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Buoyant Bowe lifts Lions

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Bryn Palmer | 21:21 UK time, Saturday, 13 June 2009

Cape Town, Saturday evening

Well at least the coaches won't have to linger long over who plays right wing.

If Saturday's narrow win over Western Province confirmed anything, it is that Tommy Bowe will certainly be in the Lions number 14 shirt for next week's first Test in Durban.

Not that there was much doubt. The Ireland wing was already pencilled in to face the Springboks after his superlative display in the second match of the trip, the 74-point mauling of the Golden Lions.

But in the space of six first-half minutes at Newlands, the pencil became ink as the 25-year-old displayed the skills that have transported him into the realms of world-class.

Tommy Bowe

Not only that, they gave the Lions a lascerating edge in attack that could make the difference in ensuring they finish off whatever opportunities come their way against the world champions.

Bowe showed an exquisite sense of timing, balance and power to score his fourth try of the tour in three matches, creating the split-second he needed to catch Rob Kearney's pass and spin away from his opposite number in the same movement.

At a little over 15 stone Bowe is not a heavyweight wing by any means, but he brushed past two more would-be tacklers with ease on his way to the line.

That strength was again evident in his pivotal role in the Lions' second try, darting off his wing and cutting into the line at a precise angle, stepping neatly inside the first man before almost contemptuously bouncing a second out of his path.

The inviting pass he then looped over his tackler's head was meat and drink for Ugo Monye, who had little trouble finishing off his third try of the tour.

"You can see he is playing well," head coach Ian McGeechan said of Bowe. "He is a very strong runner and if there is space, you want players to have that confidence to play."

Certainly Bowe's soaring confidence and self-belief is difficult to escape. Asked on Friday about the possibility of facing Bryan Habana next week, he viewed it as a "great challenge" but hardly sounded daunted by the prospect.

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"If I get picked for the Lions Test team then I feel I am good enough to come up against anyone," he said. Quite.

But if Bowe is a dead cert, McGeechan still has difficult decisions to make elsewhere after Saturday's stop-start performance.

"It has given us some serious thought selection-wise," he admitted. "There are going to be some tough calls in a number of positions."

Monye was far from perfect on Saturday, in some of his defensive and kicking duties, but probably did enough to join Bowe and Lee Byrne in a Test back three that would give the Lions plenty of options in attack.

Riki Flutey failed to present a case for dislodging Jamie Roberts as Brian O'Driscoll's centre partner, so the only other decision to make in the backs is at fly-half, with Mike Phillips a shoo-in at scrum-half.

James Hook

His familiarity with Stephen Jones may help to sway the stand-off vote the Welshman's way, although his display on Saturday did not ward off the need for a discussion.

McGeechan felt the tactical kicking "could have been better at times" and that the Lions "probably tried to play too much rugby in our own half" and "needed to be a bit more patient".

While that was not entirely down to Jones, with full-back Kearney and Monye also predominantly opting to use the boot in difficult conditions, the fly-half invariably sets the tone in terms of strategy.

While Ronan O'Gara is not entirely without hope, James Hook also made another case for his inclusion in the Test 22 with his composure to land the winning penalty.

Having missed a long-range effort with 11 minutes left, Hook - 24 on the day of the second Test - showed no hesitation in accepting a second invitation to save the Lions' bacon.

"He took the decision out of my hands really," said Martyn Williams, captain for the final quarter after Phil Vickery's departure. "He just said 'no problem, butt'".

Williams could also take satisfaction from his return after a shoulder injury - "not bad for an old man" quipped McGeechan when asked about the flanker's display - and David Wallace will not be feeling quite so secure about the number seven jersey.

Elsewhere in the back row, Joe Worsley tackled hard as you'd expect, had a couple of charges on the crash ball and remains in the frame for at least a place on the bench.

Andy Powell's powerful run and offload initiated the opening try, but on other occasions his direct approach again foundered in contact.

Further forward Vickery remains a live candidate, if not a stone-cold favourite, for the tight-head berth, while Andrew Sheridan again scrummaged well but was less visible around the field - a familiar refrain - than Gethin Jenkins, who remains favourite for the loose-head role.

Lock Nathan Hines was a force in the tight exchanges, but was not used in the line-out, where every Lions throw - and one of Western Province's - was claimed by Donncha O'Callaghan.

The Munster man had a solid enough outing but could find that like a few others, he may be asked to back up on Tuesday in the final warm-up match, selection for which will surely be a sign that a starting place against the Springboks in Durban is off the menu.

While the Lions could take comfort in the efficiency of their finishing and the way they snatched victory from the jaws of a potentially demoralising defeat or draw, McGeechan was quick to point out the reality of what we have seen so far.

"Whatever warm-up games we would have got, they are not Test matches," he added in response to a question about the standard of opposition the Lions have faced.
"You know when you get to next Saturday, it is going to be a different level."

If the rest of the Lions can match Bowe's current level, they are not without hope.

The preliminaries are nearly over. The real business is almost upon is.


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  • Comment number 1.

    anyone else starting to get excited?

    i don't like to boast (normally) but i'm honestly not surprised about bowe's performances so far. he had a brilliant 6 nations and has been one of the stand out players of the tour so far. i still maintain to this day ulster where crazy to let him go. it's also worthwhile to point out, that monye (who in my eyes has a decent enough shout at grabbing the no 11 jersey), still has a long way to go. all 3 of his tries so far where not only well finished but where created from the hands of tommy bowe. their combination therefore must surely be at the forefront of geech's mind. we have an awesome squad and with leaders and fantastic rugby players all over the field. i think it's only now, for the first time that its actually occured to me - we could genuinely win this test series!

  • Comment number 2.

    Aye, all getting terribly exciting! DOC played a blinder today, when few expected him to do so...very prominent, and could be in with a shout. Not sure AWJ is nailed on, and the old Munster partnership could start. Some Irish pundits were concerned POCs performances would suffer for the lack - in particular - of John Hayes as a lineout lifter and general partner-in-crime, and perhaps the alliance with DOC could improve POCs form. I don't believe they've played together on tour yet, which is interesting.

    Kearney had a great game, but won't start on Saturday. Byrne has that little spark extra, and on the wing Monye did enough. Kearney will be a great option off the bench. I worry about Stephen Jones. The demons will be talking to him a little, he had some poor kicking (including a penalty that missed touch by a solid ten meters) and a couple of handling errors. ROGs propensity to become a carpet for tacklers on the fringe remains a concern, but it's a known problem and can be compensated for, while Jones' weaknesses are less predictable. I have a sneaking suspicion that ROG will start next week.

    I think D'Arcy will start on Tuesday, and could start the second or third test - he's in great form, and Roberts style of play could see him pick up a knock against the Boks.

    Fun fun fun! Come on Saturday!!

  • Comment number 3.

    DOC may have claimed lots of lineout ball - but none is as clean and quick as Croft provides. His ability to transfer the ball from inside to outside hand in one movement is invaluable.
    I noticed when POC played, more balls were thrown to him and Croft was used less, POC won his, but invariably lands with the ball before releasing, which gives more time for the defense to gather.
    Croft has the ability to change the point of attack whilst still in the air which cannot be understated.
    His lack of bulk probably means Wallace plays ahead of Williams.

  • Comment number 4.

    Bowe was superb, in the first half. He was quiet in the second and was caught a little out of position for the try. Still a definite starter and should be partnered by Monye, both have a very good partnership and like to play together.

