BBC BLOGS - Ben Dirs
« Previous | Main | Next »

Encouraging signs for England

Post categories:

Ben Dirs | 04:23 UK time, Sunday, 22 March 2009

Fine, so it was all a bit before the Lord Mayor's Show at Twickenham on Saturday, but Lions head coach Ian McGeechan will still have been watching intently, rubbing out names from his team-sheet, going over others with indelible ink.

Whether the thumping victory over France last Sunday allied with the Calcutta Cup win over Scotland will be enough to greatly increase England's quota of players to tour South Africa this summer remains to be seen.

But talk of the Welsh & Irish Lions - especially since, if Wales head coach Warren Gatland is to be believed, they don't get along too well - has surely been consigned to history.

After all, didn't England finish second in this year's Six Nations Championship? Were they not the joint-highest point scorers? Did they not score more tries (16) than any other side? Did they not boast the meanest defence? I know, it's difficult to forget given the scorn that's been poured on Martin Johnson's men of late.

In addition, England made the most passes; made as many line breaks as Ireland, and three more than Wales; committed the fewest errors; won the most turnovers; and lost just one lineout on their own throw in five encounters. I promise you, I'm not making this up...

Not that this is a vintage England team. Far from it, and any side that gives away 65 penalties (16 more than second-naughtiest side Italy) deserves the criticism that's been thrown its way. But, as Johnson was keen to point out, had they shown a little more composure in Cardiff and Dublin, it could have been them celebrating a Grand Slam on Saturday, rather than Ireland.

Without wishing to belittle the achievement of Declan Kidney's side, it says much about the standard of this year's tournament that England, pilloried by their own media after their first four games, were not a million miles from winning it. For McGeechan, it's a sobering thought.

While their defeat of Scotland was only good in parts, there were still enough good parts to suggest that last week's beasting of the French was not a fluke and that Johnson is beginning to mould a cohesive unit.

"We narrowly lost two away games to two sides who played for the Championship," said Johnson.

"We created opportunities the whole tournament, but in those tight away games we didn't quite have enough composure and gave away too many penalties.

"That's what needs to improve. But we've definitely got better as the tournament's gone on. The group's coming together as a whole.

"We've been through some big experiences - away at Cardiff, away at Dublin, a big game against the French at home. It bodes well for the future."

Riki Flutey made himself a strong Lions contender with another superb attacking display, against Scotland

The first half against Scotland showed that if England get the basics right and provide sturdy foundations, then their bright sparks behind the pack will take flame.

With veterans Simon Shaw and Joe Worsley adding some much-needed 'mongrel' up front, England's backs, armed to the teeth with quick ball, had the time and space to run at the opposition, spot the mismatches and make things happen. Certainly, attack coach Brian Smith's influence was in evidence.

Toby Flood had an authoritative game at fly-half, always holding the ball in two hands and looking to offload, meaning Riki Flutey, who was deservedly named man of the match, was able to run wild outside him.

Flood's name may still only be rendered in pencil on McGeechan's team-sheet, but the razor-sharp Flutey has made himself a very real contender for a place in the Lions Test XV. Gavin Henson, watch your (no doubt waxed) back.

Delon Armitage, too, is now a genuine contender for the number 15 jersey with Wales' Lee Byrne and Ireland's Rob Kearney, while coltish flanker Tom Croft could blossom into an international player of note on the hard pitches of South Africa, suited as they are to his athletic brand of rugby.

In contrast, Scotland scrum-half Mike Blair, who looked a shoo-in for a Lions spot a couple of months ago, might have played himself out of McGeechan's plans altogether courtesy of another flat display. For the Scottish side in general, it's been another Six Nations to forget.

Coach Frank Hadden insisted Scotland "have a squad capable of extraordinary progress" after watching his side go down to yet another defeat. After a third successive campaign with only one win, such pronouncements are starting to sound more than a little hollow.

Unlike Hadden, Johnson will be back next year. And he won't be satisfied with second place.


  • Comment number 1.

    Lions XV:

    3 Fat Blokes At Prop

  • Comment number 2.

    It's funny, England win two games and all of a sudden they're the best team in the Northern Hemisphere again. I guarantee England won't win the 6 nations next year.

  • Comment number 3.

    thats a good solid lions squad i think but i would make some changes:

    on his last few perfomances heaslip at 8, wallace at 7 and croft at 6, kennedy and o'connell at 4 and 5 and alistair dickinson or gethin jenkins at 1, mears or flannery at 2 although ross ford could seek in i think and at three john hayes or euan murray.

    i would have flutey at 12 and o'driscoll at 13 (of course) bowe instead of varndell

    My lions squad:
    1. dickinson/jenkins
    2. mears/flannery/ford
    3. hayes/murray
    4. kennedy/o'callaghan
    5. o'connell/ wyn jones
    6. Croft/ ryan jones/ ferris
    7. wallace/ worsely/ williams
    8 Heaslip/ Taylor
    9. Ellis/ Phillips/ cusiter
    10. Flood/ Cipriani/ Wilkinson (if fit)
    11. williams/ monye/ fitzgerald
    12. flutey/ henson/ lewsey
    13. o'driscoll/ max evans/ roberts
    14. Bowe/ Banahan/ Thom evans
    15. Byrne/ armitage/ kearney
    paterson should go aswell i just didnt know what postion to put him.
    wales= 9
    england= 13
    ireland= 11
    scotland= 8

  • Comment number 4.

    1 Sheridan
    2 Mears
    3 Jenkins
    4 O Callahan
    5 O Connell
    6 Croft
    7 Wallace
    8 Heaslip

    9 Phillips
    10 S Jones/Wilkinson(unlikely)
    11 Williams
    12 Flutey
    13 O Driscol
    14 Bowe
    15 Byrne

    Sorry Scotland.

  • Comment number 5.

    'It's funny, England win two games and all of a sudden they're the best team in the Northern Hemisphere again'

    Who said they were the best team in the Northern Hemisphere ? All I have seen are comments that they have improved as the tournament has gone on which is undeniable.

  • Comment number 6.

    I agree with the article. England are clearly on the up. The pack looked more dynamic yet powerful, the backs are running good lines and there is consistency at #10. With more discipline they would have won the Championship.

    That's not to say they are better than Ireland or Wales yet. But they aren't so far behind as the press (including the BBC) made out.

  • Comment number 7.

