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English Lions on the wane?

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Bryn Palmer | 09:25 UK time, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Unless something startling happens at Twickenham over the last two rounds of the Six Nations, few English Lions are going to be on the prowl in South Africa this summer.

In fact Ian McGeechan is likely to take fewer Englishmen than on any of the five previous tours over the past 20 years since his first stint as head coach in 1989.

And if things get even worse for Martin Johnson's men, it is conceivable they could end up with their lowest Lions representation since only five England players departed for New Zealand in 1977.

British and Irish Lions, New Zealand, 1977

When you consider the English contingent has been, respectively, 10 (plus one replacement) in 1989, 16 (+1) in 1993, 18 (+4) in 1997, 18 (+2) in 2001 and a whopping 21 (+1) in 2005, that would be some turnaround.

England have provided around half the players on each of the last four Lions tours, understandable - given their domestic dominance - in all but the last instance four years ago.

In 1993 they had won the Grand Slam in the two previous years, in 1997 they had won the Triple Crown for three straight years, with a Grand Slam in 95, and in 2001 they had won the Six Nations for two years in a row.

In 2005 of course, Sir Clive Woodward took 21 Englishmen in his swollen 45-man party that went to New Zealand, causing consternation in Wales, who had just won a Grand Slam but provided only 10 players.

Woodward preferred to rely on the evidence of 2003 rather than 2005, a policy that came to be seen as misguided in the extreme given the grisly events that unfolded in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

It is unlikely McGeechan will make the same mistake. For a start, there are few English players left who can point to any great body of achievement in recent times.

To my mind, there are only seven or eight players, at a push, you could even make a case for as serious contenders at present, and some of those are questionable.

Before we get to those, it is worth considering the make-up of the whole squad in terms of positions.

McGeechan has said he will take a squad of 35 or 36 players for the 10-match trip to South Africa.

If he takes two players for every position, that only leaves half-a-dozen extra places. Three of those are usually taken up by a third hooker, scrum-half and fly-half.

Depending on the balance of the squad, he is likely to then take an extra prop or lock, an extra back-row, and an extra centre or full-back. That would make 17 backs and 19 forwards.

If you think of the first two choices for each position from one to 15, how many Englishmen would get in, as things stand?

Andrew Sheridan at loose-head prop probably, behind Gethin Jenkins of Wales. And maybe Paul Sackey on the right wing, though Irishman Tommy Bowe (certainly) and Wales tyro Leigh Halfpenny (possibly) also have claims.

There are half-a-dozen others I'd currently put in the "possible" category, with a few labelled "unlikely, but not out of the question".

James Haskell has his admirers, but Ryan Jones, Stephen Ferris and Alasdair Strokosch provide stiff competition at blind-side flanker.

Mike Tindall showed encouraging signs of his old power against Ireland, but Brian O'Driscoll and Tom Shanklin have been the form outside centres until now.

Despite a less-than-convincing outing against Ireland, Delon Armitage remains in contention, if only because he can also do a turn at wing and outside centre, versatility being a valuable commodity in a Lions squad. But Lee Byrne and Rob Kearney are the outstanding candidates at full-back.

Phil Vickery, even after his bone-headed display in Dublin, could travel as one of five props, if only because with Matt Stevens out of the picture, only he and Jenkins can claim to be able to play on both sides of the scrum. But Euan Murray and Adam Jones could be the preferred tight-head options.

Lee Mears could also be one of the three hookers, the only position - a worry for McGeechan - where there are no outstanding candidates.

Nick Kennedy, who impressed in his line-out duel with Paul O'Connell, could also be considered in an area where the Springboks are notoriously strong.

But with O'Connell, Alun Wyn Jones, Nathan Hines, Donncha O'Callaghan and Ian Gough also in the mix for maybe only four spots, he is only a possible.

Red rose supporters could also make claims for Mark Cueto, who has made a solid return to the Test arena, Tom Rees - if McGeechan indulges in a third open-side with Martyn Williams and David Wallace, which is doubtful - and for various reasons, Danny Cipriani, Jonny Wilkinson and Josh Lewsey (like I said, unlikely, but you never know).

I'd also throw in Tom Croft as a possible back-row bolter of speed and athleticism who could - in a tight spot - do a shift at lock.

But after all that conjecture, my best guess at the moment would see only six Englishmen travelling in the following squad, featuring 15 Welshmen, 11 Irishmen and four Scots:

Backs (17): Byrne, Kearney, Armitage; Bowe, Sackey, S Williams, Fitzgerald; O'Driscoll, Shanklin, Roberts, Henson; S Jones, Hook, O'Gara; Phillips, Blair, Peel.

Forwards (19): Jenkins, Sheridan, Murray, A Jones, Vickery; Flannery, Ford, Mears; O'Connell, Wyn Jones, Hines, O'Callaghan; R Jones, Ferris, Haskell, M Williams, D Wallace, Powell, Heaslip.

But who knows what the last two rounds of action will bring...

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    1. Danny Cipriani is clearly the best out-half in britain. he puts stephen jones (cant run) ronan o'gara (can't tackle and bottles it) to shame.
    2. Danny care despite the sinbin on saturday which was wreckless he should go because he can provide that flair.
    3. nick kennedy should be going instead of Nathan hines beacuse he is clearly more agile about the pitch.
    4.Andy Powell hasn't impressed since his first game, so i would replace him on the plane with Joe Worsely because on his last two performances alone he has outplayed andy powell.
    5. I would also take Riky Flutey as he with broan o'driscoll would be the most creative partnership and have the potential to tear the springboks to shame.

  • Comment number 2.

    As an Irishman, for me Gordon D'arcy has to go-he is a natural foil of BOD and the two of them have a great understanding. BOD is now certainty to be captain after himself and Jones's contrasting performances last weekend. Jones disappeared. O'Driscoll stood up. Why are you picking Henson? The guy is a show boater who is more interested in personal glory as evidenced by his failure to pass last friday. He reminds me of Ronaldo-except nowhere hear as good. D'arcy is a tough hard player with a low centre of gravity and must go on this tour. I reckon he will be in for the last two games after gaining match fitness and has the ability to turn a game as evidenced by his match winning try against France.

  • Comment number 3.

    Is there a chance of some Wasps heading to the Lions? Seeing as McG, Gatland and Edwards are all involved it seems likely.

    There will be more than 6 English players, there are always more English players than deserved because of the sheer TV audience difference between the celtic nations and England.

    I hope I'm proved wrong...

  • Comment number 4.

    Joe Worsley?

  • Comment number 5.

    As an Irishman, I am glad to see 11 in ur squad. BUT am surprised to see TOMMY BOWE there. Would have JOHN HAYES as one of the 11 Irishmen (ahead of Phil Vickery). BOWE has yet to impress for IRELAND consistently and I feel both LEIGH HALFPENNY or GEORDAN MURPHY would be more appropriate picks. Even the two EVANS' brothers (MATT and THOM) are outside bets IMHO.

  • Comment number 6.

    As an Englishman, I'm not particularly worried that fewee English players will go on this tour - that has never been the point of the Lions. The cooperation and brotherhood of players from the four "home nations" is the key - in whatever proportion works.

  • Comment number 7.

    As a follow-up to my previous post, I feel RICKY FLUTEY would be a more sensible choice thdn GAVIN HENSON. He has impressed in the 6 Nations to date, and as a player, he has better ball skills and pace. Hard grounds would suit him.

  • Comment number 8.

    I would be pretty happy with that squad with Geechs took them to SA. The only area of concern for me is just simply who we are playing against!
    South Africa have some absolute giants in the forwards and proper speed merchants out wide... they are almost guarunteed to rip us apart.
    I think players like Armitage, Wyn Jones and Lewsey could become important as versatile players as people are certain to get injured. Would be nice to see a risk taken with Cipo or Jonny as theres no point playing someone in the mid week team like Jones who is just boring and loses control of games easily

  • Comment number 9.

    Is there any particular reason that Ross Ford was overlooked as a hooker backup? His presence and physicality about the park in itself should put him in good stead aswell as his mainly consistent set piece displays.

    Charlie Hesketh I completely agree with you on your player proportion comment. Very well put.

    As for the Worsley/Powell debate.....Worsley has been superb in defence and Powells ball carrying an vision has put up right up there.....take them both I say!

  • Comment number 10.

    re #2 weallknow:
    I second your opinion on GH, but think D'Arcy would get more benefit out of going to NTH AMERICA on IRISH TOUR where he'd get game time, than going to Sth Africa!

  • Comment number 11.

    Re 'weallknow''s comments about Gordon D'arcy, just one question - if he's so good, how come he can't get into the Ireland team?

  • Comment number 12.

