In 1977 Tony Neary was selected for the British Lions squad to New Zealand but once again it was a tour of disappointment and unfulfilled promise for the England man. In a fractious and unsuccessful sortie down under, Neary did not get on the field until the fourth test, by which time the series was all but lost anyway. Business commitments would prevent his involvement in the next Lions expedition to South Africa, in 1980, so that 10-9 loss in Auckland would prove to be his only test in a red shirt, surely one of the biggest selectorial blunders in the history of British rugby.
His England appearances in 1977 and 1978 were equally rare, but in 1979 he was back in his rightful place as England at last started to look like a decent side, turning in a creditable showing against New Zealand and notching up a prized win over France in the Five Nations. Then, in 1980, after years of mediocrity, England's latent potential was finally realised as the white shirts defeated all four of their rivals to take the Grand Slam, culminating in victory over Scotland at Murrayfield. After forty-three caps and nine years primarily spent chasing lost causes, Tony Neary finally got to taste victory champagne, and never can any player have deserved it more.
What most people remember about the Murrayfield match is the famous television footage of Bill Beaumont being chaired off the field by his teammates, surrounded by jubilant supporters. It is no surprise that Neary can be seen just in front of Beaumont, selflessly guiding his skipper through the throng. It was a typical of the man. That game was Nearo's last in an England shirt, but he had established a tradition of world class English flankers which would be followed by the likes of Peter Winterbottom, Mike Teague, Lawrence Dallaglio and Neil Back. (Jon Collins)