    There seems to be a lot of england players turning up in these lions teams... #1, I don't think your back line would get a game together for England, let alone the lions. Mainly because they would not be physical enough in defence. South Africa would crash through a Flood / Flutey / Geraghty midfield all day long. #3 squad in general looks like a better balance but I don't think I agree with a lions squad without Stephen Jones and Ronan O'Gara - experience alone eclipses Flood (though should go as a utility back option) and the flimsy Cipriani (not this time). Anyway, my current XV:

    1. Jenkins
    2. Flannery
    3. Murray
    4. O'Connell (c)
    5. Wyn Jones
    6. Worsley
    7. Williams
    8. Heaslip
    9. Phillips
    10. Jones
    11. Williams
    12. Shanklin
    13. O'Driscoll
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    Main Concerns:

    -Byrne's fitness

    -Physicality of back row with Martyn Williams in (though his spoiling work outweighs this in my opinion)

  • Comment number 8.

    Lions XV

    05) O'Connel
    02) Mears
    01) Dicksion

  • Comment number 9.

    1. Jenkins
    2. Flannery
    3. Hayes
    4. O'Connell
    5. Wyn Jones
    6. Jones
    7. Williams
    8. Heaslip
    9. Phillips
    10. Jones/Wilkinson
    11. Williams
    12. Shanklin
    13. O'Driscoll
    14. Armitage
    15. Byrne

    Arimtage should make the team and with Flutey and Henson on the bench as utility backs...

  • Comment number 10.

    'It's funny, England win two games and all of a sudden they're the best team in the Northern Hemisphere again'

    I dont think anyone is saying that England are the best team - what is being said is that, at last, someone (Martin Johnston)with power and authority has come along to shake a bunch of professionally competent players into a team worthy of wearing the England shirt. Johnston was a strict disciplinarian on the field and to all intents seems determined to continue in the same vein as the manager. If he is allowed to continue with his purpose, then I can see no reason why England should not be strong contenders for the titles next year. But unlike Davedidds (above) I would not offer any guarantees. Rugby's a funny ol' game!

  • Comment number 11.

    My Lions Team

    1. Gethin Jenkins
    2. Ross Ford
    3. Euan Murray
    4. Paul O Connell
    5. Alun Wyn Jones
    6. Joe Worsley
    7. Martyn Williams
    8. Jamie Heaslip
    9. Mike Blair
    10. Ronan O Gara
    11. Shane Williams
    12. Riki Flutey
    13. Brian O Driscoll
    14. Tommy Bowe
    15. Lee Byrne

    16. Jerry Flannery
    17. John Hayes
    18. Donncha O Callaghan
    19. Ryan Jones
    20. Mike Phillips
    21. Toby Flood
    22. Tom Shanklin

  • Comment number 12.

    1. Jenkins
    2. Flannery/Mears
    3. Hayes
    4. O'Connell
    5. Wyn Jones
    6. Worsley/Jones
    7. Williams/Croft
    8. Heaslip
    9. Phillips/Care
    10. Flood/Jones
    11. Monye/Fitzgerald
    12. Flutey
    13. O'Driscoll
    14. Bowe/Williams
    15. Armitage

    The players who are on their own deserve to be selected first off, standing out so much they can't be shared with anyone.
    Where there's two players, they're too close to call.

  • Comment number 13.

    6.Ryan Jones

    18.Wyn Jones
    21.Stephen Jones

  • Comment number 14.

    1. Jenkins
    2. Mears
    3. Hayes
    4. O'Connell
    5. Wyn Jones
    6. Worsley
    7. Williams
    8. Heaslip
    9. Phillips
    10. Jones
    11. Williams
    12. Flutey
    13. O'Driscoll
    14. Bowe
    15. Armitage

  • Comment number 15.

    As a lifelong England fan recently having moved to Wales, it is often difficult to hear anything but contempt for the English national side. However, as I have said throughout the tournament (including after the Italy, Wales, and Ireland games), England have improved since the Autumn, and it came as no surprise to me to see the wins against France and Scotland (the former earning me a nice little sum down the pub).

    Whether or not the selection for the Lions reflects this remains to be seen, but if i was picking:

    1. Gethin Jenkins
    2. Lee Mears
    3. No idea; I'd like to see someone from Wales/England as three nationalities in the front row leads to NO continuity, but neither can offer a decent candidate. On form, it would have to be Hayes but just as 9&10 should play together regularly, so should the front row.
    4. O'Connell
    5. Alun Wyn Jones
    6. Joe Worsley
    7. Tom Croft
    8. I think I'd like to see Jamie Heaslip, certainly on form, but Ryan Jones has got to be in there really. Experience over potential.
    9. Ellis
    10. Flood (it may have sounded crazy a month ago, and probably still now, but I believe Harry Ellis & Toby have the potential to be up there as the best 9&10 in the hemisphere). Phillips and Hook on the bench to be on after 60.
    11. Thom Evans (I can imagine the uproar from up North if no Scots were selected, but other than Paterson and perhaps Blair, nobody deserves to travel). However, I'd settle for anyone other than Shane Williams, who has to be hands down the most-overrated player in the world (with the exception of Lee Byrne & Henson, perhaps). Player of the year? He's not even their best 11. [Leigh Halfpenny]
    12. Riki Flutey, all day long.
    13. Before this tournament, I think 13 would have been the problem position for the Lions. But BOD has not only nailed the 13 shirt, he's taken the armband for me too.
    14. Tommy Bowe. I think he's the most exciting winger outside of the England setup at the moment (and i say this because of the pure potential of Monye)
    15. Armitage, ftw.

  • Comment number 16.

    I like most of your squad LWhitall23 but I would make a few changes. Your pack is great but I'd take Sheridan over Dickinson mainly becasue the SA pack is very powerful. Might consider taking Jim Hamilton as a spare Second row but only if theres space in squad. Would take Blair, O'Gara and Jones over Cusiter, Cipriani and Wilkinson. I would not take Lewsey. Rather Shanklin, especially since Flood can play 12 if needed

    My lions squad:
    1. Sheridan/jenkins
    2. mears/flannery/ford
    3. hayes/murray
    4. kennedy/o'callaghan
    5. o'connell/ wyn jones
    6. Croft/ ryan jones/ ferris
    7. wallace/ worsely/ williams
    8 Heaslip/ Taylor
    9. Ellis/ Phillips/ Blair
    10. Flood/ Jones/ O'Gara
    11. williams/ monye/ fitzgerald
    12. flutey/ henson
    13. o'driscoll/ max evans/ roberts
    14. Bowe/ Thom evans
    15. Byrne/ armitage/ kearney

    Banahan and Paterson would be considered but only as subs. Banahan because he offers something different and Paterson, well you know why. Would not take Wilkinson, unless he plays a blinder for the Falcons between now and end of season.