    Logical squad (from an english perspective)

    1 - Jenkins, Sheridan
    2 - Flannery, Ford, Hartley
    3 - Murray, Hayes, Adam Jones
    4 - Wyn Jones (capt), Kennedy
    5 - O'Connell, Hines
    6 - Haskell, Ferris, Croft (versitility)
    7 - Williams, Wallace
    8 - Ryan Jones, Heaslip
    9 - Blair, Phillips, Foden (versitility)
    10 - Jones, O'Gara, Cipriani
    11 - Shane Williams, Sackey
    12 - Roberts, Henson (lack of outstanding alternatives)
    13 - O'Driscoll, Shanklin
    14 - Halfpenny, Cueto, Fitzgerald
    15 - Byrne, Murphy

    Geordan Murphy is one fo the most dangerous backs in the northern hemisphere, but he plays in England so doesnt get a look in. Foden can cover a variety of positions so would be excellent for the midweek team, and because of his inexperience would be happy and willing to play third fiddle. Danny Care needs to grow up, and fast, if he's going to have a chance of going - could easily see him loosing a test if selected.

  • Comment number 13.

    LWhitall23 what are you on?? Cipriani may be English rugby's poster boy but his defence is shocking. I'm sorry but he needs to start concentrating on his rugby again (although I can understand why his girlfriend could be a distraction, lucky.....)

  • Comment number 14.

    LWhitall23

    "1. Danny Cipriani is clearly the best out-half in britain. he puts stephen jones (cant run) ronan o'gara (can't tackle and bottles it) to shame.
    2. Danny care despite the sinbin on saturday which was wreckless he should go because he can provide that flair"

    You obviously don't watch rugby. Cipriani isn't in the England squad.. you say O Gara can't tackle?! Cipriani has talent but isn't ready for internationals never mind Lions tours.

    Henson is a brilliant player, given some game time I think he should go.. but whether he starts in the tests who knows.

    And i agree with the post above that John hayes should go before Vickery

  • Comment number 15.

    If the 6N has shown anything you have to have a competitive no.7 and either Williams or Wallace simply wont cut it.

    Powell and Roberts also arent good enough either, as back rows and centres will knock them over all day long.

    The Springboks must be shaking in their boots at the thought of O'Gara and Jones at FH.

    It should be interesting to see what tactics McGeechan comes up with, seeing as the standard of the 6N this year has been poor. Presumably he is also praying for some NH refs too - like in 97.

  • Comment number 16.

    Bryn, I agree with your article and almost all of your selections. I think the touring parrties in '01 and '05 had bias towards Wales and England respectively, based on coaching preference not form, which ended up leaving them short in some positions. The same could probably be said towards Ireland in '83, although they had just won two championships in a row.

    In '05 consider Easterby and Jones making the test side when not in the original 45 selected (with 5 English backrowers in the original touring party).

    I don't believe Geech or Gatland will have the same "one-eyed" view nor will they risk players who aren't fit as Woodward did with Wilkinson, D'Arcy, Hill, Dallaglio. They will put a lean touring party who will bond to become greater than the sum or their parts in a short time.

    As always there will probably be one ro two "bolter" selections which go against the current international selection policies. I agree that Croft could be somebody to look at, and Lewsey must have a chance as a Wasp with WC and Lions experience, likely wise D'Arcy who surely is in the top 4/5 centres, and Rory Best in a position where there a no outstanding form players.

    There will also be players who just make the tour or are early replacements but who will come through to a test side or 22 based on very current form. In '05 the structure of the tour made this very unlikely. Woodward essentially had two touring parties split very early and I think the most honest test selection in New Zealand was for the 3rd test but by then morale was shot and the tour ravaged by injuries. In previous years I think of fringe selections or late replacements making the test side. '97 Wallace and Davidson, '93 Gibbs and Johnston. There are loads more examples.

    The overall objective is a series win with a boost for 6 nations rugby. I am very optimistic that Geech and Gatland will provide the correct balance in selection and leadership in tour to deliver this.

  • Comment number 17.

    I cant see how anyone could have Henson in their squad. All he's good for is not passing the ball to someone in a better position and running sideways. Neither talent is required thanks!

  • Comment number 18.

    I think (with the exception of Sheridan who has been poor) that this line up looks about right.

    Why on earth do people keep harping on about Worsley? He's had two very good defensive games but what about going forward/creativity - picking him for lions would be about as innovative/forward-thinking as taking Jonny Wilkinson at 10...

    And Cipriani "the best outside-half in Britain". Don't know which England games LWhitall23 has been watching but clearly not the error-riddled, poor-decision-filled, charged-down-kick performances I've seen...which is...oh yes, all of them. He may have "potential" but he needs to realise that, consistently, over at least a season's worth of top-level tests before he's worthy of carrying the likes of O'Gara or Jones' boot bags.


  • Comment number 19.

    re point 11. He's just after coming back from a year out with trouble with his arm. They're trying to get him game time with Leinster. Id say he'll be back in for the scots game.

    For one reason or another poor Paddy Wallace hasnt been able to stamp his name on 12 so far this 6n and i'm not sure if he can keep D'arce out for much longer. He's an unlucky man Wallace.

  • Comment number 20.

    If Danny Cipriani is streets ahead of O'Gara and Jones, why then is he playing for the Saxons and Flood and Goode are in the first team?

    Knowing that England are trying to develop a new team, then now is the time to put Cipriani in the outside half slot and let him gain some experience.

    I agree that Care is an exciting prospect but i think after his stupidity on saturday there is more chance of Matt Dawson getting in the Lions squad than Care.

    Henson will be in the Lions squad because Warren Gatland thinks the boy is a genius, which he is when he has his rugby head on, but unfortunately his head isn't always tuned in to Rugby.

    Hook will end up being 10 for the lions as he is the most inventive of those named. Just hope i win the lottery soon so i can see for myself the lions taming those South Africans!!!

  • Comment number 21.

    On my earlier comment I know that Ford was included in the overall squad but why the comment "no other hooker stands out" in Bryns blog was the point I was making there. I think Ford has been solid in the Magners and Heiniken comps and at international.

  • Comment number 22.

    As a Welsh supporter I hope as many Englishmen, Irishmen and Scotchmen are picked for the Lions as possible. The large number of Welsh currently being considered will only lead to another Summer of intense rugby resulting in more injuries and damaging our build up to the important one , The World Cup.
    At least if we pick a lot of English the coaching team will have a ready made excuse for losing as the team will play at least three quarters of the game with 14 men as yet another Englishman sits in the sin bin!

  • Comment number 23.

    You forgot to mention the McGeechan Wasps connection which may enhance the case of Vickery, Cipriani and maybe Flutey. Personally I wouldn't take Vickery as far as the Isle of Wight!

  • Comment number 24.

    Ah yes, that time of year again where honest rationalisation should supersede national bias.

    It never does.

    Hence the person suggesting D'Arcy as a foil for O'Driscoll.

    I love the debate - but of all the pointless debates, trying to get a Welshman to understand that Cueto would make a better tourist than Halfpenny is like trying to get an Englishman to agree Halfpenny is better tourist than Cueto.

    There are a few non biased commentators out there, they stand out like a sore thumb. They are generally Scottish.

    The Welsh enter this time of year with historical bitterness in their veins. Despite, nearly being undone by a woeful English team and seeing them beat by an underprepared French team is irrelevant. They are the best in the World.

    As for the English, well we have the best players, they just don't play the best rugby. Its something we just know, and even if they only show one good performance out of many (Cipriani) he has warranted a place in a World 15 - apparently.

    The real truth is, that if we want to do a job in South Africa, we need to look outside the 6 Nations squads. England has some huge talent that is being overlooked by awful selection policies. Combine some of these with the Welsh and Irish, and the couple of Scots - we could do this.

  • Comment number 25.

    As a South African and naturally a rugby fan we all want to see the best players take the field. Never the less I first want to see The Springboks defeat the Lions 3-0. And although I firmly believe that we will win no matter what the make up of the team, we will be happy with any assistance the Lions selectors can give us, so more Englishman in the squad please!!

  • Comment number 26.

    DanWalesFan - I have to agree with you on the Cipriani point. I would have James Hook before him at the moment.

    John Hayes deserves his chance he is a grafter and will do so much of the unseen donkey work. Vickery has been too inconsistent.

    Im a Scotsman and I love how so many people up here are already jumping on the Evans brothers bandwagon. Yes they are looking excellent but there are much better finishers and much more experience that should go before them. The next tour they should definitley have a look in though if they keep up this form.

  • Comment number 27.

