The player who holds the record for the most appearances for the British & Irish Lions, formerly the British Lions, is Irish lock Willie John McBride. All told, Mcbride toured with the Lions five times, to South Africa in 1962, to Australia and New Zealand in 1966, to South Africa again in 1968, to New Zealand again in 1971 and, finally, to South Africa yet again in 1974. His Lions’ career yielded 17 Test caps, four more than his nearest pursuer, legendary scrum-half Richard ‘Dickie’ Jeeps and culminated in the captaincy of the most successful Lions side in history.
Subsequently dubbed ‘The Invincibles’, the Lions squad that toured South Africa in 1974 included such luminaries as Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett and John Peter Rhys ‘JPR’ Williams. Under the leadership of McBride, the Lions won 21 of 22 matches and drew the other, but only after the referee controversially disallowed a ‘winning’ try by Irish flanker Fergus Slattery in the final minutes of the fourth and final Test at Ellis Park, Johannesburg. Nevertheless, the British Lions had won a Test series in South Africa for the first time.
In the face of deliberate, often violent, foul play on the part of the home players, McBride instigated a policy of simultaneous, collaborative retaliation, summoned by the call of ’99’ or, originally, ‘999’. The idea was that the referee could not single out any one Lions’ player for disciplinary action, so essentially had the option of sending off the whole team or no-one at all.