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Wellsy4HullFC

Lions History

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Just looking for a bit of clarification from the history buffs in here about the history of the Lions.

I know they started off as the Northern Union. When did they become known as the Lions? And when did they become Great Britain (as I understand it, the Great Britain part was introduced after the Lions brand was brought in).

Has the Great Britain Lions always included Ireland? Or was that part added later?

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Pretty certain they toured Aus and/or NZ in the 1920's still as England.

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I think for a lot of years there wasn't any official title ,eg in the early years I think I depended on what the hosts put on there programmes sometimes it was Australia v Great Britain ,England and even British Isles ,I also think the Great Britain and N.Ireland was only because that's the official title given to the union since the partition of Ireland in 1921 and doubt it was ever used officially by the RFL ,although they did Officially use Great Britain and Ireland in the late 90s until the team was rebranded England around 2008 ,in reality regardless of what name was used it was the same team with a sharerd history until 08 when the RFU made a point of trying to promote more seperate home nations in an attempt to expand international footie!

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I think for a lot of years there wasn't any official title ,eg in the early years I think I depended on what the hosts put on there programmes sometimes it was Australia v Great Britain ,England and even British Isles ,I also think the Great Britain and N.Ireland was only because that's the official title given to the union since the partition of Ireland in 1921 and doubt it was ever used officially by the RFL ,although they did Officially use Great Britain and Ireland in the late 90s until the team was rebranded England around 2008 ,in reality regardless of what name was used it was the same team with a sharerd history until 08 when the RFU made a point of trying to promote more seperate home nations in an attempt to expand international footie!

Freudian slip?

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I read somewhere (The Indomitables?) that the 1946 tour down under was the first time the tourists called themselves GB rather than England. Match programmes from the 30s and then the 40s/50s bear this out.

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Just looking for a bit of clarification from the history buffs in here about the history of the Lions.

I know they started off as the Northern Union. When did they become known as the Lions? And when did they become Great Britain (as I understand it, the Great Britain part was introduced after the Lions brand was brought in).

Has the Great Britain Lions always included Ireland? Or was that part added later?

I've been doing a bit of research using the various books, etc at my disposal.

I can't put my finger on any definite sources, but I seem to remember the international team playing under the 'England' or 'Northern Union' banner until the second world war. The wikipedia webpage England national rugby league team match results http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/England_national_rugby_league_team_match_results seems to confirm this as 1946 is the last time England plays a test series against the Aussies (+ 1 game against the Kiwis).

One bit of evidence I found online is a programme for the first test in Brisbane in in 1920, which was for Australia v England:

http://www.sportspages.com/rugby_league/programmes/international_matches/australia_v_england_1920_(1st_test)_703?search

These teams did, however, include non-English players, mainly Welsh, although the odd Scots and Irish player did make it into some of the teams. The emblem of pre-WW2 teams seems to partly recognise this, with the red rose of England prominent, but with what looks like a couple of leeks flanking it (and some sort of crown on top). Why England rather than GB or UK? One guess is that England was the backbone of the game in Britain, and most of the players were English - it was England's team, but other British nationals could play if they wanted as long as they accepted England's identity. Another reason could have been that with Wales being legally and constitutionally tied to England, then, like the England cricket team, the mainly Welsh 'guests' could legitimately play for an England team.

I suspect that it probably something to do with the fairly common confusion that there always seems to have been about national identity in these islands: England, GB, UK - it's all good. Did the second world war then promote the identity of Britain, and make the naming of the national rugby league team as GB more acceptable?

All that said, there seems to have been a fair bit of revisionism in treating England and Northern Union teams and records as being those of Great Britain. The tour records in publications like Rothmans treat them as such, and I've found replicas of the old tour photographs of England teams being sold with the title "Great Britain Tour Party". I say revisionism, but it is probably done in all innocence and in an attempt to set the historical record straight.