    I think McGeechan will prefer players who have done well away from home, especially if their team was under pressure but handling it thanks to the efforts of those players. That is the situation the Lions will be in on tour so those who cope when the going gets tough are the ones he needs.
    England's remaining matches being at home is not going to help the chances of players who are less than outstanding in the remaining matches.
    Welsh players have also had their best chances to show performance away from home under pressure.
    The Irish have a chance to show how well they perform away in both their last matches, especially the last one against Wales where there will probably be at least the championship if not the Grand Slam at stake.

  • Comment number 28.

    LWhitall23

    "1. Danny Cipriani is clearly the best out-half in britain. he puts stephen jones (cant run) ronan o'gara (can't tackle and bottles it) to shame.
    2. Danny care despite the sinbin on saturday which was wreckless he should go because he can provide that flair"
    ----------------------------------

    Are you on some kind of drugs that makes you blind to Rugby awareness?

    Cipriani is one of the most over-rated players ever to grace a rugby field.

    Stephen Jones has been playing some fantastic running rugby - breaking tackles and gain lines.
    O'Gara is consistently quality - even if he a poor show last Saturday.

    Your confusing Danny Care's idiocy for 'flair'.
    Like Cipriani, he might be alright in a few years but he needs to calm down and do the hard yards to obtain a rugby brain.

    As a neutral I think the Lions will struggle. The RSA super 14 teams are looking strong. Their front 5 is immense - their loosies are world class. The backs are up there with the best of Wales/Ireland.



  • Comment number 29.

    As far as I'm concerned there should only be a single solitary English player in contention for starting a Lions game and that's Paul Sackey. You could perhaps make cases for Joe Worsley being a handy squad member and even more marginally for James Haskell.

    Any more than 3 would be pushing it in my opinion based purely on current form (and I'm English).

    Oh and please do not let Vickery anywhere near the plane. Unless we want to give away three points and be down to 14 men every time South Africa enter our 22 then I suggest he is left out of the squad.

  • Comment number 30.

    What could be an interesting twist is if they choose to take English players who aren't given much of an opportunity by England themselves, thereby exposing MJ's selection policy as being flawed, something most of us currently think.

    The players that spring to mind are the likes of Mathew Tait and James Simpson Daniel, guys who clearly have too much pace and flair for an England side but who would be perfect for a Lions team.

  • Comment number 31.

    Re #11-Good question. Kidney must obviously feel he is not quite match fit enough. He's been playing for Leinster since christmas and IMO should start against the scots. Wallace has done well-especially in defence-but D'arcy is a game breaker and thats what Ireland will need and also the Lions. I am not necessarily saying he should start but he should certainly be in the squad ahead of that show pony who will spend more time topping up his tan.

  • Comment number 32.

    In response to the first response to this blog, Danny Cipriani certainly cannot be considered the best outside-half in the UK. Firstly, his performances this term have just not justified that title, recovering from injury or not. Secondly, the other candidates for the fly-half position are criticised and written off far too regularly. Ronan O'Gara is a master of game-management, Stephen Jones has done remarkably well to deal with the threat of James Hook over the past few seasons (who, incidentally, I really don't think should go on this tour), and people seem to forget the awesome form of Jonny Wilkinson at the beginning of this season - if Wilkinson can play like that for the last two months of the domestic season, he will be the Lions ten.

    Cipriani's talent cannot be doubted. Last season he was close to unplayable at times. But considering the length of time he's had since his comeback from injury, I can't see McGeechan picking him for the tour unless he gets somewhere near his best form before the end of the season - otherwise he just doesn't justify a place. I still believe he will get back to his previous best and perhaps even exceed it, but I'm not convinced he will in time for this summer. He's the most talented of the fly-halfs (except perhaps Wilkinson - who is a force/freak of nature), but he's certainly not the best at the moment.

    I actually think the squad Bryn has picked looks very strong (not as strong as the South Africans but strong enough to run them close and lose 2-1). Regarding English players, I don't think Armitage will go. Although he has excelled in his early international career, I just can't see him having a major impact on the tour. I'd go with someone who could potentially make a big difference - maybe Geordan Murphy or even Ben Foden? If fit I'd definitely take Lewis Moody in place of Ferris, simply because he's one of the few back rowers in the world who can match the South African back row in ferocity and disregard for personal safety. At hooker there is definitely a problem. Flannery and Ford should definitely go, but I can't see either really making the position their own. Lee Mears is simply too small and would get torn apart by the monsters of South Africa. I might take a punt on Dylan Hartley. He has shown he's not intimidated by reputation and although he's young, this tour could be the making of him - he might finally grow into the front-row force all English fans hope he can become.

    So yes, I agree that there will not be many Englishmen going on tour to South Africa. The squad will be in the main made up of Irish and Welsh players and rightly so - they are by a distance the two best teams in the British Isles. I just want pundits to stop whining about the state of English rugby on this basis (not that this is a particularly whiny article) - the Lions give us a chance to stop being negative about our own country's rugby - we should embrace and enjoy it! Let's face it, the only chance any of us have of beating any of the three southern hemisphere giants on their own soil at the moment is as a combined force!

  • Comment number 33.

    Just for all those who are rubbishing the idea of Cipriani:

    Geech clearly thinks he should be playing for England, i.e. he has more or less stated that if he were in charge of England, Cips would be ahead of Flood, Wilkinson, Goode or any one else in the pecking order.

    Now, since McGeechan is picking the suqad, it stands to reason he might do more than just "consider" Cipriani. I would suggest that he sees Cipriani as almost a certainty as 2nd or 3rd fly-half.

    I say 2nd or 3rd because I don't think he has anything to envy Stephen Jones, who only looks good when the forwards are dominating - which they won't in South Africa. In addition to his flakiness, Jones has absolutely no pace - suicide on those dry hard pitches.

    O'Gara first choice, obviously; Cipriani second.

  • Comment number 34.

    To be honest as an English man, you have to say fair enough if not many are selected, players from other countries have been doing more for selection!

    BUT I really am not sure how you can put Henson in there, not only has he not played and proven his form but he also is a destruptive player who seems to always be in the media for the wrong reasons, is that someone who is going to bond a Lions squad together?

    Also although Hook is undoubtedly a good player, he also hasn't had a start for 5 weeks with the 6nations so he is not a form pick either!

    My Lions Squad would be;

    1. Jenkins, Sheridan
    2. Rees, Flannery, Mears
    3. Jones, Hayes, Murray
    4. O'Connel, Wyn Jones
    5. O'Callaghan, Kennedy
    6. Haskell, Jones, Ferris
    7. Williams, Wallace
    8. Powell, Taylor
    9. Blair, Phillips, Ellis
    10. O'Gara, Jones, Flood (can play at centre)
    11. Williams, Fitzgerald
    12. Roberts, Flutey
    13. O'Driscoll, Shanklin
    14. Sackey, Halfpenny
    15. Byrne, Kearney, Armitage

    And to go even further my starting XV atm;

    1. Jenkins
    2. ??? (all not great)
    3. Murray
    4. Wyn Jones
    5. O'Connoll
    6. Haskell
    7. Williams
    8. Heaslip
    9. Blair
    10. Jones
    11. Williams
    12. Flutey
    13. O'Driscoll (Capt)
    14. Kearney
    15. Byrne

  • Comment number 35.

    Kind of have to agree with point 29. Vickery has zero composure at the moment!

    I think its safe to say that the mojority of the British Isles agrees that Cipriani aint ready! He should stay at home with his lovely missus Kelly and wait for a call incase of injuries.

  • Comment number 36.

    I can conceivably imagine a very good Lions squad with no Englishmen in it. I don't see any English player as being first choice in any position. The top three outside halfs are obviously Jones, Hook and O'Gara (in no particular order). Hook is probably the most inventive of the three, but also the least proven. In terms of English contenders for the squad, I would rate Sheridan, Haskell and Mears (only because of the paucity of hookers available) as the only genuine contenders for the squad, and to be honest Big Ted has hardly set the world alight in the last year, being outscrummaged by all his opponents in the autumn and not doing anything of note so far in the 6 Nations. I would happily send out a pack with an all Welsh front row, an Irish second row, and a Welsh/Irish back row. In the backs my first choice would probably be Peel and Jones at half back, Roberts and O'Driscoll in the centre and a back three of Shane Williams, Leigh Halfpenny and Kearney/Bowe. Scotland have as many contenders as England to make the squad. I'm English by the way, but don't think anyone of our current squad really deserves a Lions starting place.

  • Comment number 37.

    I love the media!
    "English lions on the wane?" Sensationalism, arhhhh what are we going to do.? Is it the end of english rugby? ahhhh!
    For those who live in reality, yes we are not doing so well, but this means obviouly a number of the other home nations are. The lions tour is about the best FORM players. Whether english or irish. So what if only 5 english are picked. You have to earn your place.
    p.s. english rugby will recover!
    Honestly BBC!

