IRB Hall of Fame – Induction No.29 Cameron Michael Henderson Gibson (1942- ), Ireland and the Lions

Personal details

– Born: – 3 December 1942 in Belfast, Northern Ireland
– Family: The younger son of Cameron and Josephine Gibson, he has a brother Peter. He is married to Moyra and they have two children, Colin and Jan, and four granddaughters Holly, Jessica, Katherine and Amy.
– Education: Cabin Hill School, Campbell College, Belfast, and Cambridge University. He graduated with an MA Degree in Law.
– Nickname : Mike
– Other Sports: Cricket, played for Ireland Schools XI 1960-62, captaining them in 1962, and was 12th man for Ireland v New Zealand in 1965.

Professional career

– After graduating from Cambridge he spent one year as assistant secretary in the Civil Service prior to commencing a three-year apprenticeship as a solicitor with Skelton McMaster of Belfast.
– Having qualified as a solicitor he spent three years with Ronald Rosser, Solicitor of Lurgan, prior to joining Tughans Solicitors of Belfast as a Partner.
– Remained with Tughans Solicitors as a Senior Partner until his retirement.
Honours and awards

– Awarded an MBE for services to rugby

Rugby career         

– Started playing rugby at Cabin Hill School, with William Russell and Victor Brennan as coaches/teachers. He continued his development under Bob Mitchell and David Young at Campbell College in Belfast.
– In 1962 he joined the Belfast-based North of Ireland FC (NIFC) and during his first year with the club he also made appearances for Wanderers in Dublin. He was member of the sides which won the Senior League in 1965/66 and the Senior Cup in 1969.
– A one-club man, he stayed with NICF for 22 seasons, until 1984 when he retired. He captained the club during the 1972/73 season, when the club won the Senior Cup.
– During his time with NICF he played one match for London Irish in 1966 and three seasons for Cambridge University, whom he captained in 1965.
– At Cambridge he won three blues, playing for the 1963 winning team and the 1964 losing side before leading Cambridge to a draw in 1965.
– He represented Ulster from 1962 to 1978 and captained them on occasions, although injury in the latter part of his career – an Achilles tendon in 1974 and a fracture of the scapula in 1977/78 – kept him out of the game for several months.
– He played nine times for the Barbarians and captained them once, against Leicester in December 1975. He played for Baa-Baas against all three major touring sides, South Africa in 1970, New Zealand in 1973 and Australia in 1976, the match against the All Blacks being one of the most famous of all times.
– He made his international debut as a 21 year old fly half in an 18-5 win over England at Twickenham in 1964. He retired from international rugby 15 years later following the second Irish Test against Australia, a 9-3 win in Sydney in 1979.
– His prolific international career included a then world record 69 Tests for Ireland (won 29, lost 31, drawn 9), as well as 68 appearances for the British and Irish Lions.
– He scored 112 international points for Ireland, made up of nine tries, seven conversions, 16 penalties and six drop goals.
– A member of five Lions touring sides, making 12 Test appearances between 1966 and 1977.
– The third player to reach 50 caps for Ireland, behind Tom Kiernan and Willie John McBride.
– The second player to reach 60 caps for Ireland, behind McBride.
– Gibson became the most capped Irish player when he retired with 69 caps. It was only 26 years later that Malcolm O'Kelly equalled this record in 2005.
– He started 40 matches for Ireland at centre, 25 at fly half and four on the wing. He played 23 consecutive matches at fly half from the date of his debut until 1969.
– Played against England 15 times, winning eight, losing five and drawing two. Only George Gregan (16) and Fabien Pelous (17) have played more matches against England. Gibson also played 14 times against Wales, Scotland and France.
– His main centre partners were Dick Milliken, with whom he started 13 matches for Ireland (won six, lose five, drew two), and Barry Bresnihan for 12 Tests (won five, lost five, drew two).
– Played total of 56 matches across every Five Nations Championship between 1964 and 1979, a record for the competition which was equalled Ronan O’Gara in the last match of the 2011 Championship.


