The Lions have been truly blessed over the years with some of the greatest locks to ever play the game, and sitting near the very top of that list is the indomitable Martin Johnson.

No Lions XV, professional era or not, would be complete without this man. He was the first man to lead the Lions on two tours. His record speaks volumes and when you add in his undeniable leadership, determination and incredible raw power, you can see why the teams he played in were so successful.

For the record, he led the Lions to a 1997 series victory, England to World Cup glory and Leicester Tigers to no less than 5 Premiership titles and 2 Heineken Cups.

Martin Johnson dominates a lineout against Australia at the Gabba. PHOTO: Fotosport/Photosport
Martin Johnson dominates a lineout against Australia at the Gabba. PHOTO: Fotosport/Photosport

Johnson’s locking partner is a man of similar reputation who led the Lions in Africa in 2009. This is of course is Paul O’Connell. Totally uncompromising in every respect, this man-mountain was the cornerstone of any team he was involved with.

Like Johnson, his record speaks volumes. 2 Heineken Cups, 3 Celtic League titles, 4 Triple Crowns, 3 Six Nations, and the historic 2009 Grand Slam with Ireland. Throw into the mix 3 Lions tours, and 7 tests in the iconic red jersey and you start to paint a picture of why he is also an automatic choice.

Paul O'Connell about to take on South Africa's 'The Beast' Tendai and John Smit during the first test in Durban. Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Paul O’Connell about to take on South Africa’s ‘The Beast’ Tendai and John Smit during the first test in Durban. Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

The All Blacks Locks

Over the same period, New Zealand has had some fantastic locks starting with the Robin Brooke and Ian Jones combination. This quality then passed on through Chris Jack, Ali Williams and Brad Thorn to today’s locking pair of Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick.

With such an array of riches, it is a difficult task to separate a number of these legends. We have however gone for the current locking partnership, with Brad Thorn biting at the heels of his replacement in the jersey, Brodie Retallick.

Unlike the players we selected for the Lions these two players complement each other in different ways. Whitelock is extremely athletic, incredible in the air, has sensational ball handling skills and never takes a step back when carrying.

Sam Whitelock gets the ball moving against the Springboks in 2011. Photo: Justin Arthur / Photosport.co.nz
Sam Whitelock gets the ball moving against the Springboks in 2011. Photo: Justin Arthur / Photosport.co.nz

Retallick on the other hand; is a lot of these and more.

Retallick Praise

Just as recently as 12th March there was an article by Phil Gifford stating that had he been writing his book about choosing his All Blacks 15 of the last 50 years now, as opposed to three years ago he would have selected Retallick over Andy Haden.

This just goes to show how far Retallick has come in the five years he has been in the team. Selected as the IRB Player of the Year in 2014 was something of a shock given this very rarely goes to a member of the tight-five, again confirmation that Retallick is doing something right; and who will ever forget the charge down, re-gather, and score in Cardiff against the French?

Brodie Retallick runs in to score the first try. New Zealand All Blacks v France, Rugby World Cup Quarter Final at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. 17 October 2015. Photo credit: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz
Brodie Retallick runs in to score the first try. New Zealand All Blacks v France, Rugby World Cup Quarter Final at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. 17 October 2015. Photo credit: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

Here at The 1014 we are very much looking forward to seeing this locking combination take on the best that the Lions can bring. Whitelock has been huge for the Crusaders this season and Retallick is an ever-present menace.

The professional era teams to date…

All Blacks

1. Tony Woodcock
2. Dane Coles
3. Carl Hayman
4. Brodie Retallick
5. Sam Whitelock

Lions

1. Tom Smith
2. Keith Wood
3. Phil Vickery
4. Martin Johnson (c)
5. Paul O’Connell

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Photos: www.photosport.nz

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Author: Steven Prescott

I am a total sports fanatic; it is as simple as that. I love all sports, and when I’m not sitting at my computer living my dream with The 1014, I am planning adventures. The last time I did this I ended up convincing my wife to cycle 26,125km across three continents, and 22 countries with me as part of the Pedalling Prescotts.

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