  • Comment number 17.

    My lions team would be:

    1 Gethin Jenkins
    2 Lee Mears
    3 Euan Murray
    4 Donncha O'Callaghan
    5 Paul O'Connell
    6 Ryan Jones
    7 Joe Worsley
    8 Jamie Heaslip

    9 Harry Ellis
    10 Ronan O'Gara
    11 Thom Evans
    12 Riki Flutey
    13 Brian O'Driscoll (c)
    14 Leigh Halfpenny
    15 Delon Armitage

    16 Ross Ford
    17 John Hayes
    18 Alun Wyn Jones
    19 Tom Croft
    20 Mike Phillips
    21 Toby Flood
    22 Max Evans

  • Comment number 18.

    Wynn Jones

    with Wallace, Shanklin and Cueto the unluckiest ones missing from the list. The team will cope with the physicality of the SA test team and has the pace and guile to cause problems. The subs offer an impact and a possible plan C if thungs need adjusting.

  • Comment number 19.

    Everyone seems to have forgotten about Josh Lewsey. Just because Martin Johnson is blind to his talents don't assume that Geech will be - especially not with the Wasps connection.

    He has to tour and is a decent shout for a starting berth on the wing (plus he has the dreaded 'utility' potential).

    Simon Shaw too - you don't beat the Boks at home with lightweights like O'Callaghan. Shaw is your man to go toe to toe with Bakkies Botha.

    For the John Bentley-esque out of the blue bolter.......Matt Banahan.

  • Comment number 20.

    WiStAhM that is possibly the most biased team I have ever heard. If that is your genuine team that is quite laughable.
    Those suggesting Monye over Williams is also ridiculous.

    My team would be:

    1. Jenkins
    2. Mears
    3. Hayes
    4. O'Connell
    5. Wyn Jones/O'Callaghan
    6. Worsley
    7. Williams/R Jones
    8. Heaslip/Powell
    9. Phillips
    10. Jones/O'Gara
    11. Williams
    12. Flutey/Henson
    13. O'Driscoll
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    Subs: Sheridan
    Max Evans

  • Comment number 21.

    I can't believe all these people putting Worsley in as a Lions back row!

    The guy put in some big tackles on Roberts and turned in some decent defensive displays but he doesn't cut it as a ball carrier - the Scots had his number yesterday and went backwards in contact a number of times, he also gave a way some very silly penalties - as he has done throughout his career.

    Surely the Lions back row will be:

    6. Ryan Jones
    7. Martyn Williams
    8. Jamie Heaslip

    backed up by-
    and perhaps Rees

  • Comment number 22.

    Good article. Don't understand the critisism England have gotten this Six Nations. If we'd got 2 more points against Ireland, we'd have won the tournament, it was that close to a great success.

  • Comment number 23.

    Without wishing to belittle the achievement of Declan Kidney's side, it says much about the standard of this year's tournament that England, pilloried by their own media after their first four games of the tournament, were not a million miles from winning it. For McGeechan, it's a sobering thought.

    Surely this is the most pertinent point. Send whomever you please, they will be crushed. Improving from clueless to average is not going to worry the southern hemisphere.

  • Comment number 24.

    I think the final standings, aside from first and last, are not that important, especially as three sides were separated by points differential. England may have finished second but there was never a point when they were contenders for the Championship.

    Perspective is a strange thing and I think this article is coming from the glass half full perspective. England won their home games, you would expect this, but they had Italy and Scotland at home (the weakest teams in the comp) and my school's Year 10 team would have been worthier opponents for the all effort France put into their visit. The telling fact about this season is that England still cannot win big games away from Twickenham.

    They COULD have won in Cardiff and Dublin, IF they had shown a little more composure, but they could have lost by more had their opponents played to potential and shown a little more accuracy (especially in Dublin). The narrowness of defeat was as much to do with England's spoiling and mostly defensive tactics in those matches (tries in Cardiff were opportunist, in Dublin when the game was lost). England never genuinely threatened or looked like winning either match.

    I think England put in about 80 minutes of good rugby over the course of their last two games, but until they string together 5 or 6 performances I would the doubts should remain. What is positive from an England perspective is that in Armitage, Monye, Flutey & Croft England do have some potential top class game breakers.

  • Comment number 25.

    Okay, so I've put down a first choice and then a sub to take as a back option too.

    15. Byrne/Armitage
    14. Bowe/Cueto
    13. O'Driscoll/Roberts
    12. Flutey/Shanklin
    11. Williams/Evans
    10. Jones/O'Gara
    9. Ellis/Philips
    8. Heaslip/Easter
    7. Williams/Croft
    6. Worsley/Jones
    5. Wyn Jones/Borthwick
    4. O'Connell/O'Callaghan
    3. Sheridan/Hayes
    2. Mears/Rees
    1. Jenkins/Murray

    Fitness dependent, I would also take:

    Matthew Tait
    Jason White
    Jerry Flannery
    Toby Flood
    James Hook
    Gavin Henson & D Wallace

    This amounts to: 37 players in total (maybe 7 too many?)

    England: 12
    Wales: 13
    Ireland: 9
    Scotland: 3

    Captaincy would be a toss-up between O'Connell and O'Driscoll.

  • Comment number 26.

    Starting XV (in contention)

    15. Armitage Byrne
    14. Bowe Jones
    13. O'Driscoll Tait
    12. Flutey Henson
    11. Williams Monye
    10. Jones Hook
    9. Blair Phillips
    8. Heaslip Easter
    7. Wallace Croft
    6. Jones Wosley
    5. Wyn Jones O' Callaghan
    4. O'Connell Hines
    3. Murray Hayes
    2. Mears Rees
    1. Jenkins Sheridan

    English : 3 9
    Welsh : 5 11
    Irish : 5 7
    Scottish : 2 3

  • Comment number 27.

    WiStAhM, i imagine you are an english fan going by your squad selection. You have only one of the three guaranteed match starters in your team in shane williams. Paul o Connell and Brian O driscoll being the other two. either one of them will be captain and if they continue their form of the six nations the lions will have a chance in south africa. BOD has been sensational lately. he has created a new type of centre playing like a back row forward at times. it would be nonsense to not have these two players in the team as they would walk onto any team in the world.

  • Comment number 28.

    As for England its all ifs and buts! "if" they took there chances against Ireland and Wales. "if" they kept their discipline at times. The games not about if we did this or if we did that. You have to actually do it and take you chances when they come your way. what "if" Wilkinson missed the drop goal against Australia! Ireland took their chances and are champions thats the difference.

