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British & Irish Lions

Jones: Being named Lions captain for 2021 Tour ‘a huge privilege’

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Photo by Dan Sheridan - Pool/Getty Images

The 35-year-old Wales legend will look to emulate Willie John McBride in 1974 and Martin Johnson in 1997 by leading the tourists to a series victory against the Springboks.

It will be Jones’ fourth consecutive Tour, 12 years after first donning the famous red shirt for the first time in all three Tests of the dramatic 2009 series defeat in South Africa.

Gatland names British & Irish Lions squad for 2021 Tour

He has won a further six caps for the Lions since then, against Australia in 2013 and New Zealand in 2017, with his nine Tests more than any other player in the professional era.

And upon learning Warren Gatland had selected him to be his skipper, Jones reflected on the great players who have previously captained the Lions before him.

“It is a huge privilege to be selected in the squad initially. That is what you want to hear first as a player,” said Jones, who led Wales to the 2021 Six Nations title.

“To have the armband is a privilege in the fact of when you look who has gone before and what they have achieved in this jersey and for their respective home nations.

“I had a call from Gats (Warren Gatland) on Sunday evening, well, a missed call actually. I thought I had better give him a call back. We had a quick chat and I accepted obviously.

“Initially the draw is to get into the squad, and then anything can happen from there and you have your hat in the mix to be selected and obviously having the armband is a huge privilege.

“But initially it was all about the squad selection and I have a huge amount of pride to add this to the CV but there is a lot of work to do and some huge games to face.”

Being selected as Lions captain is the latest honour to be added to Jones’ remarkable CV, which includes five Six Nations titles – three of which were Grand Slams – with Wales.

He also holds the all-time record for the most Test appearances, with 157 during his illustrious 15-year career so far, including the nine consecutive caps won for the tourists.

Gatland explains why he named Alun Wyn Jones as his Lions captain

But South Africa will not be the first time Jones has captained the Lions, with the lock leading the tourists in the decisive third Test win in Sydney against the Wallabies in 2013.

Not being a man prone to self-promotion, Jones admitted he only told his closest inner circle about being awarded the armband again – an achievement steeped in history.

“Obviously [I told] the nearest and dearest, kept it pretty tight on request from Gats for obvious reasons but a lot of these things seem to get out one way or another,” he said.

“I can just tell Gats it was kept tight my end. It is just obviously a hot topic, but it is nice that it is announced now and official.

“As a child growing up, as a supporter and now as a professional, the significance of this honour isn’t lost on me.

“As a rugby player you want to be involved in those Test matches this summer, but there is a long way to go and a lot of rugby to play before then.”

Jones could match fellow Wales and Lions legend Graham Price in South Africa by playing in 12 consecutive Tests and he is well aware of the importance of the tourists.

talkSPORT wins exclusive rights to broadcast Lions Tour

“I think the word that was definitely used in last couple of Tours I have been on is custodianship,” he said, when asked to explain what the Lions means to him.

“Once you become a Lion you might not see people for a while or interact, but you are all connected through the jersey across the home nations.

“That is something very, very special. It is hard to explain but I like to think it is something that hasn’t changed from amateur through to professionalism.

“Growing up you want to play for your country and dream about playing for the Lions.”

But despite finding out he would be leading the Lions in South Africa on Sunday, Jones revealed he had to wait and find out who would be joining him like everybody else.

“It was just a one to one, no other information is passed on,” he said of the call with Gatland. “As a supporter for so long that is what makes it special, finding out who is selected that way.

“Lions is all about the supporters so the fact they find out at the same time as the players it is really special. This is something I’m hugely proud of and passionate about.”

He added: “I want to say a huge thank you to my wife, my sister and my mum, for all their support through all the tough times and particularly the good times.”

Source – British & Irish Lions by Andy Baber


British & Irish Lions

Tributes pour in for late Lions legend Doddie Weir

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Tributes have been paid to British & Irish Lion #670 and MND campaigner Doddie Weir who has died aged 52.

Weir was called up to the 1997 Lions squad to South Africa and although his tour was cut short due to a nasty injury sustained against Mpumalanga Province, he still described it as one of the greatest experiences of his career.

The second row played 61 times for Scotland, scoring four tries, including two against New Zealand in the 1995 Rugby World Cup quarter-final, making him the only Scottish player in history to score twice against the All Blacks.

He was a club legend at both Newcastle Falcons and Border Reivers, starring in the Falcons side that won the Premiership title in 1998.

In 2017, Weir was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, and became one of the most vocal and prominent campaigners in the world – setting up his charity My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, which has raised more than £5 million since being launched.

Tributes have poured in to honour a true legend of the game both on the pitch and off it, with fellow British & Irish Lion and legendary commentator Brian Moore calling Weir an “outstanding man”.

Weir’s impact on Scottish rugby cannot be overstated and another of the nation’s rugby legends and a former teammate of Weir’s Scott Hastings called him “the most lovable man in the world”.

He has been such an inspiration since his diagnosis, raising both significant funds and also the profile of MND and that has led to him becoming a true national hero, with Scottish footballing icon Sir Kenny Dalglish praising him for his fight against the disease.

The news came during England’s match with South Africa at Twickenham, and when the announcement was made, the whole crowd rose to their feet for a round of applause to show their respects.

Former England captain Dylan Hartley and South African World Cup winner Bryan Habana spoke of Weir’s legacy both in and out of the sport.

Habana said: “He embodied everything the game stands for in terms of respect, charisma, spirit in which the game is played and the humour with which he embraced fellow teammates.

“What he brought to the game of rugby, he was a phenomenal player and what he has done in the last decade with a disease that would have seen a lot of people die a lot earlier, and how much money he has raised.

