori held on for a historic 19–13 win—their first ever over the Lions.


After the loss to the Māori, the British & Irish Lions went to Wellington to take on the city's NPC side, the Wellington Lions, on 15 June. The British & Irish Lions team was selected primarily from players in contention for the Test team, including Jonny Wilkinson in his first tour match.

The British & Irish Lions had most of the possession and scoring chances, but committed numerous unforced errors when points looked likely. Tries came from Gethin Jenkins and Gareth Thomas, both converted by Wilkinson who also scored three penalties. The British & Irish Lions' 23–6 win, while seemingly showing their tour was back on track, left almost as many questions as answers. In post-match comments, O'Driscoll said "The ball was like a bar of soap out there and both sides made a lot of unforced errors," and Wellington Lions coach John Plumtree remarked, "The All Blacks would have put 50 or 60 points on us."


In their first appearance in the South Island the Lions played Otago on 18 June at Carisbrook Stadium. The stadium is known to visiting teams as the "House of Pain", particularly for the Lions who lost games to the Otago side on four previous tours. Otago began strongly and the Lions were penalised four times in the first eleven minutes, Otago converting two. The Lions' stronger scrum play brought them back into the game, and the first half was closely-fought, ending 13–13. The Lions clearly had the momentum, as Will Greenwood had scored a try, converted by Charlie Hodgson, just before the break.

Otago took a 16–13 lead shortly after half-time, but strong Lions scrum play led to a try by man of the match Ryan Jones, who put himself in contention for a Test position. The try and Hodgson's conversion gave the Lions a solid, though far from insurmountable, lead. Otago rallied to 20–19 with a penalty, but the Lions pulled away soon afterwards. A Hodgson penalty, Shane Williams try and Hodgson conversion took the final margin to 30–19.


The Southland match at Invercargill on 21 June was the last before the first Test. Lions coach Clive Woodward announced that no players in the night's line-up would play in the Test. In the first 15 minutes, the Lions looked formidable as they took an early 10–0 lead, keyed by a Gavin Henson try. However, they became disjointed and by half-time had turned over the ball 14 times and were considered lucky to be ahead 10–3 at the break.

The first few minutes of the second half were even worse for the Lions, as Hale T-Pole scored a converted try. Woodward immediately substituted four players to settle down his team. T-Pole made an interception to save a Mark Cueto try, but the Lions kept the pressure on, and Henson scored his second try. The Lions then changed tactics, choosing to kick for territory more often, and were never truly threatened again, winning by 26–16.

First Test

date = 19:00 NZST
home = ru-rt|NZL
score = 21 – 3
away = BILru
homescore = Tries: Sivivatu
Con: Carter
Pen: Carter (3)
awayscore = Pen: Wilkinson
stadium = Jade Stadium, Christchurch
attendance = 37,200 [ [http://stats.allblacks.com/teamsheet.asp?MT_ID=2115 New Zealand All Blacks Player Profiles, Match Details and Statistics] ]
referee = Joël Jutge (France)

Less than two minutes into this match against the All Blacks on 25 June at Jade Stadium in Christchurch, the Lions lost their captain Brian O'Driscoll, who suffered a dislocated shoulder after an incident involving Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu. Eight minutes into the game, Daniel Carter opened the scoring for the All Blacks with a penalty. Three minutes later, the Lions suffered a further blow when Paul O'Connell was sin-binned for a professional foul, and Carter kicked the penalty. Already a player short, the Lions then lost Richard Hill to injury. Ali Williams scored the first All Blacks try shortly after O'Connell returned, and the half ended with the Lions down 11–0.

Carter kicked a penalty in the second half, followed by a converted try from Sitiveni Sivivatu to end the All Blacks' scoring, and Jonny Wilkinson kicked a penalty in the 56th minute to provide the Lions with their only points of the night. The 21–3 win was considered by almost every commentator to be even more one-sided than the score indicated. The Lions' sloppy set-piece play included ten losses of their own lineouts.

It was announced post-match that three injured Lions were out for the rest of the tour—O'Driscoll and Hill from incidents in the match, and Tom Shanklin for inflammation from an existing knee injury. Also, Danny Grewcock was suspended for two months after he was cited for biting All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu.

