British and Irish Lions | Lions Legend: Ian ‘Mighty Mouse’ McLauchlan

Ian “Mighty Mouse” McLauchlan was the cornerstone of the British and Irish Lions packs when they enjoyed their most successful period in the 1970s.

The Scottish prop played 30 times for the Lions in 1971 and 1974, including all eight Tests on the winning tours of New Zealand and South Africa.

He became revered in the rugby world for his powerful scrum – and can lay claim to scoring one of the most famous Test Lions tries of all time.

McLauchlan was the lone try scorer in a 9-3 First Test victory over the All Blacks that put the Lions on the path to their only series victory against the Kiwis to date.

Names such as Gareth Edwards, Barry John, JPR Williams and Willie-John McBride are perhaps the ones that stick out of the tongue when thinking back to the early tours of the 70s, but McLauchlan’s presence was just as important.

Having been deemed far too small to be worth worrying about by the New Zealand public and media in 1971, the Jordanhill coward ensured the All Blacks and Boks had a far different opinion when McLauchlan ended to his career with the Lions.

McLaughlan started the 1971 Tour as the third choice but entered the Testing fold when Ray McLoughlin and Sandy Carmichael were injured in the provincial encounter against Canterbury.

The 1971 Lions team

The then 29-year-old performed admirably, retaining his place in the Premier XV for the next three Tests in New Zealand and then all four internationals when the Lions made history again in South Africa three years later. .

McLauchlan continued to play international rugby for five years after returning from South Africa in 1974. His exceptional technique in the tight allowed the first product of Ayr College and Jordanhill College to wear the colors of Scotland until the age of 38, ending a decade of international representation with 43 caps to his name.

Ian McLauchlan Fact Sheet

Date of Birth: April 14, 1942
club: Jordan Hill
International limits: Scotland 43
Height: 5 feet 9 inches (1.76m)
Mass: 14 stones 6lbs (92kg)

The truth about the McLauchlan Lions

The beginnings of the Lions: Versus Queensland, 12 May 1971
Lions Events: 8 (all four tests in New Zealand in 1971 and South Africa in 1974)
Out-of-test Lions appearances: 22
Total number of Lions appearances: 30
Leo Points: 5* (1 attempt) *according to the current scoring system
Final appearance of the Lions: Against South Africa, Johannesburg, 27 July 1974

On the Lions selection

“It’s the best accolade you can get in rugby – everything else is meaningless. Being picked to play for the Lions and then making it into the Test group is the pinnacle of your career.

“In 1971, a reporter told me before the team came out that I was going. I don’t think my wife realized how long the tour would take, but by then it was too late to anyway, I was on my way.

By paying his way

“I left in 1971 and I didn’t know if I was going to be paid or not. I told a friend of mine to sell my car and went to the bank manager to make sure my wife would be okay if she needed anything. I told him I would pay them back when I got home. They were all very good with her. I did not return my per diem because the stamps cost more than the allowance!

On achieving a landmark in ’71

“During the 1971 tour of Australia and New Zealand I shared a room with Gareth Edwards – I was in awe of him. I think he is the best rugby player I have played against and the best that I’ve never seen.

“Being in the same room with him, talking to him almost like an equal, was beyond my wildest dreams.

“During the Tour, having beaten all the provinces quite easily gave us real conviction for the first Test. This first Test was probably the most intense match I have ever played, but at the same time, we won it which sealed the tour, if we had lost that game New Zealand would have grown in stature.

Gareth Edwards

“The dressing room was then measured and tempered. There was a sense of relief that we won the first test. The boys were happy and pleased with the result, but we knew that was just the start – that New Zealand would come back strong in the second Test. And of course the second Test was at Canterbury where they had never lost a Test match before.

“Actually we played better in the second test, but we lost. We won the third Test very convincingly, but in the last game of the series in Auckland we played a little below par.

