Major teams: Auckland, Northampton, Newcastle Country: Samoa Test span: 1991-99Test caps: 34 (34 starts)Test points: 25 (5T)
Though Auckland-born, Pat Lam is of Samoan descent and is revered on the rugby-mad island. Not only as a teak-tough No 8 who could offload, carry hard and drive attackers backwards but as a leader who helped put Samoa on the rugby map.
Even though Lam played for the All Blacks in an uncapped game in Sydney, he made his first big impact in 1991 when, as a fresh-faced 21-year-old on his debut, he was part of a Western Samoa side that shocked the established old order with a 16-13 win over Wales in the World Cup. It led one wag to famously quip, “Thank God Wales weren’t playing the whole of Samoa.”
Lam was again to be hugely influential in the 1995 tournament, where Samoa again exceeded expectations by qualifying for the knockout stages, losing to eventual winners South Africa.
A grizzled operator in the back row for Canterbury Crusaders, he moved to the UK in 1997, spending his first year at Kingston Park where he exerted his leadership credentials to help Newcastle win the English Premiership.
He then moved onto Northampton where he was fundamental to the Saints beating Munster to lift the 2000 Heineken Cup.
By the time Wales faced Samoa in the 1999 World Cup, he was captain of his country and he played a try-scoring part in Samoa checking Welsh momentum with a 38-31 win, again in Cardiff, before failing to progress on points difference.
It was to be Lam’s final game for the Samoans. He returned to Newcastle to finish his career in 2002. His final game came for the Barbarians where Lam, something of a bête noire to Wales, scored against them on their way to a win.
After retirement he went into coaching, working with Scotland, Auckland, the Blues and Samoa. Lions legend Ian McGeechan called him the “ideal role model”.
Last year, Lam led Irish provincial side Connacht, to their first Pro12 championship.
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