– A member of the all-conquering Lions tours to New Zealand in 1971 and South Africa in 1974.
– The fourth most capped Lion with 12 Tests, behind Willie John McBride (17) and Graham Price and Dickie Jeeps (both 13).
– Selected for the combined Scotland/Ireland team against the combined England/Wales for the RFU Centenary in 1970, SRU Centenary in 1973 and IRFU Centenary in 1974.
– Gibson was the most capped player in the world (69 for Ireland & 12 for the Lions) when he retired in 1979. Fellow IRB Hall of Fame member Serge Blanco equalled his world record 11 years later.
– Captained Ireland on five occasions, winning only once.
– Toured Argentina and Brazil with a strong Oxford/Cambridge selection. He played in five of the eight tour matches, starting at fly half in all three internationals, two against the Pumas and a third one against Brazil. The first was drawn 19-19, while the second and third were won  9-3 and 40-9 respectively.
– Appeared for Ireland against a strong Irish President XV in 1974 as part of the IRFU Centenary celebrations. Scored 10 points (two penalties and two conversions) in an 18-18 draw.

Appearance summary

Against Matches Tries Cons Pens DGs Points Won Drawn Lost
Wales 14 2 0 7 2 34 4 1 9
England 15 3 2 0 0 16 8 2 5
Scotland 14 3 3 4 1 31 7 1 6
New Zealand 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2
Australia 6 1 0 0 2 9 5 0 1
South Africa 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0
France 14 0 0 3 1 12 4 2 8
Irish Presidents XV 1 0 2 2 0 10 0 1 0
Total 32 0 0 0 7 21 11 2 19

International Tours

1965 Oxford / Cambridge tour of Argentina
1966 Lions tour of Australia and New Zealand
1967 Ireland tour of Australia
1968 Lions tour of South Africa
1971 Lions tour of Australia and New Zealand
1974 Lions tour of South Africa (not available for original selection. He replaced Alan Old of England after the second Test)
1976 Ireland tour of Fiji and New Zealand
1977 Lions tour of New Zealand and Fiji
1979 Ireland tour of Australia

British and Irish Lions tour summary

Year Matches Tries Cons Pens DGs Points
1966 20 8 1 3 0 35
1968 14 4 0 0 4 24
1971 16 5 1 1 1 23
1974 7 2 1 0 0 10
1977 11 3 2 4 0 28
Total 68 22 5 8 5 120

What he said

“I have always measured highly the ability to anticipate action and to read situations in rugby. Often I would watch a player drift around the field and suddenly the action takes place close to where he is. I just smile and think ‘that was class.’”
“I would play matches in which I would just kick with the left foot, and some in which I would kick with the right foot, just to develop strength in each. Also I would concentrate on what I would call the simple physical things in rugby – the ability to take a pass and deliver a pass. Then there is the thinking part of the game – which I consider to be a facet to separate players. If you can make the correct decisions throughout a match, your side is likely to be successful.”

“We had periods when we (Ireland) simply did not have the class of players to deal with New Zealand, South Africa and so on, but we had 15 people on the field who really wanted to be there and were quite prepared to sacrifice themselves for victory. And if it was not a victory, we would cause as much difficulty as we could to the opposition. After the match if had won we would be embarrassed and if we had lost we would say, well, we would play someone else next week.”

“There are so many elements in rugby that are of use in dealing with life. The enrichment comes from the satisfaction of being a member of a successful side, but more from the fact that you were in a team that fought together, and these memories would not leave me.”

What they said about him

Bill McLaren (TV commentator): “Mike Gibson, I believe, was the best all-round footballer I have ever seen.”

Paul Haedens (writer) on the 1963 Varsity match: “Gibson took control of the game personally. It happened at the beginning of the second half. He received the ball seven times and seven times Oxford started to panic. In nine minutes the score changed from 6-3 to Oxford, to 14-6 to Cambridge. I have never seen a player become the king of the stadium and the centre of everything that happened, stamping his authority on the game and the 60,000 spectators, in such short a time.”

Jean-Jacques Vierne (writer): “Irrespective of whether Mike Gibson played at centre or fly half, his main features remain his outstanding ability to control the game and his awareness.”