Thursday 29 September 2016

Concern over aparthied-era rugby matches with South Africa

Adrian Rutherford

Published 25/08/2016 | 02:30

Irish rugby player Steve Smith was part of the 1989 Lions squad Photo: Mike Brett / Popperfoto / Getty Images
Irish rugby player Steve Smith was part of the 1989 Lions squad Photo: Mike Brett / Popperfoto / Getty Images

Irish rugby officials came under intense pressure to stop players taking part in matches against South Africa at the height of the apartheid era, according to files released by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

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Ministers lobbied the IRFU's Ulster Branch over a controversial 1989 World XV tour to South Africa.

There were concerns that Steve Smith, part of the 1989 Lions squad in Australia, and Willie John McBride as manager, would be invited to take part in two all-star games, causing a diplomatic row.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was warned of the issue in a memo on August 1, 1989. It stated that the four 'home' rugby unions would receive invitations.

Irish Independent

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