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During an international career which spanned 1962-75, Willie John McBride won 63 caps for Ireland and played a record 17 tests for the British and Irish Lions. The highlight of his achievements was captaining the Lions on their famous unbeaten tour against South Africa in 1974, the same year that he led Ireland to victory in the 1974 Five Nations Championship.
In total, the legendary no-nonsense Irish second-row went on five Lions tours as a player, playing an incredible 68 games, and managed the side in New Zealand in 1983.
Tough as teak and indispensable to his country, McBride only missed one of Ireland’s matches played during his 13-year international career. Fittingly he scored his only try for Ireland in his last international at Lansdowne Road against France.
On retiring from playing, McBride moved into coaching. He had a spell with his native Ulster (1981-83) and a season in charge of Ireland (1983-84).
Willie John’s contribution (to the Lions touring) has been justly lauded, and if such estimates are admissible or have any real validity it is probably true that Willie John and Colin Meads of New Zealand have been the greatest locks of all time.