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Manchester's British Lions

1 year ago By

Maybe not on this tour, but Manchester have been well represented on past British Lions' tours, providing no fewer than 10 players over the years.

There's an excellent resource on the official British & Irish Lions' website >

...but here's a summary of the Manchester players, a very important part of the Club's proud history:

English utility back Bert Roscoe was part of the 1891 Lions squad that went unbeaten on their Tour to South Africa.

Born in Liverpool, Roscoe played five games in total for Bill Maclagan’s team on that Tour.

He scored three tries on the Tour, one against Port Elizabeth, before helping himself to a double against Pietermaritzburg in a 25-0 win.

An English forward, Thomas Whittaker went to Rugby School before studying at Trinity College, Cambridge.

In 1891 he was selected as part of the Lions team to tour South Africa, and he played 17 matches in all, including all three Tests.
Whittaker scored a try in the 4-0 victory over South Africa in the first Test – his only Test try.

He never played internationally for England, and worked as a barrister after returning from South Africa.

George Cookson played all four Test matches against Australia on the 1899 Tour Down Under, as The British & Irish Lions emerged 3-1 series victors.

Playing his club rugby for Manchester, Cookson was never selected for England but he did play at county level for Lancashire and earned a North of England cap in 1898.

He played 18 of the 20 Tour matches for the Lions in the centres, but after a loss in the first test, his initial partner – and team captain – Matthew Mullineux, dropped himself to bring in Charlie Adamson from three-quarters instead.

The Lions went on to win the remaining Tests, and on his return to the UK, Cookson was invited to join the touring Barbarians.

Described as a “very tall player, who wants a lot of stopping when he gets going” by 1899 British & Irish Lions skipper Matthew Mullineux, John Francomb played nine Tour matches in Australia.

The Manchester and Lancashire forward played his one and only international game in the first Test against Australia, which the tourists lost 13-3.

After returning to Britain Francomb was also invited to tour with the Barbarians, and six years later – when he was playing for Sale – he was also chosen to play for the Cheshire team to face the 1905 New Zealand squad on their tour of Britain.

Charles Thompson represented both his club and county in playing for Manchester and Lancashire before joining up with The British & Irish Lions in 1899.

He never played for England but was described by his Tour captain Matthew Mullineux as having “a good kick”, and demonstrated remarkable versatility as he could play at three-quarters and in the forwards as well.

Thompson played in 13 games of the Tour of Australia, and while Esmonde Martelli was preferred for the first Test, Thompson was selected for the final three after Mullineux shuffled his squad.

Thompson therefore finished the tour with three international wins to his name, and returned to Britain to represent the Barbarians.

Frank Handford was part of a strong English contingent among Dr Tommy Smyth’s 1910 British & Irish Lions Tour to South Africa.

The Manchester FC forward started all three Test matches, scoring his one and only try for the Tourists in their 30-10 win over Border – he eventually migrated to South Africa.

Handford played club rugby for Aspartria between 1906 and 1908 before vice-captaining Kersal (now Altrincham and Kersal) in the 1908/09 season before moving on to Manchester FC.

He was a veteran of the Lancashire county side from 1906 right through to the return of County rugby following World War One and earned four England Test caps in 1909, making his debut against Wales before playing his final Test in a Calcutta Cup loss.

Lancashire-born Handford was the son of a Stockport tea merchant but was educated as a boarder at the Leys School, Cambridge.

Forward Henry Whitehead started the Lions Test match against Argentina in Buenos Aires on June 12 1910.

That came despite having never previously played international rugby, although he did play for Manchester AC, Lancashire and the North of England.

Whitehead was among the majority when it came to experience with only four members having played international rugby previously.

But collectively they came together to record a 100 per cent winning record from their six games, including the 28-3 win over Argentina in the sole international match.

Such was the versatility of Guy Wilson, The British & Irish Lions exploits of the Englishman saw him operate in two positions – despite only playing in two Test matches.

As part of the 1927 Tour to Argentina, Wilson started as a wing, scoring twice in the 37-0 win in Buenos Aires – the first of the 4-0 whitewash for the Lions.

Sitting out the second and third clashes, the Leigh-born player returned for the final Test, this time in the centres.

Again, he was not to be kept off the scoring charts, crossing the whitewash in the 43-0 success – one of 11 tries – while also kicking five conversions.

Wilson would also earn two caps for England in 1929, both at Twickenham.

Harold Jones was a prop who was selected for the 1930 British Lions tour to New Zealand and Australia.

He played in 11 of the 28 games while in the southern hemisphere, including beating an Australia XV 29-14 in Brisbane.

Unfortunately, the Lions were unable to secure victory in their sole Test match against Australia as they narrowly lost 6-5, while they also won one of their four games against New Zealand.

As for Jones, the Lions won nine of the 11 games he played in, the forward tasting defeat against Canterbury in New Zealand and New South Wales in Australia.

Flanker John O’Driscoll made 19 appearances, including three Tests, for the Lions across two tours, to South Africa in 1980 and New Zealand three years later.

O’Driscoll kicked off his Lions career in the perfect way with two tries in a 28-6 Lions victory over an SARA XV. He played 11 times during the tour, including in all four Tests.

He scored another try in the second Test before grabbing his fourth of the Tour in the 17-13 Lions victory in the final Test against the Springboks.

Three years later, the Irishman played in the second and fourth Test defeats against the All Blacks as well as six other tour games.

Updated 12:01 - 20 May 2017 by

Where next?

England Call For Sam Ex-Manchester M&J Sam James has been named in England's squad for the summer tour to Argentina.
U16s Wellington Festival Sion Davenport and Charlie Warren were at this week's Wellington Festival with Sale Sharks Academy, beating Exeter 17-15 in the last game.

It’s our final Kids First Champion for the season! David ‘Flats’ Flatman and two special guests surprise Ellingham & Ringwood RFC.

Sun 29 Apr
Festival 35 – 20
Sat 28 Apr
2nd XV Carrington 1
League 39 – 28
League 31 – 17
Sun 22 Apr
Manchester Ladies Sefton Ladies
League 3 – 5
Friendly W – L
Sat 21 Apr
1st XV St Benedicts
League A – A
2nd XV Congleton 2
League 5 – 66


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