  • Comment number 5.

    anyone else think geech could still drop poc

  • Comment number 6.

    I am not so sure about Ugo Monye being a Test wing. He is a decent short-range finisher, but he is not particulary creative, he kicks a little too much and his rush out of defence that led to the Western province try worried me.

  • Comment number 7.

    KendalEightball, agree on Wallace / Williams, and Wallace sheer strength at the fringe is immense. One the lineout, I remember the Heineken final last year when POC was a minor injury doubt before the game, and took no lineout ball in the first half, then grew into the game more in the second half. Part of this could be playing with the Boks, because the lineout battle will be immense. If the Lions can win their own ball, and steal one or two from the Boks, they will have a serious chance of winning the test. We needs lots of options there!

  • Comment number 8.

    I still dont really care about the team. Its gonna be immense.

  • Comment number 9.

    I don't think Monye is worth a place in the test team. He has scored 3 tries on tour but all have been run ins and only required pace. A dozen other players in the squad could have scored them. Defensively he has looked a little shaky, his kicking is poor and I haven't seen him do much in attack either. With Shane and Fitzgerald not impressing either I would go with Kearney on the left wing.

    Elsewhere Sheridan proved why Jenkins will start the 1st test, Martyn Williams will play 7 and Wallace may well be moved to 6. Croft to miss out from the 22 as he isn't physical enough. Stephen Jones will play 10 despite not having his best game. Cannot believe anyone would suggest ROG is a better option, who is behind Hook in the pecking order as well IMO. Alun-Wyn will play alongside POC with Hines on the bench. Vickery gets the nod at 3. All other positions are pretty obvious I think...

  • Comment number 10.

    Going into today there were 6 Test places still up for grabs.

    3. Still 3 viable contenders though I suspect Murray will start.
    4. DOC has moved ahead of Hines & AWJ on his front-of-lineout form.

    6. Croft, the only threat is David Wallace.
    7. Wallace, just edges Williams. Greater physicality, fewer penalties.

    10. Jones dropped back a few places today. ROG is the man for now.
    11. Fitzgerald. Just ahead of Kearney and Monye, who didn't do enough.

    Really looking forward to the rest of the games on Tour now. Especially want to see more of D'Arcy and Earls!

  • Comment number 11.

    @ KendalEightball
    The reason POC was holding on to the ball rather than giving it off the top is get match practise with the driving maul. Sure he can do quick ball but if it's a lineout from 5 metres a driving maul will suck in more forwards leaving space for the backs.
    @ hunterlevi
    I honestly can't see Geech dropping his captain for the tests as it would send out that a) the coaches have lost faith in him and b) that he was the wrong choice to begin with (wasn't untouchable).

    Monye hasn't looked as assured in defence as Fitzgerald plus he mistimed his "blitz" allowing for the 3 on 1 overlap on Bowe for the try today. He also mistimed another blitz in an earlier match. Granted in a foot race for the line, he's your only man.

  • Comment number 12.

    Why can't you believe that people may think the all-time leading points scorer in both the Six Nations and the Heineken Cup is the person to play 10 in a game that the Lions won't win by more than a couple of pressure kicks?
    Seems logical to me.

  • Comment number 13.


  • Comment number 14.

    The reason Ulster had to let him go was because, Eddie O'Sullivan gave him and other ulster players (11 left in total i think) a sniff at a place in the Ireland team. And completely aware that a season or two ago, u had to almost defenitely play ur club rugby in ireland the likes of Bowe, Roger wilson and Neil Best moved to england to make some money, experience a change of scenery with the possibility of some succes, while SACRIFICING their international careers.

    Just incase anyone was wondering why Tommy moved and why Ulster have had great young players for years but havent had many Ireland players.

    Very proud of u Tommy!!

  • Comment number 15.

    Anyone else think the ref in todays game had a nightmare even Bobby Skinstaad was embarrassed by a couple of the calls. Thank goodness the tests will be reffed by a neutral or was it just the well recognised phenomenon of favouring the trailing team in a close game?

    I think it just suggests that the South Africans are a little worried we have given everyone some game time and chopped and changed the side at crucial points in each game which disrupts the momentum and still 5 games on the trot has a nice ring about it even if some of the sides have been stripped of their stars .

    The Boks are different class no doubt but if we can just play with some passion and take our chances.
    I felt the lions were a little more clinical today and dont seem to panic in tight games.
    However all the forwards still turned the ball over too much in contact.
    We have to win the first test or we are all doomed.

  • Comment number 16.

    Everyone seems to be giving the welsh boys a hard time. But i still think steven jones is the man to lead the lions at ten next weekend. Not too sure POC has done enough i just dont think he has enough fight about him. But he will start dont get me wrong doesnt deserve it though!

    My test team would be
    1, Gethin jenkins everyone seems to rate sheridan but how can you overlook the main man?
    2, lee mears, what an industrious little player where has he been in the english set up?
    3Euan Murray bit of brute strength
    4, Nathan Hines
    5, AWJ
    6, David Wallace, another underated player
    7, Martyn williams, world class for ten years where has the recognition been?
    8, Heaslip. Enough said
    9, Philips, Will cause serious problems, until they get under his skin...
    10, S. Jones, Deceptively tough wont get bullied like O'gara would.
    12, Roberts
    13, O'driscoll, how could you drop this centre partnership?
    14, Tommy Bowe, as bryn said he is fast becoming world class
    15, Byrne, he is advertising a gold cash converter's in wales best full back in the world atm anymore need to be said?

    Come on the boys, springbok who???

  • Comment number 17.

    Think we need real strength and aggression upfront and speeed and experience in the backs.I'd go with

    S Williams

  • Comment number 18.

    HI Sparklejonesy,
    a few controversial choices there but I admire your confidence in facing the Boks without a left wind :-)

  • Comment number 19.

    I don't think too many guys out there yesterday won Test jerseys (Bowe already has his, let's face it) but some of them may end with them based on other games and lack of competition.

    I thought O'Callaghan and Matthew Rees had their best games on tour and might have forced their way into the reckoning for the Test 22. But here's my First Test 22:

    1. Gethin Jenkins
    2. Lee Mears
    3. Euan Murray - still can't call this one, could be any of them so I'll go with the guy who I think has been the best British TH all year.
    4. Alun Wyn-Jones - Could easily be O'Callaghan or Hines though
    5. Paul O'Connell
    6. David Wallace
    7. Martyn Williams - if he's fit I think he must play. Best link man in the squad
    8. Jamie Heaslip
    9. Mike Phillips
    10. Stephen Jones - tough one, not his best game yesterday but I still think he's played better than the others
    11. Rob Kearney - Could be Monye but I'm taking the cautious route
    12. Jamie Roberts
    13. Brian O'Driscoll
    14. Tommy Bowe
    15. Lee Byrne

    Bench places, and I'll say I've gone for guys who aren't necessarily the next best on tour but who offer either versatility or impact, or both.
    16. Andrew Sheridan - harsh on Vickery and Adam Jones but Sheridan offers more impact and I think it has to be a loosehead on the bench, Jenkins covers TH ok.
    17. Matthew Rees - til yesterday I'd have picked Ford but Rees has improved his lineout throwing a fair bit and he's a hard worker round the pitch
    18. Tom Croft - offers both impact with his speed and versatility in covering lock and most of the backrow slots
    19. Andy Powell - Pure impact replacement. One trick pony but it makes him a useful benchwarmer. Could be Nathan Hines here though.
    20. Harry Ellis - in the tradition of Matt Dawson, Ellis is an annoying little character, his quick taps and grittiness would be great off the bench
    21. James Hook - ROG is the better 10 but Hook offers versatility to play 10, 12, 13 or 15.
    22. Rikki Flutey - I think his moves and quick feet would be very useful in the last 20 minutes. Should be able to cover a few positions too.

