Lions History

Historical Events

1888: Australia and New Zealand

by David Walmsley - Genesis Publications | May 15, 2013 | May 16, 2013
England cricketer Arthur Shrewsbury organised the first overseas rugby tour from the British Isles in an attempt to recover the losses he had accumulated in taking a cricket team round Australia.

England cricketer Arthur Shrewsbury organised the first overseas rugby tour from the British Isles in an attempt to recover the losses he had accumulated in taking a cricket team round Australia.

The rugby tour lost Shrewsbury more money and cost captain Robert Seddon his life in a boating accident, but firmly established the concept of British and Irish tours to the southern hemisphere.

Halifax forward Jack Clowes did not play a single game after being banned by the RFU on the eve of departure as having professionalised himself by accepting £15 from the organisers to kit himself out.

The team played 54 matches in total, 19 of them under Australian Rules as Shrewsbury attempted to cash in on the tourists’ novelty value. They never adapted to the new code (“I can play better than some of our players,” grumbled the manager) but won 27 and lost only two of their rugby contests.

Two other Lions traditions were also established from the outset: the warmth of the welcome they received in New Zealand – and their problems with the refereeing they encountered there.

Shrewsbury wrote of one game: “There were four brothers playing in the match, two being players, one umpire and one referee. We were not likely to win with this combination against us.”

Adapted from the forthcoming book The Lions: The Complete History of the British and Irish Rugby Union Team

Score Ratios

NEWSLETTER SIGNUP

Get the latest news about the Lions Tour by signing up to our newsletter below.

Sponsors