Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Were the 1974 Lions the 'Greatest Ever'? New book argues the case for the Undefeated on 40th anniversary of tour‏

For years the British and Irish Lions team that triumphed in South Africa in 1974 lived in the shadow of the great 1971 touring party that won a famous series in New Zealand under Carwyn James.
But the 1974 side remain the only Lions never to be beaten and in his new book, author Rhodri Davies makes a strong case for crediting that touring party as the ‘greatest ever’.
The book marks the 40th anniversary of their astonishing achievement in South Africa, and in it the players finally lift the lid on the political turmoil, the fierce on-field battles, the myths, the realities and the vocal criticism that dogged their progress.
In the book, called Undefeated – The Story of the 1974 Lions, the 1974 tour is finally re-lived through their eyes. It was a compelling, controversial yet ultimately triumphant campaign, which re-wrote the history books. The 1974 Lions overcame what seemed like insurmountable odds, and their feats have never been matched.
Rhodri Davies said: “I was inspired to write the book having produced and presented a television documentary for S4C in 2011 celebrating the achievement of the earlier 1971 Lions in New Zealand. Their historic and iconic series win was rightly lauded on its 40th anniversary, but it started me thinking about the subsequent tour – the 1974 Lions venture to South Africa – which if anything surpassed the feats of the 1971 vintage. Yet that tour has never been celebrated to the same extent. My question was why?
Undefeated addresses that question, and also gives the 1974 Lions their rightful due – as arguably the greatest Lions ever. Other than two books published in the immediate aftermath of the tour, very little has been written about the 1974 Lions’ achievement over the past 40 years.”
The author has talked to many key figures from the tour, including captain Willie John McBride, Andy Irvine (who managed the 2013 Lions to a series win in Australia), Fran Cotton (who also went on to manage a successful Lions tour in 1997) and a number of all-time greats, such as Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett and JPR Williams.
According to Gareth Edwards, “It was a tour that created many myths. Finally here is the reality… an historical memoir that does justice to the side’s unparalleled achievements.”
Rhodri Davies added: “I talked at length to the man who led the anti-apartheid campaign which fought tooth and nail to stop the tour – Peter Hain – as well as respected rugby players and administrators in South Africa. I have also sought the views of  rugby heroes past and present the likes of Gerald Davies, Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts. Undefeated explores the Lions experience and puts the 1974 tour into its political and sporting context.
“It is essentially the story of the 1974 Lions in their own words, encompassing controversies both on and off the field, the mythical “99” call, the moral debate about their participation in the tour, and of course their astonishing achievement. Were they the greatest ever? The argument rages to this day, but their case is certainly a strong one. Their record is still unrivalled forty years later, and in truth, it won’t be matched again.”
Rhodri Davies will be launching Undefeated - The Story of the 1974 Lions (published by Y Lolfa) at Culloden Hotel, Belfast on Thursday night where Ulster’s Wooden Spoon Society will be holding a 1974 Lions 40th anniversary Gala Dinner. There will also be a dinner atBallsbridge Hotel, Dublin on Saturday 21 June, also arranged by Wooden Spoon. The players and author will be present at both events, where the book will be on sale.
Rhodri Davies is an award-winning broadcaster and journalist who has worked on news, sport, documentary and magazine programmes for the BBC, ITV and S4C. He has covered Lions tours, Rugby World Cups, Six Nations Championships and club competitions throughout Europe, as well as producing and presenting Llewod ’71, a celebration of the 1971 Lions tour to New Zealand.


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