Lions Touring Stories

The Lions – When Enemies Become Friends

The British & Irish Lions started their first match in New Zealand, a few Saturdays ago. Lions tours are extraordinary, as fierce opponents from four countries come together, train together, play together, party together, tour together – they become friends for life. The Lions is a wonderful tradition. However, their battles overseas in the Southern Hemisphere, have been tough, bloody and some say, down right dangerous. Despite the extreme intensity of the battles, there are some wonderful sportsmanship moments. Here are a few from former Lions 1974 , Ireland and Ulster wing forward, Stewart McKinney.

Lions Crest

Ostrich Bomb & Thank You Punch

Here’s what happened when the South African giant, Johan de Bruyn met McKinney in an airport after the Lions wing-forward had hit him ‘very hard’ during their encounter on the pitch……

Ferocious One Eyed Rugby Giant Shows Gentle Kindness to a Lion

Stewart also tells another story of de Bruyn’s generosity of spirit in a way that you simply cannot imagine, when the heroic Scottish Lion, Gordon Browne was very very ill.


All Blacks Jaw UnWired for Guinness and Rewired for Matches

Many All All Blacks have a soft spot for the Irish. Here is Irish & Lions wing-forward, Stewart McKinney telling the tale of meeting his childhood hero, All Black Wing-Forward Walker Nathan, who loved the Irish because, despite having a broken jaw, they unwired it so he could enjoy the weekend drinking Guinness and eating steak & then rewired it before his next match, BUT….when Walker met Stewart many years later, it could have gone horribly wrong…here’s what happened……


1973 All Black, Keith Murdoch Was Harshly Treated – Here Is His Little Known Secret Act Of Kindness

He didn’t do time, but he had a good time, with security forces and thanked them in his own way. This is the sad story about a decent All Black who treated harshly & suffered indignity, yet he was a good man whose kindness to others was a secret until Stewart McKinney revealed it to the world. Here’s Keith Murdoch story.

Lion Kills A Springbok  – the Incredible Blair Mayne

Here it is….. … the unbelievable carry-on from one of the Lions greatest ever characters and players, the wild, crazy and wonderful Blair Mayne……… Ozzie Osborne, Rolling Stones, The Who are all a bunch of woosies when it comes to real after match fun…… not to mention his heroics on the pitch & off the pitch (in WW2). Sit back & enjoy this one as you will never meet  the likes of this one very famous Lion, Blair Mayne, again . He was the last of the ‘Blue Lions’ after 1938 tour the Lions changed colours and became the red jersey that we see today.


Good luck to the Lions v All Blacks on Saturday with the Lions new captain, Peter O’Mahoney. 

Most of these stories come from Stewart McKinney’s two amazing collection of Lions stories

Roars From The Back Of The Bus (which has outrageous Lions stories from the 1880s to the wild 1970s) and  Voices From The Back Of The Bus (containing short outrageous stories form the players themselves).










If you enjoyed these videos, you might also enjoy:

A Maori Prayer for Donal Caniffe’s Dad

Magnificent Maori Gesture at Start of Munster Game

Lions Tour Ends Honourably

60 Of The Best – Great Quotes from Bill McLaren (part 1 of 4)


Join usbecome a Great Sportsmanship Ambassador (looks great on your Linkedin Page & CV – stand out from the crowd – all we ask is that you like and share (& comment the odd time) as many stories as you can. We publish a new story everyday on instagram greatsportsmanship and facebook: Great Sportsmanship.

8 thoughts on “Lions Touring Stories”

  1. Has the professional era restricted the social interaction of Lions tourists and hosts? All work and no play – if Stewart McKinney was touring now would it be all quiet at the back of the bus.

    • Yes the pro’s have to be a tad more constrained! Though, Sean Fitz said the players were mixing with fans & local community & enjoying their days off to the max. Stories of Sean O’Brien singing country songs, the nutty Kyle Sinckler snoring on youtube & others building farm fences on a day out – maybe isn’t quite former Lion, Blaire Mayne’s party trick of running at & smashing down hotel room doors for fun. But hey hoe you can sense there is a special feeling developing there in the camp.

  2. Such wonderful stories of the incredible bond between such sporting adversaries – in particular very moved by the presentation Johan de Bruyn made of the decanter + glass eye to Gordon Browne.

    (Blair Mayne was no slouch either…on AND off the field…)

    Underlines the important legacy of these British and Irish Lions tours.

    • Agree the Lions is a great tradition & a joy to be able to join with my normal northern hemi adversaries – arm in arm – willing the Lions on to history. it is great to have a common cause or, as you say, bond. All those Lions are becoming friends for life.

  3. It was wonderful to see Sonny Bill on the field after the final test shaking hands and embracing the Lions players, the All Blacks certainly play hard, very hard, but its all about the game and i believe they fully expect the same from their opposition and thats where the mutual respect comes in – all exemplified in their gracious captain Kieran Reid

  4. Very well said Phil. I see Kieran Reid’s big smile at the end said a lot about the great man. Huge disappointment, I’m sure for the ABs but they also knew they were in one heck of a final test battle (which only happens once every 12 years & his immediate warm grin acknowledged that. Magnificint captain.

  5. Great stories. Difficult to see the likes of a Blair Mayne making his way through the more sterile world of modern professional rugby. How many organisations would be up in arms in these PC times if one of the Lions dragged in a Sprinkbok that he had just shot?????

    • Yep fair comment Shane – the professional era brings some boring baggage with it too. Mind you journalists have played their role too. I can predict the questions (& the answers for many sports interviews these days). Cliche-driven, media trained dross. GB’s wonderful tennis player, Jo Konta, was an exception, when she gave a refreshingly humorous interview during Wimbledon

Leave a Reply