  • Comment number 38.

    Why does no one ever mention Chris Patterson? He has versitility (being able to play full back, wing and fly half) and is by far the best kicker in the northern hemisphere. He would be great for the bench.

  • Comment number 39.

    Interesting blog. As an England fan of course i'd like the lions to have some English guys in the test line up but as a lions fan i really don't want any. It has to be a majority welsh/irish partnership with maybe one or two scots and english guys.

    For me the 10 should be Hook, i think the boy is potentially world class, its a shame wales have gone with Jones who is probably a bit more steady and has the experience. I also think however Jones deserves a chance because he was totally undermined in NZ by clive's selection policy.

    Henson should go but definitely not as a test player. We should use the midweek team to blood in the test players of future tours, that's why taking cipriani as third FH could be a good idea. O'Gara hasn't got anything Jones or Hook haven't and Cipriani is probably the only FH in britain with blistering pace and great potential. I'd also like to see the two scottish brothers go, i really like the look of the 13 (max is it?!), that lad can really run.

    When people start suggesting tindall and flutely i have to laugh, look around britain, there are far better 12s and 13s and Danny Care shouldn't be anywhere near a plane to SA until he learns a few of the rules. You can't afford to be 1 man down in a lions test and the english guys are a liability.

  • Comment number 40.

    I'll throw my hat into the ring!
    Squad:

    1) Jenkins Sheridan
    2) Ford Flannery
    3) Murray A Jones
    4) A W Jones O'Callaghan
    5) O'Connell (capt) Kennedy
    6) R Jones Haskell
    7) M Williams Wallace
    8) Heaslip Powell
    9) Phillips Blair
    10) S Jones O'Gara
    11) S Williams Fitzgerald
    12) Henson Flutey
    13) O'Driscoll Shanklin
    14) Bowe Sackey
    15) Byrne Kearney

    Two for each position. 6 extra cover:

    Hooker: Rees (only weakness - throwing in - has vastly improved this season)
    Prop: Vickery (no penalties, Phil...)
    Back Row: J Thomas (covers 4, 5, 6, 8)
    Scrum half: Peel (still outstanding)
    Outside half: Hook (Kicks, runs, distributes
    and can cover 12)
    Backs: Roberts (Immense, can cover 12, 13,
    14, 15)

    God, you can tell I'm Welsh!! But, displays over the last year count for a lot.. Henson and Thomas slight risks, haven't done much recently, but on top of their game, both can be awesome. Test team:

    1) Jenkins (Does everything well)
    2) Ford (Could shine out there)
    3) Murray (Edges Jones - just..)
    4) A W Jones (Superb. Future captain)
    5) O'Connell (Superb. Current captain)
    6) R Jones (Huge carrier and motivator)
    7) M Williams (Still the best we've got)
    8) Heaslip (The Irish Harinordoquy)
    9) Phillips (Tough. 9th forward)
    10) S Jones ( Calm decision-maker)
    11) S Williams ( Loves the SA defence)
    12) Henson (On form, he'll cut 'em up)
    13) O'Driscoll (Looks bang on form)
    14) Bowe ( Great opportunist)
    15) Byrne (None better worldwide)

    Bench:

    Flannery (Strong. Good all round)
    A Jones (unlucky not to play)
    O'Callaghan (Consistently excellent)
    Powell (Steaming into tired bodies)
    Blair/Peel (will up tempo if needed)
    Hook (as above)
    Roberts (Huge - will cover all backs)

    Yep. Probably biased! But I think that 22 would not fold against big SA physicality.
    My hat is in the ring, as I said, now you can all shoot it down in flames! Excuse mixed metaphor..

  • Comment number 41.

    It's going to be a brutal tour therefore Joe Worsley, maybe not in the test team, but he has to be on the plane - he'll be great for morale, smashing the Boks in their on back-veldt! Let's face it, there's not a whole lot of other enforcers around the 6 nations...

  • Comment number 42.

    Point 36 - Bernie P - Euan Murray has been repeatedly branded the best tighthead in the UK this season so to be happy with an all Welsh front row would be undermining a guy is who has been quite outstanding over the past 2 seasons. Just ask Mr Sheridan and that 6ft 7inch New Zealnder Loosehead that he spent 80 mins making his little play thing.

  • Comment number 43.

    and re. comment #38, it's pretty difficult to kick goals sat on the bench!

  • Comment number 44.

    As an Englishman it makes me extremely sad that, as far as I can see, only three or four (not even six) English players are good enough for the Lions squad.

    On the flip side it will be an extremely good squad going IF McGeechan picks the best team and doesn't feel that he has to pick some of the players because they are 'names' or because he wants to try and get a balance of nations involved.

    I'm still not convinced Henson should be near the squad and I'm convinced that neither should D'Arcy or Cipriani!

  • Comment number 45.

    Danny Cipriani the best FH in Britian????

    Dont be silly

  • Comment number 46.

    In April 2007, the Irish times predicted the Stephen Ferris would go with the Irish squad to the World Cup, and that he would also go to South Africa for the Lions..

    I wish so much I'd had a flutter on it because its looking like they are going to be proved right!

  • Comment number 47.

    Unfortunately I dont think the Lions have many standout players to select from.

    England are not as bad as the pundits suggest but neither are Ireland and Wales as good as they suggest & both sides could easily have lost to a poor English side!

    O'Driscol, O'Connell and Shane Williams are the only Lions that would get into a SA squad.

    Some of the hyped players havent performed; Roberts, Powell, Byrne, Kearney have looked good in club rugby but when England put them uinder pressure they were average.

    I would expect to see 9 English players on the plane based on form and being Wasps;

    Armitage,
    Flutey - instead of Henson who has no form
    Sackey
    Lewsey - instead of Bowe
    Vickery,
    Worsley - instead of Haskell on form
    Kennedy - extra forward instead of Kearney you dont need 4 wingers & 3 full backs with Lewsey to cover 3 positions
    Sheriden
    Ellis - instead of Peel or Blair on form

  • Comment number 48.

    Have to agree with point #43. Patterson is by far the most consistent short to medium range kicker on the planet but he is not strong or quick enough to cause the safas any further problems. His kicking from hand is not as good as the likes of Hook etc and he would not cause the Safas very many problems out in the wing or at full back. Great utility player the fact he is being kept out by Godman and Southwell tells its own story.

  • Comment number 49.

    If Vickery gets picked for the Lions tour ahead of Hayes from Ireland it would be a disgrace. and a joke. Against South Africa every point will be crucial, so we cannot afford to give away stupid penalties which appears to be part of Englands tactics at the moment. It is clear that the majority of the England team have no respect for their coach in terms of the sloppy discipline they have had so far. They probably see a yellow card as a way of being seen on tv at the moment to help their profiles as they won't get any airtime for the quality of rugby played.

    Jonny Wilkinson was not fit for the last tour, so i hope to god they don't pick him again. The boy was in a class of his own when fit but i think he's past his best and it would be foolish to expect anything from him.

    Here is my first xv:

    1- G Jenkins
    2- Flannery
    3- Murray
    4- Wyn Jones
    5- Hines
    6- Ferris
    7- Williams
    8- Heaslip
    9- Phillips
    10- Hook
    11- S Williams
    12- Henson
    13- O'Driscoll(capt)
    14- Kearney
    15- Byrne

    As a Welshman i would like to have seen Ryan Jones in but i think he has never been the same player since he injured his shoulder. He may struggle to get in the Welsh team for the two remaining 6nations games the way he has been playing. I can't believe that i haven't picked an English player but i think that tells you the poor state their team is in at the moment, but i don't think it will be long before they are a force to be feared again as i wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of Mr Johnson.

  • Comment number 50.

    my friend , i think you had a bit of an oversight excluding John Hayes from the possible line up

  • Comment number 51.

    Not much been mentioned about the Welsh 12 Robertson??? Don't know a huge amount about him but he looked cracking against England and Scotland. Is this just a flurry from a new player or is he in with a chance??

  • Comment number 52.

    I don't see how people are even considering Vickery as a Lions prospect. He's indisciplined, ineffective and he's not worth the hassle, even as a 5th prop. To consider him as a tourist ahead of the likes of John Hayes is ridiculous. With Hayes you've got a player who never lets his side down in terms of effort, is well disciplined and consistently performs in the big games.

    As far as backs are concerned I'm surprised Jamie Roberts has suddenly fallen off everyone's list compared to 3 weeks ago. Personally I don't see him as a starter but he'd be effective in the midweek team or even as a sub in a test or two. I'd really like to see him go up against some of the big SA back rows. But who knows?