  • Comment number 20.

    From yesterday's team:
    Out of contention now: Kearney, Earls, Flutey, Ellis, Blair, Ford, Rees, Worsley, Hines, S Jones;
    50/50 call: Vickery, Sheridan, O'Callaghan, M Williams, Hook;
    Certainties: Bowe, Monye.

    Of the rest, Byrne, O'Driscoll, Roberts, Phillips, Mears, O'Connell, Croft pick themselves.

    That leaves questions over:
    Fly-half: I'd choose Hook, he kicks as well as the others and has better all-round skills, O'Gara and S Jones are too one-dimensional;
    Props: Gethin Jenkins offers more than Sheridan and D Jones has done just about enough to edge out Vickery;
    Lock: Wyn Jones has had more game time, a bit unfair on Shaw who I would pick to partner O'Connell;
    Loosies: Wallace edges M Williams, and Heaslip is the best of a weakish bunch of no 8's.

    But whatever combination we pick I've a nasty feeling that there's a hurricane due to arrive on Saturday in the form of the Boks, and there's not a lot the Lions will be able to do about it.

  • Comment number 21.

    I hadn't considered playing Kearney on the left wing until it was mentioned here but I now think it's a great idea what with his ability to kick bombs from his 22 into the opponents, sound defense and passing plus reasonable pace. Monye, Fitzgerald and Williams haven't pulled up any trees thus far so why not go for Robbo?

  • Comment number 22.

    Stephen Jones certainly made a few errors today (and lets not forget the conditions), but he also ran very hard, getting across the gain line today more times than ROG will in the whole tour. He is also a better tackler, and shouldn't be dismissed just because of a couple of poor kicks.

  • Comment number 23.

    re: Bowe's 'superlative display'

    I wish sports commentators understood the meaning of the word superlative - it does not mean superb - a superlative is a word which describes something impressive. That is why you often hear people say 'I'm running out of superlatives to describe him...'

    I blame Murray Walker, he was always going on about Schumacher's 'superlative performances'.

  • Comment number 24.

    15. Lee Byrne, has the edge over kearney and kicks the ball and absolute mile, great catcher under the high ball.
    14. Tommy Bowe, quick and great finisher, links well with the midfield and hard for the opposition to stop. outstanding against western province and the golden lions.
    13. Brian O'Driscoll, mr creativity and links well with roberts. first name on the sheet everytime.
    12. Jamie Roberts, mr bulldozer, breaks through defences and sets the tone
    11. Ugo Monye, quick and much better in defence than either shane williams or fitzgerald.
    10. Stephen Jones, he played so well against golden lions, i would discount yesterdays and he has played better than O'gara as far.
    9. Mike Phillips, quick and links well with Stephen Jones.

    1. Gethin Jenkins, less wreckless that sheridan
    2. Lee Mears, great offloader and consistent thrower
    3. Phil Vickery, experience is the reason, and a good leader when it gets tough
    4. Paul O'Connell (c), good leader and great jumper
    5. Alun-Wyn Jones, tough to take down and connects forwards and backs together well.
    6. Tom Croft, pacy and is less likely to cause errors than worsley. could play wallace at 6 and williams at 7, but i like croft's energy at the beginning to set the tone.
    7. David Wallace, played very well as far and deserves to start
    8. Jamie Heaslip, played more consistent than powell and breaks defences with ease.

    16. Matthew Rees, as Ross Ford has played dreadful
    17. Euan Murray, wat a tough figure to bring on in the latter stages of a game to ease up the scrum
    18. Nathan Hines, for the extra physical presence to bring on when Jones needs a breather
    19. Martyn Williams, for experience and for that extra spark that could be required at the end.
    20. Harry Ellis, consistent and better than Mike Blair
    21. James Hook, versatile and has a solid boot on him and a cool head under pressure. can play fly half, centre or full back.
    22. Fitzgerald or S.Williams, can't decide, they both produce burts of energy that could hurt the springboks.

  • Comment number 25.

    Is Hook a gamble worth taking?
    Having watched all the games I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that Hook may be the best option at 10. O'Gara had a poor game by his stanndards on Wednesday and seems to have got into 'kick everything' mode. Jones is steady but has not rediscovered his form of 2 years ago but is the better option defensivley. Hook is undoubtably the most talented of the 3 with ball in hand and will have experienced players around him. Think they will probably go for the safe option of Jones for the first test but I wouldn't be suprised if Hook plays 2 and 3. Anyway good reading all your comments and teams so here is mine !

    Murray ( toughest call of the lot)
    A Wyn -Jones

  • Comment number 26.

    Re: No 2 (laughingabehan). In answer to your query, DOC and POC did play together in the third match of the tour against the Cheetahs. It was only last Saturday but already feels like a lifetime ago! Agree DOC played well yesterday. I was watching the line-outs and they threw every one to him at the front, which was understandable in the conditions to be honest, as the first priority was just to secure ball. When Hines went off and Shaw came on, DOC went to the middle of the line-out and claimed a couple there. He'd certainly be a reliable option, but personally think they'll go with the greater bulk of Hines.

    I agree with No 3 (KendalEightball). I think if O'Connell plays with Hines next Saturday, then Croft has to start at six as a quality line-out alternative, otherwise Matfield and Botha will be able to target POC too easily. Croft does have the ability to provide quicker ball off the top and at the tail, which increases the Lions' attacking options.

    Be interesting to see who starts on Tuesday in the second row. If it's AWJ with Shaw, I'd say AWJ will probably be on the bench for the first Test. If it's Shaw and DOC, I'd say AWJ could make the Test team.

  • Comment number 27.

    dogkennelhill .. must disagree with your comments regarding the referee ... personally thought he was one of the best we've encountered ... did you miss KAPLAN in mid-week against the SHARKS? ... it beggered belief!!


  • Comment number 28.

    Roll on next Saturday !!

    Would like to hear some comments on the Referees so far........ and indeed some of the touchline officials, poor, very poor.

    Commentators on the France-New Zealand game slated the Irish ref all through. They didn't agree with any of his decisions.

    Finding it hard to agree with any Stephen Jones selections, very poor yesterday, daveythepredictor says we should discount yesterdays game but why ??? surely the reason for these games is to test players, and Jones was found wanting.

  • Comment number 29.

    I honestly don't understand how you can leave out Ugo. His partnership with Bowe is clearly an effective combination - they are working off each other and both are scoring tries. I think they compliment each other perfectly. Fitzgerald really hasn't done anything to impress me. He appears bog standard and too small to stand up against the Boks. I know I'm biased, but that doesn't come into it when you have 2 wings scoring tries consistently. You have to play them if they are combining well. Both are also very solid defenders. Anyone questioning Ugo's defence will need to have a look at ALL of his games for Quins this season. Best defensive wing in the UK on his day.

    I think Vickery has done enough to nail the tighthead spot, Stephen Jones will start at 10.

