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Lions greatest XV: Brian Moore (1989) – hooker

Brian MooreWhen the British & Irish Lions embark on their Tour of Australia next summer, their army of fans will be ready to hail new heroes. Just who will emerge as giants from the rollercoaster journey is one of the great questions waiting to be answered in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. But the heroes from yesteryear are well chronicled and will live in The Lions folklore.

We asked our panel of experts to pick their top XV and this week they looked at hookers.

Nick Cain, The Rugby Paper’s chief correspondent, says: “Hookers are traditionally among Rugby Union’s biggest characters, and the best of the British and Irish breed have played for The Lions.

“Players like John Pullin, Bobby Windsor, Peter Wheeler, Brian Moore and Keith Wood are legends in that club within a club, the front row union, epitomising the tough, ferociously competitive nature of the mobile footballers who scrummage between the monster props.

“As the key position in the spine of the team, responsible for how well the set piece functions, these nuggety customers are often leaders and known for quick wits and fiery temperaments.

“They have also been intrinsic to every successful Lions Tour and none more so than ‘Piggy’ Pullin, the West Country farmer who played in all four Tests on the triumphant 1971 Tour of New Zealand. Pullin was not the flashiest but when it came to attending to set-piece business he was rock solid and was also a handy operator in the loose.

“Windsor was a comedian but as combative as they come, and held the Test berth throughout the unbeaten 1974 Tour of South Africa.

“Wheeler was renowned for not just being an excellent all round footballer, but also for being teak-tough, and although the 1977 and 1980 Tours ended in defeat he was outstanding in dominant packs.

“In the modern era Moore (1989) and the Irishman Wood (1997) have taken on the mantle with both of them formidable set-piece practitioners who brought a further dimension with their speed and handling ability in open field.”

Raging Bull Phil Vickery backed Wood: “Woody played with real passion, and that’s my philosphy.”

Former England prop great Jeff Pobyn says: “My first thought was John Pullin, with seven Lions caps who played in all three Tests when they beat the All Blacks in that historic Tour of 1971.

“But my favourite hooker would have to be my old mate Brian Moore.

“Brian had two Lions Tours and was capped in five Tests including the 1989 winning series in Australia.

“Although not the most technical of hookers and slightly small (5ft 7ins with size six feet) Brian was without doubt the best rugby player I ever played with, his understanding of the game and his competitive energy made him a nightmare to play against.

“Famously in the Australian second Test, while preparing for a lineout an Australian spectator threw a full can of beer at him which just missed his head.

“Brian’s reaction was to pick the can up, turn to the crowd open the beer, toast the crowd, drink the beer and throw the empty can back.

“For that and many other reasons Brian would always be my No.1 hooker.”

Also mentioned: John Pullin, Bobby Windsor, Peter Wheeler, Keith Wood

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