Tony Neary - England - Biography of his England rugby career.

Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

Date: 16 December 1975

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      Thursday, 25 November 1948
      Manchester, England.
  • England
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Tony NEARY - England - Biography of his England rugby career.

England players in the 1970s who had two bad games in a row were usually subjected to the selector's axe and more often than not were never picked again. Tony Neary virtually never gave the selectors that opportunity and the Broughton flanker was the one constant factor in England sides throughout most of the decade. In many ways Neary was a player ahead of his time; a merciless, supremely technical flank forward with the ball handling skills of a back. Indeed, at a time when England tries were something of a rarity, "Nearo" frequently augmented his faultless defensive work by chipping in with crucial scores.


The most notable of these was in England's logic defying 16-10 away win over New Zealand in 1973. Later that year the man from Salford was at it again with another against Australia at Twickenham, a win that cemented a hat-trick of victories over the three southern hemisphere giants. This often overlooked achievement was all the more remarkable given England's dire record in the Five Nations, and one that even the great Welsh sides of the 1970s were unable to emulate. Unfortunately, although Neary was selected for the Lions touring party to South Africa in '74, he did not play a test, kept out of the side by his England teammate Roger Uttley and the precocious Irishman Fergus Slattery.


Further disappointment followed in 1976 when Tony earned the unwanted distinction of becoming the first player to captain England to four defeats in the championship, leaving England with the wooden spoon. This was an unworthy accolade for such a class player and was more a reflection of the incoherent selection policy and muddled tactics that England were subjected to in this period than any inadequacy on his part. (Jon Collins)
















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)