    This will be Geech's team:

    1 G Jenkins
    2 L Mears
    3 P Vickery
    4 A Wyn-Jones
    5 P O'Connell (c)
    6 T Croft
    7 M Williams
    8 J Heaslip

    9 M Phillips
    10 S Jones
    11 U Monye
    12 J Roberts
    13 B O'Driscoll
    14 T Bowe
    15 L Byrne

    16 M Rees
    17 A Sheridan / A Jones
    18 S Shaw / N Hines
    19 D Wallace / J Worsley
    20 H Ellis
    21 J Hook
    22 R Kearney

    The only place I would differ would be on the bench. I would have Ford over Rees any day of the week - as an impact sub, Ford would be more effective. I'd have Euan Murray to cover prop, but he hasn't played enough so won't be there. The rest I would probably be happy with - Hook covers 10, 12, 15 so Flutey won't get a place for the first test, although I'd like to see him prove himself in the midweek game this Tuesday so that he can stake a claim for at least a bench spot come the second test.


  • Comment number 30.

    One thing is for certain. If we don't secure our line out ball during the first 40-60m of the 1st test we can all pack up & go home. Territory will be everything. The series in NZ was lost in the 1st 40m due to a failure to secure our own ball (mainly due to awful throwing) and as a result confidence visibly drained from the side as ground hard one was conceded. Geeks will select the test side around his best thrower/jumpers hence Mears/POC and either DOC or AWJ will definitley start. POC may not be a Harlem Globetrotter around the field (which many blog contributors over the past few weeks mistakenly seem to think is a pre-requisite of a test lock) but he is top drawer jumper and a go to ball winner - hence worth his place. Period. As for the rest of the side we need to initially pack it with muscle & defensive dogs cos SA will throw the kitchen sink at us for 60m & we must stand firm. It's only in the final 20m that space may open up. Hence Sheridan/Vicks/Worsley/Wallace/Heaslip make up the pack with Kearney on left wing to shore up the back 3 as there'll be a lot of arial bombs coming our way. The more mobile Jenkins/Williams/Croft/Moyne/ellis/Hook can then possibly come on at 60-70 to exploit the spaces as Boks hopefully flag.

  • Comment number 31.

    South Afria are reigning world champions and probably the best national side in the world today. They have a powerful pack, are usually dominate in lineout balls, and play some of the best kicking rugby (after Australia). They are drop-goal specialists and have the fastest wingers in the game.

    The Lions can try to match the Boks and setup a mirror side (which may favour Sheridan, Monye, etc). Or the Lions can try to beat the Boks by playing a more Welsh/Scottish style of rugby and avoiding kicking out-of-hand. The style I refer to means quick phases and ideally means having at least 2 people comfortable acting as SH, plus a FH who plays flat (rather than deep) - and forwards comfortable with producing 10 phases a minute.

    If we play this way, it may mean picking slightly smaller forwards. However, Roberts, BO'D, Boye etc are not small backs. I think Hook's tackling could be found wanting and would favour Jones.

  • Comment number 32.

    I don't know if it's bias as a huge Shane Williams fan but I don't think Monye is good enough to be in the team. In terms of finishing he is class but all he has is pace. Yesterday's match showed he can't kick, and he was out of position defensively at least twice, including one for the try. My 15 are Byrne, Bowe, Roberts, BOD, Shane, Jones, Phillips, Heaslip, Williams, Wallace, AWJ, O'Connell, Jenkins, Unsure for Hooker, Adam Jones.

    I think for the first test we need a TEAM and most of these guys are Welsh or Irish, so there's a good combination of quality and familiarity. Although Shane hasn't been scintillating of late he is still a world class finisher and can create something out of nothing along with his wealth of experience which is what Monye lacks. Lots of strength in that team, power and aggression.

  • Comment number 33.

    boycie00, Sheridan over Jenkins? If it's defensive dogs you want Gethin Jenkins could teach most backrowers a thing or two. No, I really think that's one battle that is as decided as can be. Jenkins has been far and away the best prop on tour so far. Sheridan's improved as a player hugely in the last 12 months but he is still very very over-rated. I'd use him as an impact sub only. Jenkins and Carl Hayman are the two most complete props I've seen in International Rugby.

  • Comment number 34.

    You Irish fans delude yourselves. ROG has not moved up the pecking order. If Hook and Jones were injured tonight their replacements would be in front of ROG. The reason for this is his habit of being total poop.

    3 Tours no sniff of a cap. Tom May is a better stand off.

    DOC will be nowhere near the test side. He is 5th choice lock right now.

  • Comment number 35.

    Wallace will start. End of story. My guess is at 7. Delusional to believe otherwise. I will eat my metaphorical hat if he doesn't start

  • Comment number 36.

    DylMor29, I could see how as a welshman this lack of form must be completely bemusing( I imagine I would feel the same if it was BOD playing nowhere near his potential) but have to say at the minute there is no way shane is going to get near a test Jersey. He has to be 3rd or maybe even 4th (behind Kearney) in line for that wing slot.

    Shocking-yes, but nevertheless true. The only scenario in which I can see him being involved in the tests would be a big drop in performance by the others/several injuries/or perhaps a last throw of the dice in the last test.

    Don't misunderstand this for bias, I am gutted, I thought Shane was a starting cert before they flew out, and was expecting him to be immense for the lions, don't know what's going on with him!

  • Comment number 37.

    Well Mr Dickinson, you are certainly aptly named. Care to give any sensible argument or are you comfortable with taking the 8 year old's approach?

  • Comment number 38.

    Jerk Dickinson, you are surely on the wind up mate. Record points scorer in Six Nations and Heineken Cup history. Your sporting verdict: Poop. Insightful, indeed. DOC is 50/50 to start for two reasons. 1. Lineout ability at two as evidenced yesterday and 2. His successful Munster partnership with POC. AWJ may get the nod but I personally think after yesterdays performance he will go with DOC.

  • Comment number 39.

    Talk of POC not having done enough for a test spot yet claims that Stephen Jones has is crazy. Jones hasn't once shown us why he should be the test No. 10 and yesterday he was downright awful, his missing touch and kicking straight over the dead ball line from a penalty is something you would be amazed to see at U-15 level and his joke of a clearance in the 1st half was another example of a poor performance on his part. POC suffers from being captain as people expect him to do amazing things and even when he does people overlook them as they expect them to happen so aren't surprised and take no note of their occurance.

    Bowe has been fantastic, player of the tour in my mind, but Monye and him do not have a partnership. Bowe was passed him the ball and allowed him to stroll over the line once or twice but that does not mean they have a partnership. Monye was simply on his wing and was in the right place at the right time, something even Shane Williams could probably do at the moment. Also wings on opposite sides of the pitch rarely get involved with eachother so I'd look more at what kind of game do the lions want to play. Fitzgerald is an incredibly smart player, great finisher and after bulking up enough now a very, very solid defender. Against England in 6n this year he made the most tackles out of everyone. However Monye brings something different so it comes down to how the lions management want to play. Fitz is a much better player in my opinion and i would start him, although Monye probably is who i would put money on to start.

    Also was unhappy to see Darcy not get any game time yesterday, he's been fantastic recently and I would not at all be surprised to see him start on tuesday, run amuck and get a start in the 1st or second test.

  • Comment number 40.

    Did you actually just use the arguement that rog is 'total poop'!!!

    Think you might be looking for the cbeebies website mate

  • Comment number 41.

    Sorry, the Darcy to start comment was RE: the 2nd or 3rd test

  • Comment number 42.

    i think that the fight for 3, 6, 10 and the other second row spot are the most interesting ones.

