Irish rugby great wins ‘substantial’ damages over false team selection claim

Publisher apologises to Mike Gibson over ungrounded comment about 1971 Lions tour

One of Ireland’s rugby greats is to receive “substantial” damages over false allegations that he manipulated team selection to ensure his position for the British and Irish Lions.

The publishers of a book on the legendary 1971 tour to New Zealand also issued an apology to Mike Gibson as part of a settlement announced at the High Court in Belfast.

Mr Gibson sued for libel over comments in When Lions Roared, which chronicles the Lions only series victory against the All Blacks.

His barrister, Hugh MacMahon, confirmed today that defamation proceedings against Polaris Publishing Ltd and the book's authors are to be stayed.


As part of the resolution a statement was read out in open court by a lawyer for the defendants.

She said: "The first edition of When Lions Roared included a quote from John Spencer which stated, in effect, that Mike Gibson manipulated team selection to guarantee his own position as a test centre, which had caused John Spencer and other centres to miss out on test selection.

"Polaris Publishing, Tom English and Peter Burns have investigated these assertions and are absolutely satisfied that there is no truth whatsoever in such allegations and inferences.

“We have since removed the offending paragraph from the second edition of the book and apologise unreservedly to Mr Gibson for any offence caused.”

The statement continued: “We hope it is clear to our readers that we share the rugby community’s high regard for Mr Gibson as a player and a person, and we fully acknowledge his impeccable reputation.

“As a mark of our deep regret, we have agreed to pay him a substantial sum in damages.”

Mr Gibson was not present in court for the settlement of his action.

But his solicitor, Emma Jane McSteen of Tweed law firm, said: “Our client is very satisfied with this comprehensive and categoric vindication of his reputation in relation to totally false comments which should never have been published in the first place.”