Admiral and the 1971 British Lions Rugby Tour in New Zealand
The Admiral label has history on the rugby field. Back in 1971, we crafted performance rugby jerseys for the British and Irish Lions' momentous tour in New Zealand. As we developed our new Autumn/Winter 2023 collection, we've delved back into this rich history to produce two new rugby shirts, the Rendell and the Grafton. These designs pay homage to our impact on 1970s rugby, its parallel surge in other sports, and its indelible mark on the world of fashion.
Admiral Sports is a name which likely resonates in the memory for our remarkable ascent to the top of the footballing realm, having partnered with prestigious teams like Manchester United, Leeds United, and most notably the England National Team. Nevertheless, a pivotal juncture in our 110-year journey involves the provision of attire to the British and Irish Lions Rugby team for their monumental 1971 tour across New Zealand. Back in 1971, The Lions’ 33 man squad headed out to New Zealand, a team which included 13 from the Welsh side that won a Five Nations Grand Slam that year. Yet, the prevailing sentiment was that they were poised to tread the familiar path of defeat against the All Blacks, following their previous six tours in New Zealand and South Africa all ending in defeat.
After a series of mixed results in the preliminary matches, the tour focused on a gripping four-test series against the All-Blacks. Under the astute leadership of coach Carwyn James and captain John Dawes, the squad embraced an innovative style. A style that unsettled a seemingly unbeatable New Zealand team. Fuelled by the creative genius of players like Barry John, Gerald Davies, and Gareth Edwards, the side won the first test. The All-Blacks won the second convincingly which led to the usual pessimism of The Lions’ fans to resurface. In a generation defining third test, the Lions won the battle with tries from TGR Davies and John propelling the Lions to a resounding 2-1 series lead. To secure a momentous victory they had to avoid defeat in the fourth and final matchup. The final test was a close contest, with the score deadlocked at 11-11 going into the later stages of the match, the Lions scored a successful drop-goal creating a crucial 3-point buffer that would ultimately pave the path to their victory. A win that shattered the notion that New Zealand were invincible at home.
This tour in 1971 remains the only time that The British and Irish Lions have prevailed in New Zealand. It’s nice to know that it’s a story that has Admiral Sports at its core, a tale where our sportswear takes centre stage.