    3.Vickery, Murray, Adam be honest, i think that Murray just edges it, but it'l b interesting to see tuesdays line up.
    5.Hines/DOC/AWJ? will they set up with DOC's spring and energy? hines' brute strenght (but he tends to give penalties away) or AWJ who appears to be alot more robust in the loose...toughie, but i think AWJ just pips it.
    6.Wallace or Croft? i reckon they'l go for Croft, more line out options, and pace...2 elements that are going to be key against the boks. either way, the other will defo start on the bench.
    7.Wallace or williams? still want to see a bit more of nugget, but wallace hasnt done much wrong at 7 yet...interesting!
    8.Heaslip, Powells hands are proving a liability.
    10.Jones, as i think that his all round game so far has been better than ROG and Hook, a little bit off kicking yesterday, but still out more consistant bet for the tests.
    11.Monye/Fitzgerald...we'll see who starts on tuesday, and how well they play.
    14.Bowe (class act)
    15.Byrne, and i hope kearney's not too injured, as we don't have alot more specialist fullback cover...earls? hope not to be honest.

    17.Sheridan or Vickery/Jones/Murray, my choice would be sheridan, he'd be the perfect man to come on if the scrum starts to shake
    18.second row idea yet...probs AWJ or Hines.
    21.Hook or Kearney (if he gets fit again), though it's going to be tough on Monye/Fitzgerald for either to be dropped totally.

    bring on tuesday!! i'm getting really excited now the big times getting closer, i really hope that the boys gel, no matter what combinations and we give the boks at least one good stuffing :D

  • Comment number 43.

    1. Andrew Sheridan
    2. Lee Mears
    3. Euan Murray
    4. Nathan Hines
    5. Paul O'Connell (c)
    6. David Wallace
    7. Martyn Williams
    8. Jamie Heaslip
    9. Mike Phillips
    10. Stephen Jones
    11. Ugo Monye
    12. Jamie Roberts
    13. Brian O'Driscoll
    14. Tommy Bowe
    15. Lee Byrne

    16. Ross Ford
    17. Gethin Jenkins
    18. Alun Wyn-Jones
    19. Tom Croft
    20. Harry Ellis
    21. James Hook
    22. Rob Kearney

  • Comment number 44.

    1. Gethin Jenkins
    2. Lee Mears
    3. Phil Vickery
    4. Paul O'Connell
    5. Nathan Hines
    6. Tom Croft
    7. Martyn Williams
    8. Jamie Heaslip
    9. Mike Phillips
    10. Stephen Jones
    11. Ugo Monye
    12. Jamie Roberts
    13. Brian O'Driscoll
    14. Tommy Bowe
    15. Lee Byrne

    16. Matthew Rees
    17. Euan Murray
    18. Alun Wyn Jones
    19. Andy Powell
    20. Mike Blair
    21. James Hook
    22. Shane Williams

    I think the front row are playing well but Vickery's discipline does worry me. The hooker spot is unpredictable too. Hines is playing well so gets the nod ahead of AWJ. The back row are a mix of pace, experience and power and will need all of the 3 against the Boks. The backs are the in form backs and pick themselves. Who would have thought Ugo Monye would have a test spot for the Lions this time last year? The bench I have chose can all make big impacts in their positions. I have put Hook in front of Ronan O'Gara based on the fact he has that extra bit of attacking influence. O'Gara generally has the same attributes as Stephen Jones.

  • Comment number 45.

    I think we need a strong pack to try and balance out the strength of the Boks'. I think we need experience in the backs to cope with the pressure they will be under (there'll be a lot of it!!) so my team would be;

    1.G.Jenkins (at the moment offers more than sheriden)
    2.L.Mears (just edges matthew rees)
    3.P.Vickery (great leadership will pull us through)
    4.N.Hines (great strength to attack the Bok's pack)
    5.P.O'Connell (immense in the line out)
    6.D.Wallace (had a great tour so far)
    7.M.Williams (adds skill and very crafty)
    8.J.Heaslip (Powell's hands and disaplin could let us down)
    9.M.Phillips (strength will help forwards against the Bok's huge pack)
    10.S.Jones (IMO more to offer than O'Gara)
    11.S.Williams (will shine in the big games)
    12.J.Roberts (great tourn so far, so powerful)
    13.B.O'Driscoll (no-one in the world better in this position IMO)
    14.T.Bowe (in his current form he picks himself)
    15.L.Byrne (in his current form he picks himself)

    17.M. Rees

  • Comment number 46.

    I've already stated on here that I think Rob Kearney could be selected as the left winger as Shane is not on form and I don't think Fitzgerald or Monye have shown enough quality to be a Lions Test Player.

    However a thought occurred to me this morning watching Living with Lions from the 97 tour, that could see Geech gamble on the mecurial talents of Shane Williams. On the 97 tour Geech was extremely close to selecting Allan Bateman ahead of Jerry Guscott as Guscott was struggling for form. At all the selection meetings they were close to leaving him out or moving him to the wing. He went with Guscott in the end, for his experience and ability to make things happen. As it turns out Guscott did precious little in the test series, was completely overshadowed by Scott Gibbs in the centre, yet the one contribution he did make was to be in the right place at the right time to drop the goal that won the Lions the test series.

    So I still think there is a chance that Geech goes with Shane as he has the ability to be a matchwinner and carve something out of absolutely nothing. Nobody will care if he is not at his best if he produces a match winning moment ala Guscott 12 years ago. I still think it is unlikely but Geech was never afraid of a gamble or two...

  • Comment number 47.

    Not been too involved. Done well when he has come on. Quietly getting on with it if you believe the training reports. I think Euan Murray will play in the test to attack the Boks scrum. Geech always likes a 'surprise' and this will be one of them. I think he has been nailed on from the word go and held a little in resrve to keep the Boks guessing. Vickery has played well enough but I think the plan is and has always been Murray.

  • Comment number 48.

    Well i can't wait until saturday 20th it's going to be brilliant

    personally i would make my test squad look like this

    1) Gethin Jenkins
    2) Lee Mears
    3) Euan Murray
    4) POC
    5) Nathen Hines
    6) Tom Croft
    7) Martin Williams
    8) Jamie Heaslip
    9) Mike Phillips
    10) James Hook
    11) Ugo Monye
    12) Jamie Roberts
    13) BOD
    14) Tommy Bowe
    15) Lee Byrne

    sorry for breaking the ospreys back row and leaving shane williams out but ugo monye has created a great relationship with ugo moyne in such a short period of time.
    the centre's picked themselves after there second game
    james hook as jones aint consistent enough and his kicking yesturday was horrible
    mike phillips as he is like another forward and so powerful
    the front row will be powerful against the boks
    second row i chose hines as my back row doesnt have enough power and weight and then the back row is good for line out and also very good at the breakdown which will be 2 vital componiants in the tests

    C'MON THE LIONS!!!!!!

  • Comment number 49.

    Re No 1 (Willygilly):

    Ulster may 'have been crazy ... to let him go' but Tommy Bowe's game has improved immensely since he left and went to Ospreys. When with the province there was clear potential there for all to see. However, the indifferent performance of the Irish team was not the ideal platform on which to whone his skills. In retrospect, Bowe's decision to move outside Ireland was the correct one, given the form and self-confidence he showed in the 6N and the outstanding ability he has demonstrated to date for the Lions both as a finisher and playmaker. There is little doubt that Ulster's loss has been a huge gain for the Ospreys, Ireland and the Lions.

