The British & Irish Lions made their international debut on their first tour to South Africa, beating the Springboks 4-0 at Port Elizabeth on 30 July, 1891.
No fewer than 10 of the historic first Test team for the Lions were Light Blues – and all the points in the game were scored by Cambridge players.
|THE FIRST BRITISH & IRISH LIONS TEST TEAM |
William Mitchell; Paul Clauss, Randolph Aston, Bill MacLagan (captain), Arthur Rotherham, William Wotherspoon, William Bromet; John Gould, Johnny Hammond, Froude Hancock, Rob MacMillan, Clement Simpson, Aubone Surtees, Rob Thompson, Tom Whittaker
Randolph Aston was the star of the tour, the England international centre scoring 31 tries in 20 games to create a record that still stands to this day. He also gained the distinction of not only scoring the first try for the Lions in South Africa, but also the first Test try for the touring team. He had played with Arthur Rotherham, Clement Simpson, William Thorman and Rob Thompson in the 1890 Varsity Match that was held over until 3 March, 1891.
It was a drawn game that featured Oxford’s sole South African tourist, Paul Clauss. Aston won two caps for England while he was at Cambridge. He weighed in at 15 stone, was very fast and proved almost unstoppable on the hard grounds in South Africa. Edward Bromet and Howard Marshall also went on to play in the Test series.
Marshall never won a Blue but did win an England cap in 1893. Not only that he scored a hat-trick on his debut. The only problem was he ended up on the losing side to Wales and was promptly dropped. Froude Hancock was one of the biggest men to play for England and the Lions in the pre-WW1 era, a giant second row who was accepted at Cavendish Hall in October, 1881.
He may not have graduated at Cambridge, but on the rugby field he managed to pass every examination with the Lions as he played 33 times on two tours and lost only once. He played in the first seven Tests in Lions history and finished on the winning side six times.
That remains a record to this day, although it is one the captain of 2021, Alun Wyn Jones, can match. He currently has five wins from nine Tests and could surpass Hanock if the Lions can make a clean-sweep of the series.
Not even the great Irish second row, Willie John McBride, who played in a record 17 Tests on five tours, could do any better than five wins.