  • Comment number 29.

    15 Armitage
    14 Simpson Daniel - Controversial
    13 ODriscoll
    12 Fluety - The form 12 of the tournament
    11 S Williams
    10 S Jones \ T Flood
    9 M Blair - Unlucky to be Scottish, would be a great in any other team

    8 Heaslip
    7 M Williams \ Wallace
    6 T Croft
    5 O Connel
    4 Wyn Jones
    3 Murray
    2 Mears
    1 Jenkins \ Sheriden


    S Armitage
    J Wilkinson
    L Byrne

    Some Scottish people, a couple of Welsh, a few more Irish and at least a couple more English.

  • Comment number 30.

    Hello all, thanks for the replies. Let me just make it clear, I'm not making excuses for England, or indeed suggesting they should have won this year's Championship. All I am saying is that while the perception throughout has been that this is a pretty mindless, limited team, then how strange then that they ended up finishing second, scoring more tries than anyone else etc etc.

    Mister F - "England never genuinely threatened or looked like winning either match". Not sure that's true to be honest. The general feeling after the game in Cardiff was that England, however poorly they played, had chances to win it. They also outscored Wales two to one. In Dublin, I'd say Brian O'Driscoll was probably the only difference between the two sides, who were both pretty poor.

    desrico - Of course you're right, "ifs" don't win you Grand Slams. As a boxer said to me once, "if 'ifs' were spliffs, we'd all be as high as a kite..."


  • Comment number 31.

    i think that the squad is gonna be full of wales and wasps players as geech gatland and shaun edwards are the coaches. so the squad they will probably choose is

    15: bryne
    14: sackey
    13: henson
    12: flutey / shanklin
    11: williams
    10: cipriani
    9: mike phillips
    8: heaslip
    7: martyn williams
    6: ryan jones
    5: simon shaw
    4: alun wyn jones
    3: vickery
    2: flannery/ford
    1: jenkins/ sheridan

  • Comment number 32.

    England look better, but still a long way from anything decent. Our discipline is better, but still a long way from what's required. Vickery being the main problem, just how many times do you have to get pinged for not binding correctly until it gets through? If you leave the decision to a SH referee, you have about a 50/50 of getting the resulting free kick from the scrum penalty. Flood is improving but still way off what's required, which appears Cipriani with all the bits working. So that looks like Flood for the near future. What we desperately need is a decent kicker to allow the forwards to eke out a result, rather being forced into a strategy because we are 9 points behind. Borthwick to me is not a good captain, he really wants to let the players know he has a tongue, both before and after they do something stupid.

    We have unearthed a couple of gems in Flutey and Armitige, with several others showing a lot of promise. Get a stable, disciplined base to play on and then we can really see what is possible.

  • Comment number 33.

    My Lions Test XV

    15. Lee Byrne
    14. Sackey
    13. O' Drisscoll (c)
    12. Flutey
    11. Williams
    10. Jones
    9. Phillips
    8. Heaslip
    7. Williams
    6. Croft
    5. Wyn Jones
    4. O' Connell
    3. Jenkins
    2. Flannery
    1. Murray

    16. Mears
    17. Sheridan
    18. O' Callaghan
    19. Powell
    20. Blair
    21. Henson
    22. Armitage

    Just explaining choices and why. Byrne at 15, no one better in the world right now. Wings are open atm but Williams is too good to leave out and Sackey is great all round player who scores. In cenres obvious at 13 and gone for Flutey over Henson as he offers that little something more in creativity and magic. At ten its still pretty open but as we saw yesterday O' Gara got absolutley smashed so thunk what the S.Africans would do, Jones is bit more solid, good game management and Flood just not good enough. At SH just gone for Phillips as great physicality, what you need down South and great at spotting the gaps.
    In the front row props i think are certainties. Both Murray and Jenkins workrate and tackle count is immense, also great in the loose and very dynamic. Flannery adds that bit of grit and aggresion that will be needed. SR is a place of great luxury with great options, but for me has to be Wyn Jones and O'Connell. Would be great in partnership, ball carriers and aggressive. In the back row Heaslip has been Stand out 8 with Powell but Powell would be better as impact player and Heaslip little more reliable. 7 and 6 for me still reasonably open due to great number of options. At 7 standouts are Williams and Wallace with option of Worsley. Williams is just to good at the loose and rucks to leave out, just edging Wallace all round game and Worsley tackling and grit.
    For 6 Lions need that mobility in the pack, some one that can run hard and fast, Croft is that man, just pipping Jones and Simon Taylor.
    For the Bench you have Mears who offers something differant than Flannery but maybe not quite big enough. Sheridan is huge lump who can come up against tired props and make a differnace 50 mins onward. O'Callaghan is unlucky not to start, but would be great when coming on either with Wyn Jones or team mate. Powell or Wallace for sub it was close but we saw what Powell did against the Boks in Autumn and great impact player. Blair at 9 because great passer and mover, reads game well, would stady a ship. Henson for versatility and add some muscle in midfield, another kicking option. Armitage versatile also, great runner with ball in hand, can kick and anywhere back three. Unlucky maybe not to get wing spot instead of Sackey.

  • Comment number 34.

    good blog ben
    im not going to make my own lions selection as many people have already dun it but there is one thing that I think everyone will agree on and that is the fact that its a huge shame that Parise is not English or in any of the British or Irish teams as he is possible the best No8 in the world and would defiantly provide stern opposition to Spies and kankowski of S.A.

  • Comment number 35.

    England showed encouraging signs this six nations, it was particularly good to see the "Fortress Twickenham" mentality back. Of the England players going to South Africa, I think only Lee Mears can claim to be the best in his position in the 6 nations (yes I am a Bath fan and therefore incredibly biased), Ugo might get a look in because he has the pace to compete with the South African wingers, where so many other Lions hopefuls have bags of talent but lack the pace to give Habana and Pieterson a bit of a challenge.

    I think the Lions bench will have more England players because they have the multi-position players, Croft can play second row or Flanker, Flood can play 10 on 12, Tait can play just about anywhere in the backs. It gives the Lions more bench options.

    Next years six nations? I think England will benefit from the Lions tour when they go to Argentina, it will give them a chance to get Crane, Banahan, Turner-Hall and maybe Corbisiero started on their international careers...

  • Comment number 36.

