Northern Ireland

Mike Gibson wins libel case over British and Irish Lions claim

Mike Gibson Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Mike Gibson won 69 caps for Ireland and 12 for the British and Irish Lions

One of Ireland's best-known former rugby players has won "substantial" damages over false allegations he manipulated team selection to ensure he played for the British and Irish Lions.

Mike Gibson also received an apology from the publishers of a book on the 1971 Lions tour to New Zealand.

The settlement was announced at the High Court in Belfast.

Mr Gibson sued for libel over comments in the book When Lions Roared.

The book chronicled the Lions' only ever series victory against the All Blacks.

Mr Gibson, who is from Belfast, is considered one of the best rugby union centres in history and won 69 caps for Ireland as well as 12 caps for the Lions.

His lawyer confirmed on Wednesday that defamation proceedings against Polaris Publishing and the book's authors will be stayed.

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

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Mike Gibson is considered one of the best centres in the history of rugby union

The statement said: "The first edition of When Lions Roared included a quote from John Spencer (former English rugby international) 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 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 added: "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.

His lawyer said that he was "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".

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