    Inside Centre is probably going to be a headache position on this tour because, assuming Stephen Jones and Ronan O'Gara are the preferred 10s, SA will really attack the 10-12 channel. The team will need someone who can either accommodate for Jones occassional lack of speed in the position and O'Gara's occasional defensive lapses.

    As an Irishman I'm encouraged that the likes of Luke Fitzgerald, Tommy Bowe and Stephen Ferris are being touted so heavily for inclusion. Of all the young Irish payers being mentioned as possible tourists however, Jamie Heaslip has to travel. He's been exceptional this year. You only need look at the fact that he's keeping Dennis Leamy on the bench over the course of this 6 Nations. Chances are, if Leamy was playing ahead of him this year he'd be in with a shout as well.

  • Comment number 53.

    Henson??? You must be joking! He's not even the best number 12 in Wales, let alone in Britain!!

    Leave him behind and pick someone who is a team player and not a prima donna!

  • Comment number 54.

    Ok I agree England aren't playing the best rugby at the moment, bad discipline etc but they have the sheer brutal physicality to match the Boks - the Welsh - even with their great spirit were basically beaten up in Paris and could've easily lost to England!!!!

    That said I probably wouldn't take many - Big Ted Sheridan, Haskell, Worsley (maybe Vickery and Kennedy)

    seeing as no one has many ideas at 2 - what about Hartley - he looks bonkers enough

  • Comment number 55.

    Cipriani will be a complete liability in South Africa as he is even worse at tackling then ROG. In the Autumn internationals his attempt to tackle Danny Rouseau was shocking and this will have been the main reason Johnson dropped him although the charge downs won't exactly have helped.

    As for taking Hayes over Vickery, well I assume that is a joke.

    I think the Englishmen that should go will be:

    Vickery
    Sheridan
    Kennedy
    Croft
    Sackey
    Lewesy

    Note, I'm not considering players who might be in contention but aren't British e.g. Flutey, Hartley.

  • Comment number 56.

    I can't see why people are even considering Cipriani considering when he's played for England previously for England he hasn't defended at 10. What are the Lions supposed to do. Move a centre into a position where they will be less effective because Cipriani can't play there. SA would destroy the 10-12 channel every single time.

  • Comment number 57.

    Three weeks ago I only had 4 or 5 Englishmen in my squad, and now I would only have 3 - these being Haskell, Armitage and Worsley.
    The others just aren't stepping up to the plate and making a mark. Vickery and Sheridan don't look 100% on top of their game, Mears is making an impression, could be an outside bet.
    2nd row and Easter aren't great, and the back line don't fire either. Sackey is more of an open space runner, something that will be very hard to find in South Africa.
    Overall:
    1) Jenkins, Murray
    2) Rees, Flannery, Mears
    3) A Jones, Hayes
    4) AW Jones, O'Connell
    5) O'Callaghan, N Hines,
    6) D Wallace, Haskell
    7) M Williams, J Worsley
    8) J Heaslip, R Jones, A Powell
    9) Phillips, Peel, Blair
    10) S Jones, Hook,
    11) S Williams, Fitzgerald
    12) Henson, D'Arcy
    13) O'Driscoll, Roberts, Shanklin
    14) Bowe, Halfpenny (for the time being - looked iffy under the high ball)
    15) Byrne, Kearney, Armitage

    Struggled to find anywhere for Paterson, as he's a jack of all trades, and all the positions are filled by specialists, along with Ferris. Really liking his hard work and industry at the moment.

    It will be interesting to see if McGeeghan considers Strettle, S Armitage, Jordan Turner-Hall and Charlie Hodgson.

  • Comment number 58.

    Vickery isnt quite back to his best but he still offers more then the worthy Hayes. Against Wales Vickery was very very good, he even gave a very good scoring pass.

    Hayes hasnt let anyone down but he doesnt have the edge the Lions need.

    His sin binning was unlucky in that the ref had given a team warning and he went because he lost his footing at the next ruck! Hardly the terrible crime descirbed on this blog - it happens at most rucks.

    I think most Irish, Welsh and Scottish players would like to have Vickery in the Lions Squad - I doubt he will make the team; Jenkins and Murray are favourites for that but he might get on the bench.

  • Comment number 59.

    Tighthead Sam - if you look back Frd and Flannery have been consistently mentioned. Ford would be my first choice.

    As for Red and Black Jonah......Vickery not going being a joke?? Lets just spend the tour watching a certian Percy Montgomery slot point after point through the posts for ridiculous penalties!

    Euan Murray is just as physical and a better scrummer. Sorry but there are just some better options than the raging bull at the moment.

  • Comment number 60.

    I see all the Welsh guys keep picking Phillips at 9 and the English seem to love Ellis.

    Surely Blair is bordering on a certainty at 9? His leadership skills, his quick feet and eye for a hole is surely the reason he should be in.

    Also Kennedy keeps being touted? It's got to be Hines for his years of experience, and his play at set pieces. But only as a back up for O'Connell.

    I sense everyone is just writing off the Scottish players without even thinking about it? Why not take one of the Evans brothers, or both, as a impact player? Surely better that taking some players mentioned here who cant even get a game for their country.

    I am a Scotsman, you can probably tell, and I feel we have some useful players.

    But I'm not deluded, there has to be a dozen Welsh and Irish in this team. Scotland and England don't have the players they once did.

    P.S. please dont take Henson, he's git on and off the field.

  • Comment number 61.

    #1...I signed up to comment purely on your article, and it also helped me pick a sign in name!

    Your comments are so biased! stop looking at things with such a slant towards England. Cipriani burst onto the scene last 6 Nations and looked the part, but once teams saw how he played they found ways to lessen his impact and effectiveness, and found ways to get to him. The same is true of Andy Powell...brilliant against South Africa and New Zealand but now is not making as much impact in games (and against weaker sides he should make more impact).

    Danny Care was stupid, he's talented but not ready.

    Nick Kennedy is a brilliant line out jumper but whether he has the all round game is what he will be judged on. Very possible he will be on the plane but not certain.

    Joe Worsley gained plaudits for his defence but I honestly hope the Lions don't go to South Africa purely to defend, which is why he wouldn't be a "certain" either at the moment.

    Ricky Flutey could also tour, but centre is one place there is an abundance of talent. After saying I am Welsh and asking for unbiased opinion no doubt I will get called biased for thinking Henson should go. The simple fact is he has a craft and vision that we don't have much of in the 12 position, and I think that will be needed to unlock a very tough SA defence.

    #6 got it right...it's not about individual countries representation but that the collective group are the right players irrespective of nationality, something I trust Geech to do

    my squad would be

    1. JENKINS, Hayes
    2. Flannery/Ford/Mears
    3. Murray/Jones/Vickery
    4. O'CONNELL, Gough
    5. WYN JONES, Hines, Kennedy
    6. Thomas/Ferris
    7. Williams/Wallace
    8. JONES, Heaslip, Powell
    9. Phillips/Blair/Peel
    10. O'Gara/Jones/Hook
    11. WILLIAMS, Fitzgerald
    12. Henson/Roberts
    13. O'DRISCOLL, Tindall
    14. Kearney/Bowe/Sackey
    15. BYRNE, Armitage, Mears

    CAPS players are my predicted starters (at the moment)

    I can't see how people can justify Sheridan going, he cannot scrummage and does not make the impact someone of his size should in the loose!

    The only player I would like to fit into my squad is Haskell, but Ferris has been amazing and if fit i think Jonathan Thomas will go.

    I have also put Keith Mears into my squad who has been one of the standout players at Munster this season but was unfortunately injured prior to the tournament and Kidney has (rightly) kept faith in those that have done so well for him so far

    For those who care the breakdown is...
    Wales (16)
    Ireland (12)
    England (5)
    Scotland (4)

    Forwards (20) Backs (18)

    Bit of a heavy squad, to trim it to 36 I would drop Bowe and Powell

  • Comment number 62.

    A left-field suggestion here - after all McGeechan can actually take whoever he wants and unusual picks often work - I reckon there's a decent case for Peter Stringer.

    Mike Phillips is the form s/h, but Blair has been woeful IMO and Peel clearly isn't in favour - anywhere. Ellis's passing is too poor although he is a real threat. O'Leary hasn't impressed me at all.

    McGeechan could do worse than go with someone who may not be considered "the future" for Ireland but could definitely do a job on a Lions tour, especially with his longtime outside-half partner as the most likely starter at 10.

  • Comment number 63.

    Really surprised that you haven't mentioned Flutey. I would say, he's one of the stronger contenders from the English camp. I'd pick him ahead of Roberts as he can do the same job but adds a little more flair. Would love to see D'arcy but in fairness he needs to get more of a run before being committed to by Mc.