Mealamu was also part of a different controversy, as he and All Black captain Tana Umaga were involved in the incident that ended O'Driscoll's tour. At a ruck early in the match, Mealamu and Umaga each attempted to clear O'Driscoll from the ruck; in the process each of them lifted one of O'Driscoll's legs off the ground before letting go. O'Driscoll fell badly and dislocated his shoulder when he hit the ground. While O'Driscoll was being driven from the ruck, the touch judge was heard telling Mealamu and Umaga to let O'Driscoll go, but he took no further action regarding the incident. Opinions differed on the incident. Many British and Irish commentators and fans claimed that it was an illegal "spear tackle" and Lions coach Clive Woodward reported the pair to the IRB-appointed citing commissioner, William Venter, who decided, on the basis of the video footage available to him at the time, not to refer the matter to a disciplinary tribunal. New Zealand commentators and fans were largely of the view that the two All Blacks were merely clearing out the ruck and that there had been no intention to injure O'Driscoll.

The incident raised several issue, both about the legality of "clearing out" and about the citing process.

Under the Laws, it is illegal to play an opponent without the ball, except in a scrum, ruck or maul; referees usually interpret this as authorising the common practice of "clearing out the ruck", that is, physically removing an opponent who is taking part in the ruck, and rarely penalise the practice if it happens within close proximity to the ruck. The Laws also prohibit dangerous tackles, though they make no specific mention of the "spear tackle". The O'Driscoll incident did not involve a tackle, as he was not carrying the ball, and any sanction against Mealamu and Umaga could only have been applied under the general provision outlawing acts "contrary to good sportsmanship". It was in the light of this anomaly in the Laws that the citing commissioner concluded that there was no case for Mealamu and Umaga to answer. In September 2005, in response to a request for clarification from O'Driscoll's home union, the Irish Rugby Football Union, the IRB's Laws Committee ruled that the act of lifting a player off his feet in a tackle and dropping him in such a way that his head or upper torso hits the ground first is a dangerous tackle; they further ruled that such an act constitutes dangerous play no matter where it occurs in the game. [http://www.irb.com/NR/rdonlyres/93EE611F-B7ED-4357-8422-76DBFB1C6F37/0/LawRulings2005.pdf] Had such a ruling existed prior to the O'Driscoll incident, the citing commissioner could have decided that there were grounds for citing the two All Blacks.

While not directly related to the issue of legality, the incident also raised questions about the citing process itself. Under the protocol applying to the Lions Tests, the citing commissioner had to make any decisions on whether to cite players within 12 hours of the end of the game. This, it was suggested, did not allow enough time for him to gather video evidence and properly analyse it. Subsequently, the citing 'window' has been extended to 24 hours for most matches.


The Lions scored their first convincing tour victory in this game at Palmerston North against NPC second-division minnows, Manawatu. They led 38–6 at half time and scored 71 unanswered points in the second. Welshman Shane Williams scored five tries to help the Lions post their all-time record score in New Zealand, surpassing their 64–5 victory over Marlborough/Nelson 46 years ago.

Tries were shared by Williams (5), Ronan O'Gara (2), Mark Cueto (2), Geordan Murphy, Charlie Hodgson, Jason Robinson, Martin Corry, Neil Back, Gareth Cooper, Gordon D'Arcy and Ollie Smith, with Manawatu restricted to two Jonathan Hargreaves penalties.

Lock Donncha O'Callaghan and flanker Martyn Williams both retired at half-time but had impressed enough to secure Test selection for the next Saturday. Murphy also impressed at full-back but it was wing Williams, with elusive running and awareness, who most thrilled Lions supporters.

econd Test

date = 19:00 NZST
home = ru-rt|NZL
score = 48 – 18
away = BILru
homescore = Tries: Carter (2)
Con: Carter (4)
Pen: Carter (5)
awayscore = Tries: Easterby
Con: Wilkinson
Pen: Wilkinson (2)
stadium = Westpac Stadium, Wellington
attendance = 39,800 [ [http://stats.allblacks.com/teamsheet.asp?MT_ID=2116 New Zealand All Blacks Player Profiles, Match Details and Statistics] ]
referee = Andrew Cole (Australia)

From the high point against Manawatu, the Lions fell to the lowest point of their 114-year history in the second Test at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on 2 July, losing 48–18 and conceding the highest number of points any Lions team has had scored against them in a Test.

