WHARFEDALE Rugby Union Football Club president John Spencer is steeling himself for what he calls the ultimate test – being manager of the British and Irish Lions for their tour to New Zealand in 2017.
A member of the legendary victorious tour in 1971 to New Zealand and Australia, during which he appeared ten times, the 66-year-old has been a member of the Lions board since 2008, and is also chairman of the Barbarians and a director of Club England.
Spencer is only the third Englishman to manage the Lions, following two members of the 1980 Grand Slam-winning team of Fran Cotton (1997 to South Africa) and skipper Bill Beaumont (2005 to New Zealand).
The Grassington native said: “I am aware of the tremendous honour I have been given, having played for the Lions in the past, but also of the size of the task ahead.
"It is something that I have always wanted to do but never thought that I would get the opportunity."
The former Sedbergh School pupil added: "It is the ultimate test as the All Blacks have been at the sharp end of the world game for 50 years, and to have the opportunity to beat them on their own turf is something that I look forward to.
"I am not having sleepless nights yet but I expect I will do eventually. They say that the hardest steel is forged in the hottest fire and this is the hottest fire in terms of rugby."
Spencer played colts rugby at Wharfedale when he was spotted by Headingley.
While at Cambridge University, he was called up by England at the age of 21 and earned 14 caps for his country, four of them as captain, many of them in a legendary centre partnership with David Duckham.
When his England career ended, Spencer returned to his roots and played for many years for Wharfedale, not only for the First XV but also, moving down the sides, all the way to the Sixth XV.
He was elected president of Wharfedale in 1978 and has held the post ever since.