    Someone questioned why no Worsley? Answer - Because a 7 needs to be able to do more than smash a 12 to earn a spot on the Lions team!

  • Comment number 64.

    #60 - Hurrah!! Your comments on Henson are spot on, although it's funny that all the Welsh posters on this blog are selecting him as an automatic #1.

    Not so. Roberts, Flutey and even (heaven forbid) D'Arcy all rate above him and to include him would not just deny a better player of a bearth, but would probably upset the team off the pitch.

    If he IS taken then I look forward to him being sent home early after some post-match shennanigans!

  • Comment number 65.

    I see what no.62 means about Stringer on the Lions tour. I can't see if happening but I can see the benefits both for O'Gara and the rest of the squad, and the Irish party touring in the summer as it might actually force Kidney to have a look at Eoin Reddan who he seems to have forgotten about as of late.

  • Comment number 66.

    Stringer is still not a bad shout but I think Blair should still be a strong consideration. Someone said earlier they thought he had been woeful lately?

    I think he has been made to look worse as due to the poor organisation in the Scottish backs st times Mike has been forced to kick more then preferred. If you look at his overall game though he has been top quality, not because he is surrounded by lesser players but because he gets the team out of some sticky situations against classier opposition!

  • Comment number 67.

    There does seem to be a concensus energing here - well sort of!

    Henson and Cipriani are not popular - talented yes but not popular and neither deserves to be a Lion on current form.

    England will have between 5 and 10 players in the squad but as few as 1 or even none in the team.

    The front 5 is fairly uncontentious
    Jenkins
    Ford
    Murray
    O'Connell
    AW Jones


    The back row balence looks too tough to call but it is going to a mix of Welsh and Irish players.

    Half backs - Phillips and Jones
    Centres - Roberts or possibly Flutey and of course BOD
    Back 3 - Williams, Sackey and Bryne or possibly Armitage

    Bench - No concensus here and nationalistic bias runs wild; Hayes? WHY WOULD ANYONE SELECT JOHN HAYES OVER VICKERY???

    Geech has a record of success against SA but I doubt he is very confident after watching the 6N so far

  • Comment number 68.

    "1. Danny Cipriani is clearly the best out-half in britain. he puts stephen jones (cant run) ronan o'gara (can't tackle and bottles it) to shame.
    2. Danny care despite the sinbin on saturday which was wreckless he should go because he can provide that flair."

    Mate, honestly, what's wrong with you? If being charged down at least once every match isn't bottling it, then i don't know what is, and even england coaches say cipriani has to work on his defence. And danny care is a joke, surely? Phillips, blair, peel and even cusiter are streets ahead of him. This is typical english arrogance, thinking english 'prospects' should get the nod ahead of established players from the celtic nations.

  • Comment number 69.

    As far as I am concerned, as an Englishman, the fewer English the better. Have a nice restful summer, and come back for the new season rested and refreshed, not broken, bloodied, disillushioned and pilloried by the media.

  • Comment number 70.

    cipriani cannot go on this tour. if he doesn't put his head down he may not go on any tour, as he quite clearly has not put the work in. compare his paucity of defensive quality to wilkinson - and his kicking, and consistency... such a shame. fly-half is a real worry - o'gara's performance on the weekend was awful, and

    jamie roberts HAS to start, has exploded on to the international scene, and him and henson have the potential to be the worlds best centre partnership. o'driscoll and roberts together have the potential to be match - no, series winners, and must be used to their full potential.

  • Comment number 71.

    To the First Comment of the day by LWhitall23;

    1.You have got to be joking, Cipriani has had a shocker of a season and there is no way in hell he is gonna be picked - his kicking for goal and positional has been poor, his general defensive positioning has been poor too this year, yet i must say he is good on his feet n agile.
    And why would you have a fly half who cant kick to save his life instead of the likes of O'Gara or Jones, who are generally v. consistent (barring O'Gara's perfomance vs England last weekend).

    2. You say Danny Care, and I'm a quins fan and would love to see him in the team, but he doesnt match up to Phillips, O'Leary, Blair or Peel.

    3. Why would replace Powell with Worsely? Powell is primarily a No.8 who can play flanker, Worsely is a No.7 by trade (by far his best position), and with Wallace and Williams, you don't need another open-side flanker.

    However I agree with your choice over Flutey, despite not particularly liking him, i think he's a good player who is imaginative and quick on his feet.

    Lions 1st XV:
    1. Jenkins
    2. Mears / Flannery
    3. Murray
    4. Alun Wyn Jones
    5. O'Connel
    6. Wallace / Ryan Jones
    7. Williams
    8. Powell
    9. Phillips
    10. O'Gara
    11. Williams
    12. Flutey
    13. O'Driscoll
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

  • Comment number 72.

    Flutey is surely a shoe in on the plane to South Africa:

    -Voted the premiership player of last season 07/08
    -One of the only outstanding/exciting England players this 6 nations
    -Dynamic and can switch to play fly half (hence 07/08 premiership final Wasps V Leicester - Pretty much ran the show!)

    I agree with the rest of the backs picks but dare i say it, im rooting for a Johnny Wilkinson wild card pick!
    If Johnny can get a few good games for Newcastle under his belt (apparently hes going to be playing by the end of March) then the coaches would be mad not to take him.
    There is not a fly half in Europe who is better on his day. The current crop of OGara, Jones and Hook arent up to dictating a Lions test game against the boks!

  • Comment number 73.

    There are a couple of positions (such as 9 and urm...) when the selection would be between several players deserving of selection. But far too many positions the selections will between a load of players all about the same standard and none good enough. I'm not here to advocate Cipriani but if Stephen Jones and Ronan O'Gara our 2 of the best 3 fly halves available then we might as well not go.
    England will have lower than previous years but fortunately Geech won't be taken in by the paper talks about Wales/Ireland (depending on how has played better over the weekend) being superb and England/France (I know French not relevant here) being attrocious. The IRb rankings aren't lyeing but results don;t lie either and there isn't a huge gap between the 4 of them.

    Essentially if you impoosed some ridiculous rule that each nation had to contibute 25% of the party then you wouldn't end up with a much weaker squad.

  • Comment number 74.

    responding to several comments
    John Hayes is not a good enough Prop to make the squad even if he plays with more heart than any of the other up for contention
    Darcy has been injured for over a year this is why he is not in the squad.Not a great game for lenister 2 weeks ago but i still think he will come in for wallace against the Scots.
    Danny Ciprani the best out half playing in Britain and Ireland !!! I would love to know what this is based on ,bar a good half against Ireland 2 seasons ago i have seen nothing from the gent except front page headlines.
    Henson has class but nowhere near enough consistency to make this tour.

  • Comment number 75.

    Not everyone commenting on John Hayes' inclusion in the squad is speaking from a biased point of view.
    He deserves to go on that tour. He's been one of the most consistent props to grace the Magners League, Heineken Cup and International lever in the last 5 years and that cannot be denied.

  • Comment number 76.

    My squad:

    Props: Sheridan, Jenkins, Murray, Hayes, Jones.
    Hookers: Flannery, Ford, Rees.
    Locks: O'Connell, O'Callaghan, Wyn Jones, Hines, Kennedy.
    Backrow: Ferris, Haskell, R Jones, Wallace, M Williams, Heaslip, Powell.
    Scrummie: Peel, Blair, Phillips.
    Out-Half: Jones, O'Gara, Hook.
    Centres: O'Driscoll (Capt), Shanklin, Roberts, Darcy.
    Outside Backs: S Williams, Bowe, Halpenny, Bowe, Fitzgerald (Also centre option), Kearney, Byrne and Sackey or Lewsey

    Test Team:
    1. Jenkins
    2. Flannery
    3. Murray
    4. Wyn Jones
    5. O'Connell
    6. Ferris
    7. Williams
    8. Heaslip
    9. Peel/Blair
    10. Jones
    11. Williams
    12. Shanklin
    13. O'Driscoll (Capt)
    14. Fitzgerald
    15. Kearney

    16. Ford
    17. Jones
    18. O'Callaghan
    19. Wallace
    20. Peel/Blair
    21. O'Gara
    22. Byrne

    Possibly Irish biased!

  • Comment number 77.

    Well, apart from the loony who wrote the first comment, I have to respond to Tinoflyer at comment 24.

    "As for the English, well we have the best players..."

    Seriously, what colour's the sky in your world?

  • Comment number 78.

    Geech will pick form players regardless nationality plus a couple of dependables thrown in as well. He may even pick uncapped players as he did in 97.

    Also most folk are picking who are playing well now. Although this tour is not as long as 97, 1 or 2 of the starting 15 will force themselves into the test side on performances on tour.

    Another factor will be how people tour. Some of the better players may not cope on tour and play themselves out of a place.