“Even with the struggles, to be able to walk two or three kilometres, just to be able to show to the world, the character he has.

“To his family, his loved ones, the deepest respect for someone who really lit up this world and made it a better place.”

The tributes kept pouring in, from presenter Gabby Logan – who last year appeared on TV show Who Wants to be a Millionaire to raise money for the foundation, to cycling great Sir Chris Hoy.

Outside the world of sport, author and Scotland fan JK Rowling paid her respects, as did the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Leeds Rhinos great and Leicester Tigers assistant coach Kevin Sinfield, who recently completed seven back-to-back ultra marathons, starting at BT Murrayfield where Weir presented the match ball for Scotland v New Zealand, released a statement.

He said: “Today is a deeply sad day for everyone who knew Doddie but especially his family, who are at the forefront of our thoughts.

“Doddie was a giant as a player but his campaigning following his MND diagnosis made him a colossus.

“When Bryan Redpath first put me in touch with Doddie to speak to Rob Burrow following Rob’s own diagnosis, he immediately said yes without hesitation. The sight of 5’4” Rob and 6’6” Doddie was something that will live with all of us and probably bonded the duo with the great humour they shared.

“Doddie was able to give Rob the greatest gift of hope that night. He has been like a big brother to all of us since that day.

“I know, on behalf of the whole Ultra 7 in 7 team, it was our ultimate honour that Doddie was at Murrayfield just two weeks ago when we set off on our fundraising challenge.

“With his trademark smile, he insisted that he wanted to be there with his new pink trainers on! The fact that a proportion of the money raised from the Ultra 7 in 7 will go to the Foundation set up by Doddie has particular poignancy as we look to continue his legacy on in the years ahead.

“I am honoured to have been able to call Doddie my friend and I know his spirit lives on in all of us who knew him. He will always be a champion.”

Source – British & Irish Lions


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British & Irish Lions

Lions and Scotland great Doddie Weir dies aged 52

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Scotland and British & Irish Lions great Doddie Weir has passed away at the age of 52 after a long battle with motor neurone disease.

One of his country’s all-time greats, Weir won 61 caps for Scotland and was selected for the 1997 Lions Tour of South Africa.

His Tour was cut short by a serious knee injury suffered while playing against Mpumalanga Province, but despite returning home prior to the Tests – with the Lions beating the world champions 2-1, Weir singled out that experience as one of the best of his career.

Weir was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2017, with his charity, the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation having raised more than £5 million pounds since being launched.

A statement from the Weir family said: “It is with great sadness that we announced the death of our beloved husband and father, Doddie.

“Doddie was an inspirational force of nature. His unending energy and drive, his strength of character powered him through his rugby and business careers and, we believe, enabled him to fight the effects of MND for so many years.

“Doddie put the same energy and even more love and fun into our lives together, he was a true family man. Whether working together on the farm, on holiday, or celebrating occasions with wider family and friends, Doddie was always in the thick of it. We are lucky to have shared our lives with him and we cherish all those memories: his love and warmth, his support and advice, his quick wit and his terrible jokes. It is difficult to put into words how much we will miss him.

“MND took so much from Doddie, but never his spirit and determination. He battled MND so bravely and whilst his own battle may be over, his fight continues through his foundation, until a cure is found for all those with this devastating disease.”

Weir made his Scotland debut in 1990 and was a mainstay of the side for much of the decade, making his final appearance in the 2000 Six Nations against France.

Instantly recognisable for his galloping gait, the great Bill McLaren once described Weir as “on the charge like a mad giraffe.”

As incredible as Weir’s exploits were during his career, what he has done since has arguably been even greater.

After being diagnosed with MND, Weir set up a foundation to raise funds for research into a cure for MND and to provide grants to people living with the condition.

And in the five years since, it has raised more than £5 million for that objective, and will continue to fund research into a cure.

All those at the British & Irish Lions offer their condolences to the Weir family.

Source – British & Irish Lions


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British & Irish Lions

Tributes pour in for Lion and rugby legend Eddie Butler

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Tributes have been paid to British & Irish Lion #601 and iconic broadcaster Eddie Butler, who has died aged 65.

Butler was called up to The British and Irish Lions squad that toured New Zealand in 1983, replacing Jeff Squire, and made one appearance.

The No.8 played 16 times for Wales and captained them on six occasions, scoring two tries.

He was a legend at his club side Pontypool, captaining the team between 1982 and 1985, and, after retiring from rugby, he carved out a remarkable career in journalism, broadcasting and commentary.

Tributes have already started pouring in to honour a great of the game, with World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont calling Butler one of the finest commentators of his time.

After beginning his journalism career with the Sunday Correspondent in 1988, Butler began writing for The Observer in 1991.

He joined BBC Wales in 1990, starting his commentary career alongside Bill McLaren before becoming the lead BBC rugby commentator.

His partnership with former Lions and England hooker Brian Moore received widespread acclaim and his commentary partner tweeted that he admired Butler as a broadcaster and as a man.

Butler’s montage-accompanying prose was the backdrop not only to sporting events but to some of the biggest news stories of the last two decades.

The final one he made marked the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

He commentated on Olympic sports, as well as the Invictus Games, and also put his voice to montages for the BBC’s NFL highlights programmes. He also published three novels and two non-fiction books.

Two-time Tour captain and fellow broadcaster Sam Warburton said: “Stunned at the news and passing of Eddie Butler. Thoughts with his family.

“What an amazing contribution to rugby and broadcasting. A privilege to have played and co-commentated with his voice.”

Scott Quinnell, who toured with the Lions in 1997 and 2001, said: “Absolutely devastated to hear the news. Eddie was such a wonderful man. Always loved our chats especially over a pint. Love and thoughts to Sue and the family.”

Source – British & Irish Lions


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