“The All Blacks, unsurprisingly, raised their game, hoping to draw the series 2-2. I think a lot of our boys were ready to go home. We played very well, but New Zealand are a very proud rugby nation and they always want to beat you.

“He came out a draw in the end thanks to JPR’s incredible 50-yard drop goal. It was a great result for us because it gave us the series, and I think it was a good result as well. If it had ended 2-2, I don’t think it would have done the Lions justice.

On the most difficult circuits

“New Zealand is definitely the most intense country to visit – it’s relentless. Everyone loves you off the pitch and everyone hates you on it. They are extremely competitive on the pitch. They want to win every game and they think they can. The pressure is relentless, it’s always rugby, rugby, rugby, which is quite difficult to manage.

“The fact that we won all the provincial matches was welcomed by some New Zealand audiences and they certainly liked the style of rugby we played.

“There were dark times, though, like the game at Canterbury. It was a bad game. Rugby is like boxing. You don’t have to go out and fight dirty, but if someone wants to hit you, so you have to get on it. If you don’t, they’ll keep hitting you. If you fight back, they won’t. It’s like bullies all over the world.

“They knew that if they hit me I would hit them back without hesitation, so they didn’t. Test matches were as clean as any match you’ve played – tough but clean, and tough because they knew if they started it, we’d finish it.

On formidable adversaries and friends

“It was the end of an era for some great New Zealand players on that 1971 circuit: Brian Lochore and Colin Meads. I went there a few years later and played with Ian Kirkpatrick and Sid Going, who are phenomenal guys.

“I never thought anyone could approach Gareth Edwards, but when I played with Sid Going I thought he was a player! Props were running at him and he was knocking them down. It was a huge guy.

“Kirkpatrick has always been a gentleman – a very good athlete and player. And I still consider ‘Pinetree’ (Colin Meads) my friend. He was as formidable to face on the pitch as his reputation suggested – very uncompromising.

On ‘it’ try in the first Test

“It was a down charge basically. I saw the ball come back. John Bevan made the break and entered. I thought he dropped the ball forward but New Zealand picked it up and played it. Alan Sutherland was standing inside his 22 and somehow it took him about a fortnight to wrap his leg back to kick the ball and by then I had charged his kick. The ball bounced well and I blew it up for my first international try.

“Coming back, I thought it was a ripple effect, so I wasn’t so euphoric. But afterwards, it was a phenomenal feeling. The trial has to be a highlight in hindsight, but I don’t remember very well to be honest.

On some more history in ’74

“Returning from the 1971 Tour, I peeked into the 1974 trip and thought I would like to go to South Africa. I probably played the best rugby of my life between 1971 and 1975, so I was quietly confident that I would go in 1974.

“I don’t think overall 1974 was a better team, but the attacking unit was better. A lot of guys had been to New Zealand and knew what to expect – they knew what was expected of them in the rugby test match.

“The provincial games weren’t as tough in South Africa as they were in New Zealand. There were also less, so when we reached test match time, we were ready and we were still sharp.

“There was a lot of talent at the time. I thought my former Scottish teammate Jim Renwick was a shoemaker for the tour. I thought he would have been one of the best players we’ve had on the tour, but unfortunately you can’t take everyone.

“But again, there were some big successes. You had Roger Uttley, who came in and played blind; Fergus Slattery probably played the best rugby of his life and then there was Mervyn Davies between them at No 8. When you have a back line like that it’s very creative. Slattery was immensely fast and Uttley was a very good rugby player, so you had it all.

“And then we had Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett, two highly creative centers in Dick Milliken and Ian McGeechan and obviously JJ Williams. He scored two tries in two tests. He used to look in the mirror and call himself a superstar! He asked me to do the same, but I didn’t!

“I really, really enjoyed the tour in South Africa. We had a great group of boys. It was much better to be one of the senior players at that time. I was a confidante of the coach, Syd Millar, so it was better than just being a player. I enjoyed the responsibility.

Charles P. Patton