    From a Scottish point of view and my irn-bru tinted specs I think more Scots will tour than expected.

    Geech will get his selection right compared to Hadden.

    Patterson will go. Best kicker in the world and a place may be found for him. If Jones does not start at 10 he may even make the starting 15. Look at Jenks in 97. Nowhere near the outstanding 10 or 15 they found a place for him and effectively won the test series for us.

    Blair & Cusiter might go. I thought Cusiter was the outstanding 9 in NZ05 but did not really get a look in. In fact I believe he is still the standout 9 in the northern hemisphere despite Hadden not starting him.

    John Barclay is the outstanding candidate to rival Williams at 7. A true openside

    Euan Murray will go
    Strokosch may go
    Ford will go
    Hines will go
    1 or both Evans to go
    1 of the Lamont brothers may go if fit in time although Geech wont pick if neither has had game time.
    Jason White has an outside chance of going as a backrower purely for power.

    12 in total. Obviously they will not all go but a few surprises there will be.

    This tour is not to dissimilar to 97. Underdogs
    Lack of power in the tight 5
    etc etc

    My only concern is while Geech is there, there is no Jim Telfer, the best forward coach of his generation to get the forwards going forward with aggression.

    Also the lack of matches to get battle hardened may work against us although will favour us in terms of less games to get injured

    As with all rugby matches that's where it is won and lost.

    Hopefully SA will make the same mistake as last time and not play any of the test side in the provincial matches



  • Comment number 79.

    re No 58.

    Vickery "went because he lost his footing in the next ruck" and I suppose his hand accidentally shot out and knocked the ball out of the Scrum-Half's hand...

    Which match were you watching?

    As for the Lions debate (and I speak as a Welshman)

    Cipriani - What's he done?
    Henson - What's he done?
    Hook - What's he done?
    Flutey - What's he done?
    Sackey - What's he done?
    D'Arcy - What's he done?
    The Evans brothers - What have they done?


    Vickery - What hasn't he done?

    I just hope that Geech has the nous to pick on form (and there's plenty of time for players to move into contention) rather than pander to nationalistic interests.

    great blog by the way....

  • Comment number 80.

    Front5tighthead, Percy Montgomery has retired from International rugby.

    I'm not saying Vickery should go without question I was just saying that if it came down between him and Hayes I would take Vickery even with a broken leg. Hayes is a very poor prop, probably the worst ever player to reach 90 caps. He is poor in the scrum, an average ball carrier, slow to move round the field plus I bet over their respective careers he has given away more pens than Vickery. He is good at lineouts and not bad at clearing rucks but Vickery is a far superior player.

    Henson will go without question. I don't think the midfield is as full of contenders as people are making out. The Scottish centres seem to struggle to catch the ball half the time although Max Evans looks promising, Tindall is fading away, Flutey is a Kiwi, that leaves the Irish guys and shanks, henson and roberts. Centres tend to take such a bashing that they get a lot of injuries. Therefore I expect the Lions to take Henson, Roberts, BOD, Shanks, Bowe and evans as centres.

  • Comment number 81.

    Whoever said Cipriani should go on tour is clearly mistaken, he is the biggest liability from a defensive point of view, especially against SA. They targeted him the entire game during the autumn series. They'll target Cipriani just like Roberts targeted Godman in the Scotland-Wales game.

    He's a talented player but he doesnt belong in the Lions, at least not this year.

    Vickery doesn't deserve to go, his discipline has cost him this six nations i think, and Adam Jones and Euan Murray have a much bigger work rate.

    My team from a Welsh unbiased point of view but just by watching this year's six nations and autumn tests:

    15. Byrne (Armitage)
    14. Sackey (Halfpenny)
    13. O'Driscoll (Shanklin)
    12. Henson (Roberts)
    11. S Williams (Fitzgerald)
    10. S Jones (O'Gara, Hook)
    9. Phillips (Blair, Peel)
    8. Heaslip (Powell)
    7. M Williams (Worsley)
    6. R Jones (Haskell)
    5. A W Jones (Kennedy)
    4. O'Connell (Gough)
    3. Murray (A Jones)
    2. Ford (Flannery)
    1. G Jenkins (Sheridan)

    Maybe take Kearney, Flutey, Bowe, Mears, Hayes and Ferrris too all of which have been playing really well, i suppose it leaves the next two rounds of the six nations to decide who really wants to go.

  • Comment number 82.

    Peel shouldn't be on here - in the immortal word of Janet Jackson (or Eddie Murphy quoting her) - "What have you done for me lately". I think Danny Care didn't do his cause any good the weekend with that stupid tackle but, you cannot deny he is pure quality. The boy has pace, plays super quick ball and normally doesn't do stupid things like he did the weekend. Also, Stringer has been rock solid as ever when he comes on for O'Leary at Munster and for Ireland.

    O'Gara angers me (as an Irish fan). He is so Temperamental and chokes under pressure of any kind (whilst in an Irish jersey). He even admits he can't tackle "I tackle in the toilet position". Let's hope the pressence of red on his shirt in the Lions tour has him believe it's a Munster jersey. Tends not to buckle as much for them.

    Drico for cap-i-tan!

  • Comment number 83.

    Will there be a seat on the plane for Declan Kidney?

  • Comment number 84.

    The 1977 tour is an interesting one; the team for the first Test included only one Englishman; Harrogate wing Peter Squires.
    My memory only goes back to 1974, but those with a longer memory or a rugby stato might know has there ever been a British Isle Test team with no English player or is the 1st Test 1977 the record ?

  • Comment number 85.

    I'd like to see Geech have a gamble and take Matt Tait. If there's one Englishman that I'd really like to see go, it'd be Tait. He should be first name on an England team sheet in my mind, and I'd like to see Geech look beyond England's selection policy and pick from the wider pool.

  • Comment number 86.

    Just read comment re wilkinson. People are so deluded, he will never be the same player again and he wasn't that good at his peak. The three things that made him a good flyhalf were his defence, his goal kicking and the fantastic England team around him. His defence is now only good rather than fantastic and even his goal kicking has dropped a level.

    When these three things are taken away you see a player that puts in woeful International performances e.g. England - Scotland, last year. His tactical kicking seems to consist of kicking the ball straight down the middle of the pitch which might have worked when he had the world's best backrow in his team but not any more.

    Plus he has already cost us one Lions series with that pass to Joe Roff. Lets not give him the chance to do it again.

  • Comment number 87.

    "As for Red and Black Jonah......Vickery not going being a joke?? Lets just spend the tour watching a certian Percy Montgomery slot point after point through the posts for ridiculous penalties!"

    I don't know which tour you'll be watching...Percy Montgomery has retired from international rugby!

  • Comment number 88.

    "As a Welsh supporter I hope as many Englishmen, Irishmen and Scotchmen are picked for the Lions as possible. "

    Agreed. Look at last time. First the squad selection, heavily biased towards English players. Then the stuff on discussions like this. Plenty of Irish and Scottish people criticized the selection, Jim Telfer even said that no Englishman should ever have charge of a Lions team again, but nothing they said provoked much comment. However if a Welshman made even the mildest critical comment, there was a torrent of abuse, directed not at the individual poster but at the whole Welsh nation, and much of it verging on the racist. Then there were the long-term injuries to Ryan Jones, Henson and Shanklin ...

    I've followed the Lions since the 1971 tour, but this time I just don't care.

  • Comment number 89.

    I agree with the poster who suggested Matthew Tait. He's a very underrated player and can do some damage. He had a wonderful linebreak against Ireland on Saurday, just a little glimpse of what he can provide.

    As for Kidney going on the tour. I'd be surprised. I'd say he wants to have a good look at the players that won't feature for the Lions during the games in N.America. But perhaps if he did go the IRFU would put Michael Bradley in charge of the Irish A team to give him a bit more exposure to a higher level of Rugby management. He fared ok in the June 2008 tests when he temporarily took charge against NZ and Aus.

    Kidney would definitely bring something to the Lions setup but I'd imagine the man-management he is famed for will be suitabley handled by the likes of Shaun Edwards.

  • Comment number 90.

    There will be English players on the tour and in the test side, not many, but they'll be there.

    And I think that's correct because the Lions are meant to represent the four home nations, all four national emblems remain on the Lions badge.

    However, solely on form, I can't think of many positions where there aren't two better players from nations other than England.

    The Lions coaches will be casting around looking for the positions where they can slip an English player into the line-up without weakening the team overall.

    For example, Paul Sackey will probably get in simply because it would be harsh to suggest he'd weaken the side - he is a handy player after all.

    However, if you accept Shane Williams must start on the opposite wing, and only a fool would dispute that fact; should Sackey really be picked ahead of Leigh Halfpenny or Tommy Bowe?

