Big game players yet to hunt with Lions
April 16, 2009
A grand total of 95 caps, three Rugby World Cup appearances and 738 Test points for Chris Paterson but no Lions stash © Getty Images
Girvan Dempsey Stuart Grimes David Humphreys Gareth Llewellyn Chris Paterson Peter Stringer Joe Worsley
This weekend offers those players hoping to board the plane to South Africa with the British & Irish Lions one last chance to impress the tour management.
Ian McGeechan's squad announcement on April 21 will generate equal measures of agony and ecstasy for players throughout Great Britain and Ireland - fulfilling the dreams of some and ending those of others.
Sadly, a distinguished career for club and country is not always enough to guarantee the chance to add the Lions to your CV - just ask any of the seven players below who despite a wealth of caps and honours have failed to bag any Lions stash.
Arguably the most bankable and accurate kicker in the modern game, Paterson has accrued 95 Test caps and bagged 738 international points in the process. But sadly he was deemed surplus to requirements by Graham Henry in 2001 and Clive Woodward in 2005. The 31-year-old was a bit-part player in this year's Six Nations - filling in at wing, fly-half and fullback and is unlikely to get the nod for South Africa. Such is his status, players who haven't played for six months (England's Jonny Wilkinson) and those lacking form (England's Danny Cipriani) are said to have more of a chance of boarding the plane!
The Welsh lock racked up 92 caps in a 15-year international career and saw service at three Rugby World Cups. He achieved the notable feat of playing international rugby in three different decades and under eight different national coaches but failed to force his way into the reckoning for the Lions tours to New Zealand (1993), South Africa (1997) or Australia (2001). The formidable presence of the likes of Martin Johnson and Jeremy Davidson will not have helped his cause.
The tenacious scrum-half is another closing in on a century of caps having made 88 appearances over the last nine years with the latest coming during this year's Six Nations. But unlike his fellow Irish stalwarts O'Driscoll, O'Gara and Hayes he has not made the grade when it comes to the Lions. His best form may not have coincided with Lions tours and he will have to make do with basking in Ireland's Grand Slam glory as the only plane he is likely to be boarding this summer is the one taking him on his hols.
Fullback Girvan Dempsey may well have been one of the most secure and dependable players in the Ireland setup since his debut in 1998 but safe and reliable does not always cut it when it comes to the Lions (ask Chris Paterson). Played a key role in Ireland's golden period in the early noughties on his way to 82 caps, vying with compatriot Geordan Murphy for the Irish No.15 shirt. But whereas Murphy has a Lions trip to New Zealand to his name Dempsey has only the Triple Crowns in 2004, 2006 and 2007.
Worsley's presence in our list ensures all the Home Nations are accounted for and it eases the fears of those already formulating a conspiracy theory. The barn-storming flanker has 72 caps to his name and the small matter of a Rugby World Cup winner's medal from England's memorable triumph in 2003. Like many before him, the international door opened for him while his compatriots went to battle for the Lions and he is likely to repay that favour this year. He returned to his best form during this year's Six Nations and as a result is a good bet to drop off this particular list next week.
Yet another Irishman makes our list, with fly-half Humphreys missing out on three Lions tours during a 72-cap international career spanning 10 years. Like Paterson, he may have lacked a dynamic edge offered by his rivals and had to watch Ronan O'Gara leap-frog him in the Irish ranks and then star for the Lions. But his omission and the selection of his compatriots saw him handed the Irish captaincy - perhaps a more important feat in the Humpheys household at least.
Maybe the least high-profile name in our latest Scrum Seven, but 71 caps, two Rugby World Cup appearances and a Five Nations Championship success in 1999 are impressive credentials all the same.
Amongst those just to miss out on our list - Kenny Logan (Scotland 70 caps), Kevin Maggs (Ireland, 70), Marcus Horan (Ireland, 65), Anthony Foley (Ireland, 62) and Bryan Redpath (Scotland, 60).
Stay tuned to Scrum.com for comprehensive coverage of the British & Irish Lions tour announcement on April 21.
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