IRB Hall of Fame – Induction No.19 – William James 'Willie John' McBride (1940-), Ireland and the Lions

Personal Details

- Born: 6 June, 1940 in Toomebridge, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
- Family: Born into a farming family, he is the fourth of five children – sister Sarah, brothers Robert, John and Tom. His father died when he was four and his younger brother Tom died in an accident at 21. Married to Penny, they have one daughter Amanda and a son Paul.
- Education: Duneane Primary and Ballymena Academy.
- Position: Flank and lock forward.
- Club: Ballymena RFC.
- Province: Ulster.
- Other sport: Track and field, pole vault. Ulster schools champion.

Professional career

– Retired Bank Manager. Started working on the family farm, then joined the Northern Bank, Ulster (part of the Midland Bank Group) as a trainee, from where he took early retirement as a senior manager at 50.

Rugby Career

- Played for and captained Ballymena RFC, Ulster, Ireland and the British & Irish Lions.
- International debut for Ireland v England on 10 February 1962 at Twickenham. England won 16-0.
- He missed only one of the 63 matches Ireland played during his 13-year career span between 1962 and 1975. His record was won 28, drawn 10 and lost 25.
- Captained Ireland in 12 internationals, with him as captain the Irish won the Five Nations in 1974.
- Last Ireland appearance v Wales on 15 March 1975 at Cardiff Arms Park. Wales won 32-4.
- Captained the Irish President’s Centenary XV in 1974 and the Scotland and Ireland XV against England and Wales for the IRFU Centenary in 1975.
- Played for Ireland and Scotland in the RFU and SRU Centennial matches.  
- Made his Lions debut at flank forward against South West Africa on 12 June, 1962.
- Played in 68 Lions matches over five Tours, of which 17 were tests – two in 1962, three in 1966, four in 1968, four in 1971 and four in 1974 – and finished his remarkable Lions career in July 1974 after the match against Natal.
- Captained the 1974 “Invincibles” to South Africa, playing in 12 of the 22 matches on a tour which yielded 21 victories and one draw.
- Captained the World XV in 1977 in South Africa.
- When he retired he was the most capped players in the world with 80 selections (63 for Ireland and 17 for the Lions). At the time two Frenchmen Michel Crauste and Benoit Dauga had equalled his Irish record of 63 caps.
- Coached Ulster (1981-83) and Ireland (1983-84).
- Coached the World Invitation XV in South Africa in 1982.
- Managed the Lions to New Zealand in 1983.

Ireland appearances summary

AgainstMatchesTries Cons Pens DGs Points Won Drawn Lost
Wales12 0 0 0 0 0 5 2 5
England14 0 0 0 0 0 7 3 4
Scotland13 0 0 0 0 0 7 0 6
New Zealand3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2
Australia3 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0
South Africa2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0
France 15 1 0 0 0 4 5 2 8
Irish Presidents XV 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Total 63 1 0 0 0 4 28 10 25

Captained Ireland on 12 occasions

10/03/1973 v Wales
14/04/1973 v France
19/01/1974 v France
02/02/1974 v Wales
16/02/1974 v England
02/03/1974 v Scotland
07/09/1974 v Irish President's XV
23/11/1974 v New Zealand
18/01/1975 v England
01/02/1975 v Scotland
01/03/1975 v France
15/03/1975 v Wales

Ireland test summary

Caps: 63
Points: 4
Tries: 1
 

British and Irish Lions all-time matches

The 1962 tour of South Africa

12/06/1962 v South West Africa
27/06/1962 v Sharks
04/07/1962 v Orange Free State
17/07/1962 v South West Districts
25/07/1962 v Northern Universities
28/07/1962 v Transvaal
04/08/1962 v South Africa
08/08/1962 v North Eastern Districts
15/08/1962 v Central Universities
25/08/1962 v South Africa

The 1966 tour of Australia & New Zealand

11/05/1966 v South Australia
14/05/1966 v Victoria
18/05/1966 v New South Wales Country
31/05/1966 v Queensland
11/06/1966 v Southland
18/06/1966 v Otago
22/06/1966 v New Zealand Universities
25/06/1966 v Wellington
02/07/1966 v Taranaki
06/07/1966 v Bay of Plenty
20/07/1966 v West Coast / Buller
23/07/1966 v Canterbury
30/07/1966 v Auckland
06/08/1966 v New Zealand
13/08/1966 v New Zealand Maoris
20/08/1966 v Hawke's Bay
27/08/1966 v New Zealand
03/09/1966 v Waikato
10/09/1966 v New Zealand
14/09/1966 v British Columbia
17/09/1966 v Canada

The 1968 tour of South Africa

18/05/1968 v Western Transvaal
22/05/1968 v Vodacom Western Province
29/05/1968 v Eastern Province
01/06/1968 v Sharks
08/06/1968 v South Africa
22/06/1968 v South Africa
06/07/1968 v Griqualand West
08/07/1968 v Boland Kavaliers
13/07/1968 v South Africa
17/07/1968 v Border
27/07/1968 v South Africa

The 1971 tour of New Zealand

12/05/1971 v Queensland
26/05/1971 v Wanganui / King Country
29/05/1971 v Waikato
05/06/1971 v Wellington
12/06/1971 v Otago
19/06/1971 v Canterbury
22/06/1971 v Marlborough / Nelson Bays
26/06/1971 v New Zealand
30/06/1971 v Southland
03/07/1971 v Taranaki
10/07/1971 v New Zealand
31/07/1971 v New Zealand
04/08/1971 v Manawatu / Horowhenua
07/08/1971 v North Auckland
14/08/1971 v New Zealand

The 1974 tour of South Africa

15/05/1974 v Western Transvaal
22/05/1974 v Boland Kavaliers
25/05/1974 v Eastern Province
29/05/1974 v South West Districts
01/06/1974 v Vodacom Western Province
08/06/1974 v South Africa
15/06/1974 v Transvaal
22/06/1974 v South Africa
29/06/1974 v Orange Free State
06/07/1974 v Northern Transvaal
09/07/1974 v South Africa African XV
13/07/1974 v South Africa
20/07/1974 v Sharks
27/07/1974 v South Africa

British and Irish Lions test summary:

Caps: 17
Points: 3
Tries: 1

Coaching and management

– Coach of Ballymena RFC from 1980 to 1983.
– Coach of Ulster 1981to 1983.
– Coach of Ireland from 1983 to 1984.
– Coach of World XV in South Africa in 1982.
– Manager of the British and Irish Lions for the 1983 tour to New Zealand.
– President of Ballymena RFC from 1989 to 2000.

Awards and Distinctions

– MBE for services to sport.
– Freeman of Ballyclare.

What they said about him

John Scally (author): “The place of pride in Willie John’s cabinet goes to a silver water jug presented to him by the players of the 1974 Lions tour to South Africa, engraved with the words “To Willie John. It was great to travel with you.”

Sean Diffley (rugby writer): “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.”

John Griffiths (rugby historian): “But one man with the application, character and command to transform the attitude and effect of British forwards emerged from the disappointing tests of the sixties. He was Willie John McBride.”

*Profile correct at time of induction