    England are beginning to turn the corner and put in some descent performances. Top try scorers, best defense and joint top points scorers in the Championship. Its a good start to this new team and set up. We are by no means the best team in the northern hemisphere or even potential world beaters yet, but building good teams for the future takes time an works in cycles.
    I bet in years to come we will be saying how getting pulversied in the autumn was actually good for England and helped to show which players have the potential to be world class and those that dont! AKA Cipriani and Armiatge.
    Anyways Lions team. Read a good article saying that the way to approach beating South Africa is not to just play the best in form players from the northern hemisphere, we have to pick the players that can match their counterparts and compete with the boks. This will inevitabley ruffle feathers but i think this is the best approach!
    Lions team to beat the boks:
    1-Gethin Jenkins
    2:Jerry Flannery
    3:Andrew Sheridan
    4:Alwyn Jones
    5:Paul O Connell
    6:Tom Croft
    7:David Wallace
    8:Jamie Heaslip
    9:Mike Phillips
    10:Stephen Jones
    11:Shane Williams
    12:Riki Flutey
    14:Rob Kearney
    15:Lee Byrne

    Pace in the backs, with some heavy forwards to take on the bok pack!

  • Comment number 37.

    on the championship England were never as bad is people said (minus the discpline) and Wales were never as good as people thought, I wish I had gone on record but before the tournament I said Ireland were going to win, England for 2nd and I wasn't sure about the rest, Wales are overated, yes they have had a few good years, but Gatland and Edwards are the magicians that turned an average Wales team into a tight, yet counter attacking unit, however as their fragile defense showed this championship they will always concede tries so many overated and off form good players in that team.

    On the lions of players that have impressed me, monye's pure gas is a threat to anyone, seeing what Bowe did to Shane Williams for his try showed his finishing ability, I thought Ian Gough was outstanding for Wales, one of the best second rows in the world, Peel and Philips must be shoeing for scrum half maybe a cheeky shout for Ellis or Care, but a couple postions worry me 10 and 12 mainly as i think the big SAFFA unit will just smash thorugh however they put there. I would probably go Flood, Henson as that is fairly tight although maybe Flood Roberts with BOD at outside offers a bit of variety. also i think agreeing with a few posts above trying to go for some continuty of players in national postional areas is a big shout so therefore here is my team.

    1. Sheridan
    2 Mears/Flannery
    4. Gough
    5. Jones
    6. Ferris
    7. Wallace
    8. Heaslip
    9. philips
    10 Flood/jones/Hook/ o gara/ cips/goode? very open help!
    11. Williams
    12. Henson/ Roberts/ flood/ Flutey
    13. BOD
    14. Monye
    15. Byne/ Armitage
    not bad team good up front although if the 10/12/13 combination isn't right the lions won't click i think as well a big consideration is having paterson on the wing as his pure kicking ability might put a dirty saffa unit on the back foot a bit more, as well if wilko is fit might by a shout for 10...

  • Comment number 38.

    patthebathfan - The fact that England only lost one lineout on their own throw in five matches would suggest you might be right about Lee Mears...

  • Comment number 39.

    Fantastic final game of the championship. Edge of your seat stuff. But...

    Scrums - disaster all championship. Rucjs - when isthe ball in, when is it out. Advantage - when is it over, how long can it go on. Penalties - too many things incur penalties - more free-kicks please. Time - clock should go off from the time the whistle blows until the time the whistle starts again - it takes 2-3 minutes per scrum, per penalty, per lineout. I'd rather spend 80 minutes with the ball in play. Rolling Maul - this ELV is a disaster - make bringing the maul down illegal again. THat's a whole fantastic part of the game gone...

  • Comment number 40.

    I'm an England fan and im happy after the six nations, we were idiots to give away as many penalties as we did but i thnink that we could have easily won our games against Wales and Ireland if we'd not given away as many as we did. If we keep progressing after Johnson I don't see why we can't have a good autumn and then come back and win the six nations next year, then begin looking forward to the world cup!

    1. jenkins
    2. Ford
    3. Murray
    4. o'connell
    5. jones
    6. croft
    7. worsley
    8. heaslip
    9. phillips
    10. wilkinson(if fit) if not whoever is training best because knowones put there name on the shirt
    11. monye/sackey
    12. flutey/henson
    13. o'driscoll
    14. williams
    15. armitage

    lions to win 2-1

  • Comment number 41.

    by the way scottish rugby is in trouble! could be no scottish contenders i reckon Ian G mite chuck in Ben Blair or maybe the odd forward but it is big trouble, think needs to have a big look at itself!

  • Comment number 42.

    What about Gordon D'Arcy? Hands down the best 12 in NH especially combined with BOD.

    My XV

    1. Jenkins
    2. Flannery
    3. Murray
    4. Wyn Jones
    5. O'Connell
    6. Ryan Jones
    7. Martyn Williams
    8. Heaslip
    9. Phillips
    10. O'Gara
    11. Monye
    12. D'Arcy
    13. O'Driscoll (C)
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne (If fit, if not Armitage)

    I think too many people have taken Englands recent good performances and considered them justification to be ahead of some of the Wales and Ireland players who have done it consistently for the last 12+ months.

    Saying that I would have Croft, Worsley, Flood, Flutey, Sheridan, Mears, Kennedy, Tait and Cueto in the squad.

  • Comment number 43.

    Why are so many people putting Ryan Jones in or about the squad? He's rubbish, doesn't warrant a place in the Welsh XV, let alone the Lions. And as for people putting Williams at flank... He's had a positively average campaign, and Wallace has been otstanding comparatively. My Lions XV would be:

    1. Jenkins (Great in the loose, tackling will be key)
    2. Flannery (Good aggression mixed with great loose skills)
    3. Murray (As with Jenkins, provides stern opposition at the BD)
    4. O'Connell (C) (Clear choice for second row and captaincy)
    5. Kennedy (Best means to compete with Matfield/Botha at line out)
    6. Croft (Great workrate, athletic and with good line out option)
    7. Wallace (Strong, good presence, and appears all over the park)
    8. Heaslip (Dynamic from 8, with good hands and strength)

    9. Phillips (Physicality will be crucial to taming Burger at the BD)
    10. O'Gara (Solid option, with added flair and boot)
    11. Williams (Causes any team problems on his day)
    12. Flutey (Great handling, and good at spotting and exploiting gaps)
    13. O'Driscoll (Simply- the best 13 in the world)
    14. Bowe (Good workrate, with strength to back up)
    15. Byrne (Solid under the high ball, good physical presence and huge boot will keep Habana pinned back)

    With substitutes:
    16. Mears (Only other real option at Hooker)
    17. Sheridan (Could bully a tiring Bok scrum)
    18. Wyn Jones (Good impact player, will compete well in the loose)
    19. Worsley (Can fill all positions in back row)
    20. Ellis (Dynamic sub, also has good tackling game)
    21. Jones (Only suitable replacement for O'Gara)
    22. Armitage (Pips Kearney through "utility" status)

    Irish- 7
    English- 8
    Welsh- 6
    Scottish- 1

  • Comment number 44.

