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Lion Legends

Martin Johnson

Three tours, eight Tests, 1993-2001
(1993: 2 Tests; 1997; 3 Tests; 2001: 3 Tests)
Captain: 1997, 2001

Martin Johnson holds a unique place in Lions history as the only man to captain the tourists twice. He also shares with the great Willie John McBride the honour of being the only Lions skipper to savour a Test series victory in South Africa in the 20 th century.

Johnson's physical presence is one of the factors often cited in his appointment as captain of the 1997 Lions; coach Ian McGeechan wanted a leader Springbok captain Gary Teichmann would have to look up to, literally.

But there was more to the Leicester lock's claim on the captaincy than simple physical presence; with England, Johnson had already established himself as a leader by example and a man for whom his charges would willingly go the extra mile.

His talent announced itself early with the Lions. With a single England cap under his belt, Johnson was called up as a replacement on the 1993 tour to New Zealand when Wade Dooley returned home following the death of his father.

By the second international, he was in the Test team, by the third he was a fixture alongside Martin Bayfield in the second row. Their understanding was not entirely instant, however; when Johnson was concussed by a punch in the series decider, it was actually the wayward Bayfield who delivered the blow.

Four years later, Johnson travelled to South Africa as Lions captain and returned victorious, playing in six of the 13 games and making almost as big an impact on his opponents as his team-mates. The Springboks were so preoccupied with Johnson's lineout threat that his lock partner Jeremy Davidson was able to rule the skies behind him.

He made history with his second Lions captaincy in Australia in 2001 and, although the series was lost 2-1, Johnson emerged with his reputation enhanced by the way he handled the job on a difficult tour.

 

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