    Similarly, Andrew Sheridan will probably make the front row as the home nations don't have a vast depth of talent there.

    Other than that, really, who are you going to throw out of the side to let an English player in?

  • Comment number 91.

    1) Jenkins, Sheridan
    2) Ford, Mears, Flannery
    3) Murray, A Jones, Vickery
    4) O'Connell, Kennedy
    5) Wyn Jones, O'Callaghan
    6) Ferris, R Jones
    7) Wallace, Williams, Rees
    8) Powell, Heaslip
    9) Phillips, Blair, Foden
    10) O'Gara, Cipriani, S Jones
    11) S Williams, Sackey
    12) Roberts, Flutey
    13) O'Driscoll, Shanklin
    14) Bowe, Halfpenny
    15) Byrne, Kearney

    Foden offers versatility
    Wallace could easily play at 6 to accomadate williams to 7 so that they get the best players in the starting back row with andy powell at 8.
    O'Driscoll as skipper
    R Jones can play at 8 as well as 6

  • Comment number 92.

    Hayes has been concistent - but thats not enough.

    I am sure he is a great bloke and he is a decent player but he isnt better then Vickery or Euan Murray as a tighthead!

    Have some of you been watching the 6N! Or are you picking on the basis of reputaion!

    The Lions on current players form have 2 big problems!

    Fly half - Stephen Jones the best but not good & O Gara had a shocker against England.

    Open side -both Wallace and Williams have great talent but both disapeared against England. The Boks will contest the breakdown more fiercely then England and are just as physical. Neither Wales or Ireland created much against England as a result so how will the Lions succeed.



  • Comment number 93.

    I love the way all you english are so naive.

    When was the last time Cipriani played a full england game? Autumn? that was wen he was dropped for his awful punts which were charged down. Now tto make him face against the world cup winners when he has been charged down by samoa is stupid. imagine what habana can do to him?

    and for the whole centre issue. as long as henson gets back to playing again then he is the best inside centre in the world. alongside BOD he will be pure class.

    There is no debate when it comes to the 11, 14 and 15. Who have been playin together for the last season or so?? Byre, Bowe and Williams, They are the only choice. I would like to see haskell M Williams and R Jones as the back rows though. Mobility and strength and if not Haskell then Worsley.

    To be honest :


    1. Jenkins
    2. Rees
    3. Murray
    4. Wyn Jones
    5. O'Connell
    6. Haskell
    7. M Williams
    8. R Jones
    9. Phillips
    10. S Jones
    11. S Williams
    12. Henson or Roberts
    13. BOD
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    Now not even the mighty springs can beat that team.

  • Comment number 94.

    Not only overlooked by England but so far by everyone else.

    What has Simon Shaw done?

    He deserves to go.

    Hopefully Geech will take him.

  • Comment number 95.

    Response to comment 86:

    I agree that Johnny had a great team around him, but he wasnt chosen for England because he was average. Dont forget that he was picked for England at 18 years old and had the World Cup in his hands at 24!!!
    If you want an experinced Fly Half who has an all round game, can do a job and has beaten the worlds best in there own back yard, then look no further.

    Watching Jones, OGara and Hook is as exciting as being force fed brussel sprouts!!
    On a serious note, i can see them getting smashed by Spies, Botha, Burger, Roussow and the rest!

    Oh and England V Scotland 2007. A certain Johnny Wilkinson scored 27 points on his return from injury to the England team (who were not that good)!!!!!

    WILKO WILDCARD!

  • Comment number 96.

    SAs are big, brutal and quick. Some games are at altitude so stamina is a necessity.

    John Hayes is simply not good enough. Adam Jones stamina will need to be proven (it is a lot better than a couple of years ago) Murray is the stand out prop but I think Sheridan and Vickery will be next on the list despite my considerable doubts about both.

    Hookers: size matters here so Mears will not get a look in. hartley may be first choice although I would go with Ford or Flannery (sorry welsh boys but hooker is not your strong position)

    Second rows: Injuries permitting should be POC + Nathan Hines, Kennedy and Wyn Jones as back up. I think Simon Taylor will get a spare berth because he can cover No 8 as well

    Back row: You need to be big, fast, brutal both with ball in hand and at break down. Powell has been very good but England showed he might be a bit one dimensional. Wallace is certain, Ferris will be in squad, Ryan Jones definite. At the risk of being heretical, Martyn Williams will not be in the team because he is not physically ig enough to last it with SA.

    Scrum Half: difficult call here because it depends on the style Lions play. Despite the weekend's stupidity Care does bring something different to the play. Personally I would go with Peel and Blair.

    Fly half is a big problem: Best guess is that Stephen Jones will get first choice because he is less bad than the other choices, but I would not be surprised if Jonny Wilkinson gets called up (bad idea particularly with recent kicking from hand). Simple problem is that RoG bottles it, Hook is too streaky, Cips not ready, Goodman not good enough. There simply is not a single player with the speed to unlock defences and inventiveness, defensive ability to command the No. 10 channel, consistency of kicking and mentally strong enough to play here.

    Centres: big problem here is that there are lots of good centres but maybe with too similar a style - BOD + Shanklin would be my choice but Flutey or even Tait would bring something different. Difficulty is getting the balance between inside and outside centre right. Too many of the good choices are outside centre. (No to Tindall under virtually end circumstance). Suprise call up might be Barkley because he can cover FH as well

    Wings: Shane is not nailed on for a place in the team. He is small and will be targetted. The Evan brothers look very promising. Injuries permitting though look out for Sean Lamont - very big and a very good finisher. Sackey definitely possible.

    Full back: Lee Byrne, Rob Kearney, G Murphy. Armitage in with a shout but only if one of the others injured.


    This is a long winded way of saying I think there will be more English in the squad than expected, I also expect a couple of surprise choices.

    Mind you I do think it likely that Scotland will have more players in the squad than England

  • Comment number 97.

    The Lions XV

    1)G. Jenkins
    2)M. Rees
    3)E. Murruy
    4)A. Wyn-Jones
    5)P. O'Connell (P.L)
    6)R. Jones
    7)M. Williams
    8)D. Wallace

    9)M. Blair
    10)R. O'Gara
    11)S. Williams
    12)G. D'Arcy
    13)B. O'Driscoll (C)
    14)R. Kearney
    15)L. Byrne

    Subs:
    16)R. Ford
    17)A. Sheridan
    18)D. O'Callaghan
    19) J. Heaslip
    20)M. Phillips
    21)S. Jones
    22)L. Halfpenny

    *Tommy Bowe in my opinion isn't quick enough, espesially when you think he's up against Habana

  • Comment number 98.

    I like the comment about Lewis Moody's lack of regard for his personal safety... I also think Tait, Foden and if fit Wilkinson are in with a chance. Of the current players I can't see many aside from Paul Sackey, Flutey, and maybe Kennedy, Vickery, Haskell (as wasps players).

    I also think that McGeechan will put a lot of emphasise on personality and as a result I wouldn't necessarily see Henson as a guaranteed! Great talent but...

  • Comment number 99.

    Comment 86

    What a fool you are?

    Jonny wilkinson would be the first to admit that he aint good enough for the Lions squad this year. He used to be the best no.10 in the world but i'd even pick Cipriani ahead of Wilko as he's injury prone and the boks would take the risk of a player spending 10 minutes in the bin just to totally smash him to a pulp and injure him long term.

    Please don't think i want Cipriani in the squad though, as he is not worthy of playing in the Lions team this year, maybe if England coaches concentrated on his weaknesses and encouraged the guy instead of putting him down all the time. The guy has obviously got bags of talent it just needs to be nurtured, which needs to be the job of the coaching staff. They are just going backwards picking Goode and Flood. If they give him the coaching he needs then i'm sure he would be a starter in 4 years time no doubt.

  • Comment number 100.

    Response to comment 95:

    He does not and has never has had an all round game. His passing game has always been average as was his tactical awareness. His running game is slightly underated but not exactly exciting. He was a great addition to the England team as they had lost a few crucial games before he came along due to the inability to turn their pressure into points through poor goal kicking and fly halves who couldn't or wouldn't use the drop goal. That was why he was feared by opposing teams as you knew back then that you were going to give a lot of pens away against England and Wilkinson would slot everyone of them over.

    He is just as boring to watch as Jones although you are right about ROG. However, to call watching Hook boring, especially in comparison to JW is plain wrong. Hook is a wonderful player to watch as he has a great passing game makes fine breaks and has wonderful hands. He is also probably a better defender than JW now as JW's defence is no where near as good as it used to be. It's a shame that Hook's tactical kicking is as poor as JW's as otherwise he would be a shoe in for the lions 10 spot.

 

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