    Re - Desrico's comment "ifs and buts" Excellently put but.... Please try to understand this is the state of mind for the England sports fan during periods of "considered" under-achievement. The truth, I believe is in the words of Kenny Dalglish "You finishing position tells you how good you are".... England overall were second best and as an Englishman I think we did well.. Could've, should've, ifs and buts are all irrelevant.
    Yet the leading articles facts, are facts. And improvement for England is a possibility not a formality

  • Comment number 45.

    Here's what my Lions XV would be:

    1. Gethin Jenkins (Doubt there will be too much debate over him)
    2. Jerry Flannery (No star candidate, but Mears and Ford have a shout too)
    3. Eoin Murray (Good in the loose, which will be vital against SA)
    4. Paul O'Connell (Has been one of the stars of the tournament)
    5. Alun Wyn Jones (Just edges it for me before O'Callaghan and Kennedy)
    6. Tom Croft (Very talented and has great gas, although Jones will probably pip him because of Gatland)
    7. David Wallace (His strength and pace will be highly valued against SA)
    8. Jaime Heaslip (Great hands, strength as well as a cheeky step to boot)
    9. Mike Phillips (Sheer physicality and aggressiveness will be one of the few advantages we have in a one-to-one match-up against SA)
    10. Stephen Jones (Sadly, O'Gara, Cipriani, Hook and Flood will probably crumble very easily against a rampaging Butch James)
    11. Shane Williams (No questions here, the man is world-class)
    12. Riki Flutey (The on-form 12 of the tournament, his creativity will be much needed if Jones plays at 10. Questions will be asked of his defensive abilities though, especially against the likes of JDV)
    13. Brian O'Driscoll (c) (Player of the tournament, inspirational leader, rugby legend, need I say more?)
    14. Tommy Bowe (While lacking the raw pace of Williams, a good finisher and his strength will consistently break the line of defence)
    15. Lee Byrne (Good under the high ball, strong runner with the ball, but his big boot is what puts him ahead of Kearney and Armitage, as the SA back 3 of Pietersen, Habana and Jantjes will always be a threat. In addition, Jantjes has a rather huge boot himself)

    16. John Hayes (His scrummaging power will be useful late in the game)
    17. Ross Ford (Beats Mears due to better play in the loose)
    18. Donncha O'Callaghan (Has been consistently solid this tournament)
    19. Andy Powell (Just beaten to the starting spot by Heaslip)
    20. Mike Blair (No doubt one of the most technically well-rounded 9s in the NH alongside Stringer)
    21. James Hook (More creative than O'Gara, and can play at 12)
    22. Matthew Tait (Not going to happen, but we all need a nonsensical selection somewhere. I think he's fantastic)

    Why is Worsley getting into people's 1st XVs? Sure, he's great defensively but unlike other defensive powerhouses (read: Thierry Dusautoir, who is fantastic), he offers absolutely nothing going forward. Anyone having an English player other than Mears, Kennedy, Croft, Flutey, Armitage, Tait (who has been royally screwed-over by the selectors) or indeed Lewsey in the Lions squad, let alone the 1st XV, must be kidding. How some people have included Sheridan and/or Vickery in their squads amazes me. Oh, and Sackey. Really? Paul "I want to be dump-tackled" Sackey. Really?

    Ryan Jones should NOT be starting either, as he has shown nothing special, and has been mediocre in comparison to Croft, Ferris and even Worsley who at least, is very good in defence. Mike Blair is unlucky to be playing for Scotland, who will probably get Thom Evans, Ford, Murray and Paterson on the plane as well.

    Personally, I think the Lions will get slaughtered. The forwards will not give quick ball as consistently as SA and thus, the backs (who are good enough to match SA) will not have a platform to build on. The only hope for the Lions is for Wilko to get fit and kick them to victory, but that seems unlikely. Oh well, let's just hope we get some good 60 metre Francois Steyn drop-goal entertainment.

  • Comment number 46.

    Lions XV as I see it

    1.Jenkins - Sheridan is not even close in terms of scrummaging or workrate around the park
    2.Flannery - seems to keep getting ignored
    3.Murray - probably only Scot worth a starting spot
    4.Wyn Jones - heroic this championship
    5.O'Connell - see above, obvious choice first on the plane
    6.Worsley - need someone who will be able to bring Spies down
    7.Williams/Wallace - youth or experience?
    8.Heaslip/R.Jones - heaslip may get the call being the stronger ball carrier
    9.Phillips - tight call
    10.O'Gara - control over flair gives him the edge
    11.Bowe - questions? does he have the pace to cope with the SA flyers?
    12.Flutey/Roberts - power or flair, may depend on Springboks squad
    13.O'Driscoll - second on the plane after his Irish teammate
    14.Williams - no longer a lock after a poor showing but ability to score is needed in this team
    15.Byrne/Armitage/Karney - currently in that order

  • Comment number 47.

    Selection. 45 seems fairly reasonable although I'd have Mears in at 2 rather than Flannery as he's more likely to make yards in the loose.

    I would take BOD and Bowe from the Irish backs although Bowe is by no means a starter, the rest of the irish backs have done nothing to suggest they warrent a place. I'm surprised at the number of posters who seem to think O' Gara deserves the 10 shirt, bizarre. He was dire in the first half on Saturday, yet again. The only thing that saved him from another hiding in the second half was the excellent Irish line out. I can't see how we can play a 10. who defends so weakly that he needs a minder. He's not even a squad player for me.

  • Comment number 48.

    This could well be the side that face the Springboks in the 1st test;
    1. Jenkins
    2. Ford
    3. Murray
    4. Wyn Jones
    5. O´Connell
    6. Worsley
    7. Wallace
    8. R. Jones
    9. Phillips

    21.S. Jones

    Watching the Super 14, the SA teams (apart from cheetahs and Lions) have been excellent. The Bok pack will very physical and fast and the backs will be awesome, people like pienaar, jacobs, steyn, habana, pietersen, terblanche present a real threat. I feel my lions team could match them in most areas. We need a huge mobile pack and a set of backs who have flair and nous. Flutey at 10 may be a bit contraversial but to me O´Gara and Jones are a bit stale. We beat them in 1997 with a running fly half, Gregor Townsend, and we will need to do the same in 2009! Kearney may not be able to cope with Habana or Pietersen so am hoping Monye or Sackey if picked come to life on tour like Bently did.

