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Undefeated - The Story of the 1974 Lions


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Politics and sport should be kept apart. How often have we heard the argument? In an ideal world this would be true. Unfortunately we do not live in such a world. Think of Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Think of the Max Schmeling vs Joe Louis World Heavyweight Title fights of 1936 and 1938. Think of the DOliveira affair that tainted cricket in 196869. Recently, Israeli soccer players were attacked during a match. There are calls for the soccer World Cup not to be held in Russia in 2018. One of the fiercest political debates involved the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa in 1974. The accusation that such a visit succoured the evils of apartheid led to huge protests, even riots. Rhodri Daviess mammoth account of the tour places the arguments and counter-arguments in perspective. Until now, that controversial tour has never been truly recognised from a rugby point of view. The political controversy has always overshadowed what was an unequalled feat for a touring rugby team in the southern hemisphere, which returned unbeaten from a twenty-two match trek that included four Tests. This they did, not only by destroying the mythical might of the Springboks, but as the author underlines doing so against criticism and ostracism at home. For those then unborn or too young to remember, it is impossible to imagine the protests involved, including physical assaults. Whether the decision to go ahead was right or downright immoral, the author has no doubt that the controversy bonded the Lions in an unprecedented manner, leading them to achieve a feat that will never be repeated. One of the on-field heroes of the tour was Gareth Edwards who, in a revealing foreword, reassesses the tour forty years after the event. He is adamant that, because of the controversy, the 1974 team never received its historical due. He alludes not only to the wider political issue of Apartheid but also to rugby politics. The author meets the crucial question head on: should the Lions have gone at all? Opinion is still divided, and no doubt will remain so. And no doubt the argument about whether politics has any place in sport will continue. Certainly, both politics and rugby have a place in Undefeated, a book that is as much a myth-buster as it is a blockbuster. Lyn Ebenezer It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council. Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar, trwy ganiatd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru. -- Welsh Books Council

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