Woodward selected a radically different Test squad from the one that had been embarrassed in Christchurch a week earlier, replacing eleven players. Key to the Lions' hopes of staying in the series was Woodward's decision to add several of the Welsh team that won the Grand Slam in the 2005 Six Nations.

The Lions started strongly, with captain Gareth Thomas scoring a try under the posts and Jonny Wilkinson converting two minutes in. A minute later, Wilkinson hit the post with a penalty attempt, but gathering the rebound the Lions were in a good attacking position when Paul O'Connell was penalised for diving over a ruck. The All Blacks settled down and then scored through two Daniel Carter penalties before he set up their first try, racing 50 metres off a turnover before offloading to captain Tana Umaga to score near the posts. Although the rest of the half remained close, the All Blacks went into the break with a 21–13 lead.

The second half turned into a showcase for the All Blacks in general and Carter in particular. He scored two tries, converted three, kicked two penalties, and constantly kept the Lions on the back foot with his distribution. Flanker Richie McCaw powered his way over for a try after Carter missed a hat trick by a matter of inches. Rugby media were in virtually unanimous agreement that 1) the Lions were greatly improved; and 2) the All Blacks were completely dominant. Carter's tally of 33 points broke the all-time record for points by an All Black against the Lions.


Having effectively lost the Test series on the previous Saturday, the mid-week Lions came to Eden Park with something to prove. Refereed by New Zealander Steve Walsh, the match was marked by the Lions' inability to find touch and Auckland's willingness to attack and run the angles. Auckland gave up some guaranteed points from early penalties to take the Lions on in set piece play. Auckland tighthead prop John Afoa was denied a try after a tap and run saw him held up in goal. A series of handling errors throughout the first half let Auckland down and saw the Lions to a 14–3 lead at the half. The second half saw the Lions give away points to a stoic Auckland pack and the scoreline was narrowed to 14–13 Lions lead. A late Ronan O'Gara penalty saw the Lions extend to a 4 point winning margin of 17–13. This victory completed an impressive clean sweep of matches for the mid week Lions against host Unions throughout New Zealand.

Third Test

date = 19:00 NZST
home = ru-rt|NZL
score = 38 – 19
away = BILru
homescore = Tries: Gear
Umaga (2)
Con: McAlister (5)
Pen: McAlister
awayscore = Try: Moody
Con: S. Jones
Pen: S. Jones (4)
stadium = Eden Park, Auckland
attendance = 48,533 [ [http://stats.allblacks.com/teamsheet.asp?MT_ID=2117 New Zealand All Blacks Player Profiles, Match Details and Statistics] ]
referee = Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)

Following two early penalties by Stephen Jones, the Lions led 6–0 and things looked promising for them. All Black captain Tana Umaga was sin-binned for killing the ball, but even without their captain, the All Blacks managed to score two tries, by Conrad Smith and Ali Williams, both converted by Luke McAlister. The Lions were awarded two more penalties, which Stephen Jones kicked, but just before the break, Umaga scored a try to give the All Blacks a half-time lead of 24–12.

Seven minutes into the second half Umaga scored another try. Soon after, scrum-half Byron Kelleher was replaced by Justin Marshall, who then played his final half-hour of All Black rugby. Another All Black try was thwarted when Jerry Collins was sin-binned for a late tackle. The All Blacks then spent several minutes defending as the Lions pushed towards the line from within ten meters, and after a long struggle Lewis Moody managed to score, making it 31–19. Both sides made errors that cost them tries. Sitiveni Sivivatu had two very close calls but it was Rico Gear who followed his own deep kick to toe the ball over the line and score a fine individual try. McAlister converted, giving him a 100 percent kicking rate, to make the full-time score 38–19.


External links

* [http://www.lionsrugby.com Official site]
* [http://www.britishlions.com/about.asp Fansite]
* [http://dynamic.rte.ie/av/2054659.smil RTE News report (Realplayer video) on first test match, including O'Driscoll injury)]

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