  • Comment number 49.

    1. Jenkins (would love to see Sheridan if fully fit and back to form)
    2. Mears (only reliable and dynamic hooker out of the British and Irish players, potentially any of Ford, Rees or Hartley on the bench for added bulk)
    3. Hayes / Murray
    4. Wyn Jones (o'Callaghan as a second option)
    5. O'Connell (captain)
    6. Croft
    7. Worsley
    8. Heaslip
    9. Care (although didn't feature as much during the 6 Nations he was the only England player who was a consistent threat against Southern Hemisphere Teams over the summer and durin the autumn) / Phillips on the bench
    10. This spot is wide open but likely to be taken by O'Gara or Jones depending on who gets 9.
    11. Bowe / Monye
    12. Flutey
    13. O'Driscoll (maybe have someone like Tait, Fitzgerald or Evans on the bench to add some extra youth and pace)
    14. Evans / Halfpenny
    15. Byrne (at the moment but this spot is wide open to any of the full backs of Ireland and England as well (including those not played in the 6 Nations) and it all depends on form over the next few months in domestic competitions)

  • Comment number 50.

    Boy is there some garbage being put forward on this Blog for a Lions squad! No doubt many will think the same about my 36. If squad number increased, select from standby list shown at foot. Here goes:

    O'Driscoll (capt obviously)
    Wilkinson (If not fit, O'Gara)

    A Jones
    O'Connell (v capt)
    Wyn Jones
    R Jones

    Standby - bound to be needed

    R Best

  • Comment number 51.

    I'm so surprised that any of the people on here would actually have Blair at 9 for the Lions. I am a fellow scrum half and before the tournament started I was in favour of him to start even in front of my personal favourite Ellis. But the truth is, he completely choked...maybe that's a bit harsh..but ok...he just didn't perform. He's been playing unbelievably well for the past season or so but he just didn't step up..I don't know why and it is a shame. Now I'm not saying that Ellis or Phillips are the complete scrum halves but you've got to say they've been playing far better in this 6 nations and both have got quite a good amount of experience too. So my Lions squad would be : -

    Props)Murray, Sheridan, Vickery, Jenkins and A Jones.
    Hookers)Ford, Mears and Flannery.
    Second Rows) O'Connell, Wyn Jones, Shaw and O'Callaghan.
    Back Row) Williams, Croft, D Wallace, R Jones, J Worsley and Ferris and Taylor
    Scrum Halves) Ellis, Phillips and Cusiter.
    Fly Halves) O'Gara, Jones and Flood.
    Centres) O'Driscoll, Shanklin, Roberts, Tindall, Flutey and D'Arcy or Henson...not sure.
    Back Three) Byrne, Kearney, Williams, Armitage, Bowe, Evans(controversial but give him a shot!)

    There are a couple of others that are undecided and could possibly play themselves in or out of contention within the next couple of weeks. I've tried to be as unbiased as possible, being English but no doubt people may still think I'm too English with Flutey and Tindall both in there after dubious performances especially by Tindall...just think he could be a physical presence and has the necessary experience for the midweek games....let me know what you think!!xx

  • Comment number 52.

    Well we've come second two years running and won three matches three years running so maybe the improvement isn't all that obvious, unless we take the Robinson era as our starting point.

    At least we've certainly been more entertained this year. The best thing is that we have been able to evolve our approach to the game without going backwards. The worst thing is that we seem to lose discipline under the smallest pressure, in games we were never going to lose e.g against Italy and France.

    In Rugby Union though teams can rise and fall very quickly, a few months before the last World Cup nobody thought that either England or South Africa would make the final. Going into the last 6 Nations nobody predicted a Welsh Grand Slam. So who knows what will happen next year, but I do hope England keep trying to open up.

  • Comment number 53.

    This is an excellent blog, Ben. Although I do find it frustrating reading at times, with some non-English people taking any positive comments about England as a personal affront on Ireland's achievements this year. The blog is very much about England in the context of the Lions. It doesn't really have anything to do with Ireland or Wales or Scotland or Italy or France. The 'ifs' and 'buts' mentioned are merely designed to highlight a major flaw in this England side over the tournament - discipline, rather than imply they should've won the Grand Slam or the Championship.

    It shows that England have shown excellent sparks of open, heads up, total rugby - perhaps not consistently enough, but definitely moreso than in recent encounters. They are adding things to their game, making progress, but wholly undermining this progressive curve through (mostly needless) penalties and yellow cards.

    No. 52 - you're right, we finished 2nd last year as well but certainly not in the same manner. Meanest defence, by far the most tries, 1 lineout lost in 5 matches on our own throw, the passes, the line breaks? These are definitive signs of improvement.

    Nobody is saying Ireland did not deserve the championship; nobody is saying England are the best team in the world or the northern hemisphere. What IS being said is that they have shown improvement, a number of players have stepped up and put their hand up for a place on the Lions Tour, and that it's not all doom and gloom for England.

    To end: Ireland deserved the Grand Slam - they beat Wales in Cardiff and France in the opening match. But back to the blog: England have shown improvement, they have direction, they know how to take the next step on the road to recovery (I do still see it as 'recovery'), and a number of England players have put their hand up for a Lions spot - a few more than would've been going before this tournament.

    I would love to see Riki Flutey play inside BOD, and he's my only guaranteed English starter in the weekend Lions XV. Delon Armitage would be the only other guaranteed start if it weren't for such strength in depth at 15 (and maybe Ray Mears - because that throwing accuracy is phenomenal - but he might be a bit lightweight for South Africa).

  • Comment number 54.

    This was not a classic 6 Nations, but Ireland were the best team by far. Even in the close games, they were clearly better than the opposition and it was a reflection on Ireland that they did not put more points on the board and pull away from teams (England, Scotland & Wales).

    England were average at best. Armitage did well at full back but is far from the finished article and Byrne and Kearney are better. Forget about the wingers and Flutey is the only decent centre. Ellis needs to get fully fit before we know how good he is. How good is the outhalf when the media only want to talk about one who didn't make the panel.

    England has had the same props for years and they are not getting any better. Hooker is the most open Lions position and still I haven't heard anyone mention an English name. Borthwick would not get into any other 6 Nations team much less captain it.

    In fairness the England back row has not been bad this year. No obvious openside but strong in the 6/8 positions. As starting 15 Lions on the basis of the 6 Nations, Flutey & Croft/Worsley are the only Englishmen I would consider.