  • Comment number 50.

    lionsfanliam - 48. Good shout for a team. Im not 100% on Ugo but the rest of it pretty much sits with IMG's propensity to have a few 'surprise' picks. Hook at 10 is the primary one.

  • Comment number 51.

    Wow! I'm a little bit surprised so many people are so sure that Ugo Monye will start at 11. He just doesn't have what it takes to play the Spring Boks. He's very quick but that's about it. The spring boks wingers aren't only faster, but more skillful than he is. I think people are only putting him at 11 because he scored 3 tries, for 2 of which basically all he had to do was fall over. Shane would be ideal to play the Boks because he's very fast, smart and skillful but he's just not showing it enough in any games lately. People keep talking about his big match mentality but that's imaginary. If you're off form you're off form. It's unfortunate because he really is the best choice. Luke may be slower than both Shane and Ugo (if only slightly) but he's been playing very smart rugby. Unfortunately for him he hasn't been handed as many try scoring oppurtunities as Monye but he is the far better footballer, he is smarter, he gets far far more involved in games (e.g. coming off his wing if needed) and he is better defensively. I would choose Luke at 11 becuase I think he would have more to offer against real opposition.

  • Comment number 52.

    re no 49 causewaycoaster

    i do agree with you, the current set up at ulster would never have allowed bowe to reach the highs he has reached and it is unquestionably down to his move to wales which created this. a similar situation looked like it was about to occur with andrew trimble a few years ago when he was showing some decent form both for ulster and ireland (this was pre world cup if i remember correctly), a french club (the name of which escapes me) where interested in signing him but he opted to stay on. i think he would have developed into an awesome player if he had accepted it and would probably be challenging for a place on the ireland squad. whilst we have a great academy at ulster the step up the starting xv isn't supported enough for my liking and many players have fallen at this hurdle. whilst we have rory best (who should be touring with the lions ahead of ford and probably rees btw) and ferris (gutted for him) there are a few more players there who could be contenders for ireland shirts in the future if ulster gets their act together. i was pleased to see the likes of ian whitten, chris henry, cave and others get a run out for their country (whilst all the rest where sa) hopefully declan kidney will realise some of this potential we have and channel it into something useful in the years to come.

    its been a long time since we lifted that heiniken cup...

  • Comment number 53.

    haroseal, i have to agree with you on the left wing position there. monye played quite well against WP yesterday but was covered by kearney for a few defensive errors. if you listen to edwards, he keeps harping on about defense being the key to winning the series. for this reason i think fitzgerald will get the call. hes outstanding defensively but hes also no slouch and hes probably got the best sidestep on tour save for shane williams.

  • Comment number 54.

    Response to some comments above.

    Geeks has already stated many times that the test team will be picked on players form not on reputation and that rules out S.Williams. To select him will undermine Geeks credibility with the squad.

    The hooker's primary role in modern rugby is to find his jumpers and Mears has to play because to date his throwing has been outstanding. Rees is a reliable back up but Ford couldn't hit a barn door.

    Hines is not a great line out jumper and playing him at lock would put to much pressure on POC. Remember we're up against two formidable jumpers in Mattfield/Botha. We cannot afford to lose our line out ball and need two quality jumpers. If we want Hine's grunt/aggression etc we would have to play him at 6.

    Jenkins v Sheridan. I envisage a tight pick & drive game from the Lions with maximum use of the maul and hence went for Sheridan because of his extra power in the tight and his ability to get over the gainline. If we opt to play a more expansive game with multi phase play then Jenkins would be the better choice but as the breakdown has been the weakest part of our play to date and SA have two of the best breakdown operators in the world (Berger & Smith) it would be a huge gamble to play that way. It may be dour but we have to play to our strengths. The result is everything in the 1st test.

  • Comment number 55.

    whilst you are all busy picking the Lions team remember the opposition.
    jacques fourie
    brian habana
    adri jacobs
    jean de villiers
    ryan pienaar
    fourie du preez
    juan smith
    pierre spies
    victor matfield
    bakkies botha
    the beast
    bismark du plessis
    john smith

  • Comment number 56.

    really can't believe the anti Moyne comments on this thread - obviously posted by people who are great watchers but NOT players of the game.....Monye's defence has been simply breathtaking.....when the pressure has been on, his skill at knowing just when to rush up and hit the ball receiver before they have a chance to do anything with the ball, has been a revelation and has saved many a try against us.........he is by far on of the strongest runners in the squad and has huge upper body strength as demonstrated on Sat when he was unfairly penalised for legally ripping the ball off the guy he had just tackled........don't know why so many people are anti Moyne....

  • Comment number 57.

    As 3 of the first 4 posts were in support of Moyne it's only fair in an open debate that the flip side is presented. Yes Moyne has his strengths but he also has weaknesses, notably his positioning nous. This is understandable in view of his lack of exposure in the test arena and means it will be a slight gamble if selected for such a high pressure game.

    That said if selected I don't think he'll let us down in attack or in one on one defence but I haven't seen enough of him under the high ball to say if this is one of his strengths or weaknesses.

  • Comment number 58.


    'superlative' is a perfectly valid word to use here. Whilst it is used to describe the group of adjectives as you mention, it can also be used as an adjective itself meaning 'superb', 'magnificent' etc.

    Wallace to start!

  • Comment number 59.

    Number 11 is clearly a difficult choice. dougiesnr is right that Monye did well to rip the ball on Sat but overall Monye has featured more because of his tries which any decent no 11 could have run in. Had Shane been on those tries I wager there would be a different view of him and a "return to form" no doubt! Having been a no 11 myself for many many years I'd have to go with a match winner such as Shane; if you want defence and fronting up then Monye. For a difficult choice I'd go with experience and that means Shane.

    Anyway this is all rather academic as I think these tests will be won by the guys on the bench and the timing of their deployment will be crucial. The first team players will get whacked hard by the Springboks. They will either tire or get injured - remember O'Driscoll/Dallaglio. The bench selection will be more important than the fun of choosing 1 to 15. Heresy I know but I think we are very much looking at a 22 man game.

    And by the way Bowe is superlative class.

  • Comment number 60.

    sparklejonesy, you really do epitomise the crappy welsh mentality, oh everybodys giving us a hard time, boo hoo, thats cause your all deluded. where is this idea that jones is a better outhalf then rog coming from? watched the match on sky sports and that english dumbass in the studio was asking had hook done enough to take rogs place on the bench??? who the hell is he to be making the assumption that jones will start? and of course good little sky lapdog greenwood starts to discuss the point seriously rather then pull him up for saying such an idiotic thing. after jones terrible showing on saturday and rogs fine game on wed i think its a very close run thing, but this general impression on this blog that rog doesnt have a hope of starting stinks of welsh people who are blind to everyone but their own players, and of english people who are just sour they have noone on tour going for the 10 spot (i believe there were opinions on this blog in the lead up to the announcement of the lions squad before the tour that wilkinson should be brought...give me a break)

  • Comment number 61.