As for the Lions, the RFL had always resisted calls to give the England touring team an official title. The Aussies gave themselves the title Kangaroos right from the off. On the first tour game, NSW v England, in Sydney "The Englishmen filed out to the arena first ... preceded by a lean, gaunt stage lion, a striking antithesis of the noble beast and a peculiar physical contrast with the men in its wake. The NSW team marched in headed by a real, if small, kangaroo..." [The Referee, Sydney, 8 June 1910].

In "An Illustrated History of Rugby League" by Robert Gate there is a one of the cartoons they used to do of sporting teams, with full length drawings of all the England tour party for 1932. Alongside the captain, Jim Sullivan, is a lion standing on its hind legs, with one paw on Jim's shoulder, the other holding the Ashes trophy. The official pin-badge given to the players had an illustration of a bulldog. Incidentally, by this time England were playing in all white with the red and blue 'v'.

The first official recognition of the name British Lions seems to have been when a reunion of all past players was arranged at Belle Vue in Manchester, in 1945. The British Lions formed the British Rugby League Lions Association. Then, during the tour down under in 1950, Australasian tourists started to use the term, and it became common usage in British journals 4 years later. [At the George, Geoffrey Moorhouse]

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They officially became GB after the Indomitables tour. Think the Tony Collins book said it was something to do with a change of mood post WWII. National togetherness and that. They certainly started off calling themselves NU and I assume it became England when the name of the governing body changed in 1922 although they wouldn't have played until 1924. Robert Gate's book on the history of the Lions gives the official name of all the teams so if somebody could grab their copy of that it would clear things up nicely.

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Think there's always been a bit of confusion- as Methven says in the boffo post above- with England teams referred to as British and vice versa.

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Since the Rugby Union uses calls the Great British and Irish Lions (RU), aren't RL journos and officials affraid to call the GB [& Ireland (?), maybe so Carney could join them?...] Lions (RL) 'The GB Lions' these days in case the RFU sues them? :huh:

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Since the Rugby Union uses calls the Great British and Irish Lions (RU), aren't RL journos and officials affraid to call the GB [& Ireland (?), maybe so Carney could join them?...] Lions (RL) 'The GB Lions' these days in case the RFU sues them? :huh:

Union calls their team the British and Irish Lions, a subtle difference. Political considerations?

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Union calls their team the British and Irish Lions, a subtle difference. Political considerations?

But that's recent(ish) too, isn't it? It may have been shorthand from the commentators but I'm sure I can remember the '97 tour to (I think) South Africa being referred to as a "British Lions" tour.

And rugby league would not have been unique in not knowing what to call its national side. English overseas cricket tours were MCC tours until pretty recently so touring under the Northern Union banner would have fitted that.

And on a final point of pedantry, the BBC yesterday referred to a sovereign state as both the Irish Republic and the Republic of Ireland. I was outraged on your behalf.

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These teams did, however, include non-English players, mainly Welsh, although the odd Scots and Irish player did make it into some of the teams. The emblem of pre-WW2 teams seems to partly recognise this, with the red rose of England prominent, but with what looks like a couple of leeks flanking it (and some sort of crown on top). Why England rather than GB or UK? One guess is that England was the backbone of the game in Britain, and most of the players were English - it was England's team, but other British nationals could play if they wanted as long as they accepted England's identity. Another reason could have been that with Wales being legally and constitutionally tied to England, then, like the England cricket team, the mainly Welsh 'guests' could legitimately play for an England team.

I suspect that it probably something to do with the fairly common confusion that there always seems to have been about national identity in these islands: England, GB, UK - it's all good. Did the second world war then promote the identity of Britain, and make the naming of the national rugby league team as GB more acceptable?

The Aussies weren't keen on the side being called Britain as they made the point that "We are as British as you are" so we toured as England with the occasional Celtic player.