    By the way I'm Irish and my Lions would be: Byrne, Bowe, O'Driscoll, Shanklin, Williams, Jones, Phillips, Jenkins, Flannery, Hayes, Wyn-Jones, O'Connell, Williams, Heaslip, Worsley. Flannery in more for his understanding with O'Connell (main line-out possession source in my opinion) than standing out from other 6 Nations hookers for other reasons.

  • Comment number 55.

    As an englishman I find it very strange that people are saying we were awful this six nations. Whilst I don't agree with the "we could of won it" attitude either I don't believe England were that bad, as the performance against the French proved. We dominated the game and didn't allow the french to play.

    My 35 Lions squad members would be:
    15. D. Armitage - Because he offers raw tallent which will scare the Boks
    14. T. Bowe - Outside & feeding off BOD he will run riot against the Boks
    13. B. O'Driscoll - Has regained his form, so let him continue it in SA
    12. R. Flutey - Best 12 in Northern Hemisphere at the moment
    11. S. Williams - Best 11 in Northern Hemisphere
    10. R. O'Gara - Best all-rounder with the experience to win tight games
    9. H. Ellis / M. Philips Hard one to call as both are fantastic when fit. Up to Geech to sort that problem out.

    8. R. Jones - Unlucky not to be captain, but definately Lions No.8
    7. M. Williams - Still The Best 7 in northern Hemisphere
    6. T. Croft - Fantastic Athelete will offer genuine problems to Burger
    5. A. Wyn-Jones - Potential to be World Class, brings Pace + Power
    4. P. O-Connell (c) - The Irish version of Martin Johnson! (Enough Said)
    3. G. Jenkins - Big, Mobile and never gives up.
    2. L. Mears - Probably most accurate thrower of the the Home Nations.
    1. A. Sheridan - You need someone who is a big mean scrummaging unit when playing the boks, he's your man.

    16. R. Ford - Gives extra ballast and different type of game to Mears
    17. A Dickinson - Will be a brilliant impact sub at 65 with his pace
    18. S. Shaw - Able to give that much needed experience if required
    19. J. Woresley - Was fantastic in 6 nations and can cover all back row
    20. H. Ellis/M. Phillips - whoever doesnt start
    21. J. Hook - Young and tallented, unpredictable, will scare the Boks
    22. C. Patterson - Utility Player with a world class boot!

    J. Hayes - brings a lot of scrummaging experince and power
    P. Vickery - Can play either side of the scrum - Raging Bull moments too!
    M. Rees - Half way between the extremes of Ford and Mears, good scrumager
    Jason White - Can play 2nd row or Flanker
    I. Gough - Solid, Experienced and reliable 2nd row
    J. Heaslip - Young powerfull and great ball carrier at 6 or 8
    J. Barclay - Fantastic player, unfortunately in a poor scotish team

    E. Reddin - Great player, solid back-up to Phillips/Ellis
    T. Flood - Can play 10 or 12, usefull player to have in the squad
    T. Shanklin - Past his best, but brings great physicality to the midfield
    D. Strettle - At his best can be as dangerous as Shane Williams
    L. Byrne - Not as dangerous as Armitage but definately deserves to tour.
    G. Darcy - Utility player, can play Centre, Wing or Full Back. Won big games too, experience like his is vital.

    So that leaves a squad with the following mix:
    England (11)
    Ireland (8)
    Wales (11)
    Scotland (5)

    I know there will be those who claim more Irish should go, but some of the grand slam team are already past their best and others are not quite as good as some of the others I've picked. I also believe this gives the squad a good blend of players who are old and experienced as well as young and talanted, whilst representing all of the home nations.

  • Comment number 56.

    I think most of these teams lack Real match winners..... Players that make nothing in to something and Big physical presences such as that of sheriden and Bok players like burger.

    1 Sheriden - The Beast
    2 Mears - BEst Lineout thrower in northern hemisphere - a great talent in the loose as well
    3 Euan Murray - fantastic player wasted in a scottish jersey
    4 Alyn Wyn Jones - Missed the tackle on Warick in H'Cup 1/4 Finals, BUT had an outstanding 6 Nations
    5 O'Connel - Nothing needs to be said... a dead certain
    6 Croft - Great lineout jumper, Quick and aware in the loose could be incredibley usefull in SA
    7 Martyn Williams - A class act at 7, in there to rule the break down... slight question on his physicality though.
    8 Haskell - Forgotten by many but when given the chance a real class act, has the abiliy to demolish defences in the loose and is powerful of the base making good hard yards.... exactly what the tight 5 will want to see after scrum time
    9 Ellis - Had a very promising 6 nations which continued into the H'Cup quarters where he showed Classens how it should be done off the base a shoe in for 9
    10 O'Gara - Experienced which is what you want at ten, Great goal kicker, keeps composure when its needed which will be often on this tour.
    11 Monye - Not given a great chance in 6 nations, but when it was given to him in the scotland game he took it with both hands, great covering tackle on evans and had a fantastic game for Quins in thier loss to leinster. Also posses raw pace which is what you want from a winger
    12 Flutey - Showed off what he can do in 6 nations, making breaks from nothing, has a great game head and could be a potent weapon in SA
    13 O'Driscol - Regaining the form of old with some moments of genius. Inked in along with the captains arm band.
    14 Tommy Bowe - A good player, outside B O'D he'll be really dangerous
    15 Byrne or Kearney - Both super players capable of playing scintillating rugby, Keareny would win it for me if he went back to his old ways and kicked less trusting his counter attackign ability

    Euan Murray - John Hayes - Hayes is a big man and the last thing a tired springbok front row will want to see at 60 minutes once murray has scrumaged them of the park
    Croft/Haskell - Heaslip - Depends on how the game is progressing (eg:lineout/score and physicality). Heaslip has a lot to offer a real class player
    Williams - Worsley - Worsley is there if williams physicality isn't up to it, hes a big hitter as we've seen, developing a handling game and is prepaired to do the dirty bits no one else wants to - agritty player usefull in all sides
    Ellis - Care - Care is a little bit unpredictable, in the terms that sometimes he'll be on fire and produce lots of moments of magic and others he'll be quite and produce none or very few. Non the less plays like a terrior and won't let you down

    and Finally

    Bowe - S.Williams/Strettle - S.Williams looked average in the six nations and had nothing of the form we've seen him have previously but still thats not enough to omit him from the side, he is a world class player and could be hugely destructive coming of the bench similarly Strettle has been unfortuneate with injurys but a good player playing well for Quins, can be incredibley dangerous.... up to Ian to decide

    A Good side capable of winning in SA once more.....


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.