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Syd Millar

Rugby World

Major teams: Ballymena, UlsterCountry: IrelandTest span: 1958-70Ireland caps: 37 (37 starts)Lions caps: 9 (9 starts)Test points: 0


To a younger audience, John Sydney ‘Syd’ Millar will be more familiar as an elder statesman of rugby administration, this recognition coming after a four-year stint as IRB chairman (2003-07) and eight years as chairman of the IRFU (1995-2003).

Yet to those a little longer in the tooth, Millar was a hard-nosed prop from Country Antrim who played his club rugby with Ballymena and Ulster.

Despite being built like a brick outhouse, Millar started his early rugby career as an outside-half and was more than capable of stepping away from the coal face and playing a handling game.

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A highly technical prop, however, he prided himself on the set-piece and could play on either side of the scrum. Although tighthead was said to be his preference, he packed down at loosehead in both the 1959 and 1962 Lions series, and it’s in that capacity that he makes our Top 10 list.

Called up for Ireland in 1958, Millar won the first of his 37 caps against France in Colombes. He showed the tenacity that served him well in later years when, after being overlooked for nearly four years, he reclaimed his Ireland shirt, making a final 14 appearances with his last game coming against Wales in 1970.

Millar also went on to carve a reputation as a Lions talisman and he holds the distinction of being involved in more tours than his great friend and fellow Ulsterman, Willie John McBride. Millar was involved in nine tours, playing in three, where he started in nine Tests.

In all he played 39 times for the Lions, displaying guile and diplomacy in equal measure, so it was no surprise when he was selected to be head coach on the 1974 tour, where he memorably led the ‘Invincibles’ to a series win in South Africa.

His various administrative positions include chairman on the 2001 Lions tour to Australia and a Legion d’honneur in 2007.

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