    Everyone seems to have written shane williams off. The no 11 jersey is the most contentious of all in my mind. Kearney, fitzgerald monye and williams all have a chance n id go with williams whatever form hes on. Tighthead is a tough one aswell as is the back row. Wyn jones surely will partner oconnell. my test team;

    15. Lee Byrne
    14. Shane Williams
    13. BOD
    12. Jamie Roberts
    11. Tommy Bowe
    10. Stephen Jones
    9. Mike Phillips
    8. Jamie Heaslip
    7. David Wallace
    6. Tom Croft
    5. Alun Wyn Jones
    4. POC
    3. Phil Vickery
    2. Lee Mears
    1. Gethin Jenkins

    Matthew Rees
    Andrew Sheridan
    Nathan Hines
    Martyn Williams
    Andy Powell
    Harry Ellis
    James Hook
    Ugo Monye
    Rob Kearney


  • Comment number 62.

    Dougiesnr, I think Monye's defense is his biggest downfall. So many times he's out of position, rushes the defense when it's unnecessary and how many penalties have been given against him for holding on to the ball or holding onto the player on the ground or even handling in the ruck/going off his feet. In my opinion he isn't really gelled into the team and would be a huge liability if Habana or Pieterson or whoever plays are on top of their game or any of the SA back 3 really then there's a massive weakness. I think Geech will go for experience.

  • Comment number 63.


    Forget S Williams, he is not playing well, he will not be in the 22.

    End of story! To puthim in would be to make a mockery of Geechs whole approach to the tour, and a slap in the face of fitz/monye/even Kearney!

    Not happening, let it go

  • Comment number 64.

    littlecham9, you're right, a VERY powerful bench. Mind you with 9 subs instead of 7 it's bound to be.

    From a non-British or Irish but pro-Lions stand point (work that one out...) my test team is;




    Contentious Explanations;
    No POC. Purely on form (Geech's mantra), I don't think he is top 2. Not that I think it will happen, though.
    Jones. Not that his form has played him in, ROG and Hook's has played them out.
    No Lock sub. Croft to cover 2R allowing 2 different style back rowers on the bench (critical area). For me, lineout and back row are the 2 toughtest areas of the forward battle. These are covered in abundance.

    That's my 10p worth....

  • Comment number 65.

    okay before joining in to add my own view to the s williams and o gara debate, let me just point out that no 61 littlecham above has got a little too excited and named 9 substitutes instead of the more generally accepted 7 but hey we'll let that slide.

    so here goes: s williams is undoubtly a great player he hasn't had the best tour by far and monye, fitzgerald and kearney are all ahead of him on form. bryn raised an interesting point in the previous blog about playing kearney on the wing, which i agree with. i would have said that geech would have let him start there for one of his matches surely? given this and taken into account he's unavailable for the team on tuesday we can probably discount him. monye has been brilliant so far at taking his chances and i agree with what jason robinson said a partnership of him on the left wing and bowe on the right would be interesting. in many ways therefore i think it's a shame fitzgerald didn't get his chance to play with bowe. saying that i wouldn't be at all surprised if geech decided to go with williams after all despite what he said about picking in form players.

    the o gara / jones / hook debate is interesting also and there are a lot of negative comments coming from both sides. jones didn't have the best of games yesterday. hook came on and had a stormer, knocking over that penalty must have thrown him into contention. saying that the other 2 out half's have an ability which is second to none. jones is better defensivly and can knock over penalty's and converstions within reasonable ranges. o gara on the otherhand who's defense isn't quite as good is a phenemenal kicker. he can find good touches when we need them and although he may not have the distance jones and hook have i would still favour him over the other 2 in touchline converstions anybody differ in this respect? if you think about it where are our tries going to come from? breaking through the defense in the middle of the field and going in to score a try beneath the sticks? or by quickly spreading the play wide and having our wingers nip in at the corner flags? the latter surely? i know we've scored good tries so far in easy positions to add the extra's but does anyone really think we can do this against the boks? o gara also has the added weapon of the cross field kick which has been used to great effect over the last few years. correct me if i'm wrong but we haven't seen one of those yet on the tour? could geech be saving this for a test match? having said all that though i'd say all 3 10's will get a look in at some stage . my only regret is that o gara isn't better defensivly. that said i'm going to have to say jones starting at 10

  • Comment number 66.

    Reply to 49 and 52- Bowe played far better for ulster than the ospreys, the only difference being that he has played in several positions for the ospreys in a short space of time. He was voted Ireland's player of the season while at ulster by fellow players and coaches. Surely that says it all. Despite this however, the coaching staff still refused to start him for Ireland. same story for trimble. eddie insisted he played on the wing for Ireland despite having never played there and been the best centre in Ireland by a mile. He decided to bulk up in the hope that he would win his place in the centres, but he has lost his sidestep somewhat and he chose to stay in ulster for two simple reasons. He wanted to play at home and have a chance of playing for Ireland.

  • Comment number 67.

    There is no way in a million years that Andrew Sheridan should start, he has played awfully. If he gets a nod over Gethin Jenkins, who is by far the best LH in the northern hemisphere, if not, the world, it will be a travesty!

    Stephen Jones didn't have a great game but he wasn't getting great ball but has still out played ROG and Hook at 10! Hook should be a replacement but not sure for thw no 10 spot, as i do not rate him as a fly half but he is a very good player. Lee Mears definitely with Matthew Rees as replacement as Ross Ford has been dreadful. Can't possibly even contemplate an all English front row as every time that has happened, so far on this tour, they have been smashed. I don't know who i would pick as TH, probably Euan Murray.

    I am not sure about Monye all he can do is run fast in a straight line but i cannot see much other option at the moment, although, Fitzgerald hasn't had much of a chance, he played better at wing than centre. Others are easy really.

    15. Byrne
    14. Bowe
    13. BOD
    12. Roberts
    11. Monye/Fitzgerald
    10. Jones
    9. Phillips
    8. Heaslip (Powell on Bench for impact)
    7. Williams (Wallace has failed to impress me but would still place him at 6)
    6. Wallace
    5. AWJ
    4. POC
    3. Murray
    2. Mears
    1. Jenkins

    16. Rees
    17. Vickery/Jones
    18. Croft
    19. Powell
    20. Ellis (although he has been poor Blair has not even tried to put his name forward)
    21. Hook
    22. Fitzgerald (Unsure really, Kearney has failed to impress me)

  • Comment number 68.

    @65: "o gara also has the added weapon of the cross field kick which has been used to great effect over the last few years. correct me if i'm wrong but we haven't seen one of those yet on the tour?"
    We saw several on Wednesday, and they were all bloody awful. Much as I admire Gethin Jenkins, I don't think he's a good target for a cross field kick somehow. I was screaming at the telly in frustration every time O'Gara chipped the ball away instead of moving it down the line.

    @56: "(Monye's) skill at knowing just when to rush up and hit the ball receiver before they have a chance to do anything with the ball, has been a revelation"
    Really? We've obviously been watching different games. I've seen several times when Monye's rushed out of the defensive line, missed his target, and left a big hole in the defence, including three in his last game. If I've noticed it so have the Springboks, if he plays I would expect them to plan for the move and exploit the gap he leaves. The 'Bok's test wings will be considerably better, and better able to take advantage, than those we've seen so far.

    For what it's worth I don't think any of the left wings have shone so far. Williams is out of form, certainly, although even on a bad day by his standards he's still one of the best. Monye's too inexperienced defensively, a great finisher but little else. Fitzgerald has been busy but hasn't really shown anything. All in all I'd plump for Kearney on the left, he's shown well as a FB - almost up to Byrne's standard, he's unlucky to miss out - and has experience as a wing. As mentioned previously, he hasn't had a chance on the wing on tour, but remember that the Lions management have said they're keeping some surprises back. I hope one surprise will be Kearney on the wing, though I suspect they'll play Monye.