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I read somewhere (The Indomitables?) that the 1946 tour down under was the first time the tourists called themselves GB rather than England. Match programmes from the 30s and then the 40s/50s bear this out.

Understandable, as that touring party had enough Welshmen in it to form a male voice choir. Which is exactly what they did, giving several performances Down Under when not playing.

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But that's recent(ish) too, isn't it? It may have been shorthand from the commentators but I'm sure I can remember the '97 tour to (I think) South Africa being referred to as a "British Lions" tour.

And rugby league would not have been unique in not knowing what to call its national side. English overseas cricket tours were MCC tours until pretty recently so touring under the Northern Union banner would have fitted that.

And on a final point of pedantry, the BBC yesterday referred to a sovereign state as both the Irish Republic and the Republic of Ireland. I was outraged on your behalf.

You are possibly right. I have seen union Lions teams labelled as British Isles XV, but that may have just been the host broadcaster. Such a tag would not go down well with many Irish people - or should that be "people of Ireland"? :D

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The Aussies weren't keen on the side being called Britain as they made the point that "We are as British as you are" so we toured as England with the occasional Celtic player.

I can see their point but Great Britain is pretty specific.

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Do we know when the "and Ireland" part was added?

And was it "Great Britain and Northern Ireland" in the past? When did the team first include any (actual) Irishmen?

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Do we know when the "and Ireland" part was added?

And was it "Great Britain and Northern Ireland" in the past? When did the team first include any (actual) Irishmen?

Without checking, I thought "and Ireland" was added purely to incorporate Brian Carney (and dropped pretty quickly after he'd departed). The "four nation" badge, showing emblems of E, W, S & I, was added to the shirt (and added to the shirts of the individual nations IIRC - one of the Scotland shirts I have certainly had the badge on).

The whole 're-branding' had an amateurish air about it, as though it had been a task given to the office junior at RFL HQ. You can bet your life none of the 'devolved' governing bodies were consulted about the rebranding: the shirt wasn't redesigned to include a three colour vee, making it representative of all four nations; you can bet your life no one in Ireland was consulted about whether the title "British Isles XIII" was acceptable; and I'm sure the anthem played at games wasn't given a thought.

The impermanence of it all was confirmed when any pretence of it being Ireland's team disappeared.

As far as I know the team has never been called "Great Britain and Northern Ireland", but I've always put that down to the general ignorance about constitutional matters (mentioning no names, GJ :D ), ie GB = UK.

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Without checking, I thought "and Ireland" was added purely to incorporate Brian Carney (and dropped pretty quickly after he'd departed). The "four nation" badge, showing emblems of E, W, S & I, was added to the shirt (and added to the shirts of the individual nations IIRC - one of the Scotland shirts I have certainly had the badge on).

The whole 're-branding' had an amateurish air about it, as though it had been a task given to the office junior at RFL HQ. You can bet your life none of the 'devolved' governing bodies were consulted about the rebranding: the shirt wasn't redesigned to include a three colour vee, making it representative of all four nations; you can bet your life no one in Ireland was consulted about whether the title "British Isles XIII" was acceptable; and I'm sure the anthem played at games wasn't given a thought.

The impermanence of it all was confirmed when any pretence of it being Ireland's team disappeared.

I know the home nations shield was added in 1999 (there was actually no lion's head on it that year). That was before Carney's time. The 1999 shirt also had a green trim on the colour and sleeves IIRC. Just wondering why they made this decision when they did.

As far as I know the team has never been called "Great Britain and Northern Ireland", but I've always put that down to the general ignorance about constitutional matters (mentioning no names, GJ :D ), ie GB = UK.

Part of what I'm getting at here.

GB as a title (let alone GB&I) is wrong as neither are a country! (And Ireland!). I'm surprised they weren't call Team UK at the Olympics as well!

I guess it all stems from the fact that we are "British" citizens still (even in NI!), and not something like "Kingdomians" or something like that to be more inclusive of the Northern Irish!

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