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The absent hooker

John Griffiths December 28, 2013
John Pullin toured in 1971 but did not get the Lions call-up in 1974 © PA Photos
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Why was John Pullin, the 1971 Lions and 1973 Barbarians v NZ hooker, omitted from the 1974 Lions tour to South Africa? Was he unavailable? L de V, South Africa

To the best of knowledge England's John Pullin was available for the 1974 Lions tour and was regarded as the surprise omission from the tour party. Bobby Windsor (Wales) and Ken Kennedy (Ireland), who had been a Lion in Australia & New Zealand in 1966, were the two hookers named for the 1974 tour.

Pullin had filled the Test role as hooker on the 1971 Lions visit to New Zealand and was the Baa-Baas' rake in their famous 23-11 win over Ian Kirkpatrick's All Blacks at Cardiff in 1973.

He had also led England to overseas wins against South Africa (Johannesburg in 1972) and New Zealand (Auckland in 1973) and was felt by some critics to be in the running for the captaincy of the 1974 tourists.

The Englishman, however, was out-hooked by Windsor in the England-Wales Five Nations game at Twickenham on March 16, 1974, the week before the Lions team was announced. Windsor was always expected to make the cut for the tour, but Kennedy's promotion ahead of Pullin as hooker was unexpected.

It was becoming fashionable in the UK in the early 1970s for hookers to throw-in to line-outs. Syd Millar, who had been named Lions coach the summer earlier, was keen on this.

Several leading coaches of the time felt it was worthwhile having the blind-side wing free to join attacks or rove as an extra defender. Kennedy and Windsor were throwing in for Ireland and Wales respectively whereas Pullin, it was widely known, disliked the chore. So Windsor and Kennedy went on tour.

John Griffiths is a widely respected rugby historian and is the author of several sports books, a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and co-author of the IRB International Rugby Yearbook. He has provided insight for Scrum.com since 1999.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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John Griffiths is a widely respected rugby historian and is the author of several sports books, a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and co-author of the IRB International Rugby Yearbook. He has provided insight for Scrum.com since 1999.
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