Former Ireland and Lions captain Keith Wood is being inducted, along with eleven other ex-international players, into The International Rugby Hall of Fame tonight.
The talismanic hooker, who ended his nine-year Test career at the last World Cup, is being honoured as one of the game's great servants at a glittering Induction dinner at The Brewery in Chiswell Street, London.
The 2005 Inductees include Wood, winner of the IRB World Player of the Year award in 2001, Martin Johnson (England), John Eales (Australia), Francois Pienaar (South Africa), Ian McGeechan (Scotland), Phil Bennett (Wales), Grant Fox (New Zealand), Naas Botha (South Africa), Fred Allen (New Zealand) and Andre Boniface (France).
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first ever meeting between Wales and New Zealand - the sides' captains from back on December 16, 1905 - the All Blacks' Donegal-born skipper Dave Gallaher and Wales' Gwyn Nicholls, who wrote "The Modern Game - And How To Play It" in 1908 - are Special Inductees for '05.
Irish rugby already has five ex-players in the International Rugby Hall of Fame - Mike Gibson (1964-79), Willie John McBride (1962-75) and Tony O'Reilly (1955-70) were inducted in 1997, while Jack Kyle (1947-58) in 1999, and Syd Millar (1958-70) in 2003, have also been admitted to the 'exclusive club' in recent years.
Former fly-half Kyle, who inspired Ireland to a Grand Slam in 1948, will be present to witness Wood's induction in London tonight.
Keith Wood (Hooker and Balding Bombshell)
Born: Limerick, 27/1/1972
Nicknames: Uncle Fester, Woody
Clubs: Garryowen, NEC Harlequins
Ireland: Test Caps: 58 (Captain for 33 Tests)
Test Points: 75
Test Tries: 15
Lions: Test Caps: 5
Hall of Fame Summary: Keith Wood was the archetypal livewire hooker. True to tradition he was always ready to put his body on the line in the most fierce of forward clashes but, more than that, he was extraordinarily nimble and skilful in all aspects of the game. Fifteen Test match tries, including an unprecedented four in 1999 RWC game against the USA, bear testimony to his qualities and he was also the heart and soul of successive Ireland and British Isles teams for the best part of a decade. He comes from good Munster front row stock - his late father Gordon won 29 caps as a prop and played two Tests for the 1959 Lions in New Zealand. The younger Wood brought further distinguished service to the national cause. He holds the record as the most capped Irish hooker and the longest-serving captain and also played in three World Cup tournaments. With the Lions in South Africa in 1997 and again in Australia in 2001 (he captained the Lions against Western Australia in their '01 tour opener) he was a talisman, one of Martin Johnson's unofficial lieutenants who, to his captain's undoubted approval, was always first to take the battle to the opposition.
Interesting Fact: In 1994, Keith was part of all-Irish front row that helped the Barbarians beat the Springboks for the second time - 33 years earlier, his father Gordon had packed down with two other Irishmen when the Baa-Baas had first defeated the Springboks.