    Bit of a quandary over the number 3 berth. I wouldn't pick Vickery because I prefer players who stay on the pitch for 80 minutes. Jones has been solid but unremarkable. Murray looks the best but still not all that, he should be the clear favourite ahead of Vickery and Jones if he was on top form. I'd be tempted to play Jenkins at 3 and Sheridan at 1, though it would be a shame to tie up Jenkins in the scrum more than he already is.

    POC is bound to be picked. Number 4 I'd go for Alun Wyn Jones for his play around the park, with Croft adding line out options in the back row. Hines has played well as a typical lock, but you need an atypical lock to take on Matfield and Botha. If you play them at their own game you'll come second best.

    I don't understand why people are saying you can't play both Croft and Williams in the back row. Okay, it's a bit of a lightweight back row, but speedy and skillful. Some of Williams' touches linking with the backs in the last game were top drawer. I don't think we can take on the 'Boks in a physical battle, we need to out manoeuvre them around the Park, hence Jenkins, AWJ, Croft and Williams would be my first picks.

    A fast, skillful (mostly!) team to run SA off the Park:

    1 Sheridan
    2 Mears
    3 Jenkins
    4 AWJ
    5 POC
    6 Croft
    7 Williams
    8 Heaslip
    9 Phillips
    10 Jones
    11 Kearney
    12 Roberts
    13 BOD
    14 Bowe
    15 Byrne

    16 Rees (Slightly less disappointing than Ford)
    17 Murray
    18 Hines (But see below)
    19 Wallace (or Powell and Wallace, with Croft covering for the locks)
    20 Ellis (By default, Blair has been disappointing)
    21 Hook (Covers the centres too)
    22 Williams (in case we're desperate and need to hope for something special! Kearney can drop back to cover Byrne)

    The team I expect to see picked has Jenkins & Vickery as props, Hines instead of AWJ, Croft and Wallace as flankers, and Monye on the wing

  • Comment number 69.

    I can see the point made earlier about McGeechan just going with Shane Williams at 11. I think Monye of the legitimate wings is the front runner but he's not exactly made it a certainty the jersey is his. No-one else has done much either in that position. As I've stated before, my preference would be for Rob Kearney to play at 11. Good defensively, good instincts, strong runner if not the quickest around, and a great left boot.

    But the point on Shane Williams is a valid one. A lot has been made of his loss of form but from watching all the International games this season it strikes me that he did so well last year because he had space. Wales recycled ball extremely quickly last year as referees were being particularly harsh on players not rolling away. This year referees at times (most notably during the 6N) seem to have forgotten that rule. Possession has been slower across the board and there's been less space to operate in accordingly.

    I wouldn't pick Shane Williams right now, but as I said, with none of the other wingers grabbing the chance by the balls there is still a chance the selectors will go with the guy who could be a gamebreaker for them. Monye and Fitzgerald wouldn't let them down I'm sure but Williams is the only one of the 3 who *might* do something magical.

  • Comment number 70.

    After 36 hours reflection my test team.

    15 Byrne
    14 Bowe
    13 BOD
    12 Roberts
    11 Kearney
    10 ROG
    9 Phillips
    8 Heaslip
    7 Wallace
    6 Croft
    5 POC
    4 Hines
    3 Jenkins
    2 Mears
    1 Murray

  • Comment number 71.

    townrugby89, no. 39 - I think you've been watching the wrong channel mate if you think Stephen Jones has done nothing to earn a place in the test side. Yes, he didn't have the best of games on Saturday, but the conditions weren't great and when he missed touch with that kick towards the end it was a mistake that should not have happened. But sometimes such 'one-off' errors can happen in sport. How many times have you seen him do something like that before? probably never. And how likely is that going to happen again? Probably never. Plus he did alright in other parts of his game. It's too easy just to jump on the band wagon.

    in the earlier games, jones has played better than any other No.10 and deserves a test spot, with Hook on the bench ahead of O'Gara as he can change the way the team plays if needed.

    I'm also worried about the left wing spot Monye, Fitzgerald, and Williams have not been great.

  • Comment number 72.

    I watched the game on Saturday afternoon and in parts I was impressed with the side, and it was a good result for what I considered a largely reserve side. It was clear to see that big ifluences and presence of players like O'Connell, O'Driscoll and Heaslip were missing. Keith Earls was very sub-standard in the Centre with Riki Flutey not creating much either. I think the majority of the test 15 will already be selected in the minds of McGeechan & co. I felt the team did play well and the three tries were superb, however there were too many errors on the day and we were poor at the breakdown at times. The Lions had been dominant in their last 2-3 games in the breakdown, winning a lot of turnover ball, where as they were losing a lot of ball on Saturday....again due to some weak carrying from Powell, who for me has to be on the bench for the 1st test.

    I was impressed with the trio of Bowe, Monye and Kearney like most other people, however I think Lee Byrne will shade the full back position with Bowe and Monye starting on the wings, with the experienced Shane Williams as backup on the bench. Things are starting to take shape and I agree that Mike Phillips will be the test number 9. Harry Ellis has played well, but Phillips has been very impressive when he's had the chance and i think he has that shirt with both hands now!

  • Comment number 73.

    @68: On the topic of Monye's rush defence, I think what the writer of the comment you were arguing against failed to mention was that he was referring to Monye's performances for Quins rather than for the Lions. An example of what he is talking about is the Bath away game in the GP this season which was aired on Sky Sports, so should be on the internet somewhere. In that game, Ugo stopped about 3 certain tries single-handed. When he is on his game and in harmony with the centre inside him, he really is the top defensive winger. I think, to be honest, he had more of an understanding with BOD than Earls, and actually, the one defensive lapse in the game against the Golden Lions was in fact O'Driscoll's fault - he rushed out of the line meaning Ugo had to follow, as highlighted by the commentators at the time.

    You have to bear in mind that the rush defence that has been put in place is a risky strategy. It is great to put pressure on the opposition, but when the ball reaches wide areas, that is when it is most difficult to get it right. Wingers have the toughest time with rush defences, as shown by the try conceded on Saturday in which Bowe had no option but to come inside and go for the jumping intercept. There will be mistakes from the wingers, but the idea of the rush is to pressure the opposition into keeping the ball tight. If they spin it wide, the idea is that the mistake is forced before it reaches the wingers. If it reaches the wingers, the rush is at its end and the winger has to deal with the 1-on-1 situation as best he can. It is more difficult than it looks, and as a coach who has operated a rush, I can assure you of that. I'm not saying there's nothing wingers can do, and I'm not saying mistakes are therefore excused, but just giving an explanation of why, during this tour, the majority of the tries have been conceded out wide, and it isn't just Ugo, it's a problem for all the wingers to deal with.

    By the end of another week's training, I expect Ugo to be on the mark with the rush, in combination with BOD. For the first test, I think the creases will be ironed out defensively. Ugo has not been his normal self in defence, and I think that has been acclimatising to Shaun Edwards' defensive game. If he is still making the same mistakes in the first test, I will concede that he shouldn't be there for the second, but I think his mistakes have been exaggerated and I really don't feel that anyone else has staked a claim for the 11 spot.

    One thing's for sure, if you want a guy who won't let you down in defence, who can match Habana and the like in a foot race, who is already combining well with the likely test starting backline, and you want a proven finisher on top of all that, Ugo's your man.

    P.S. I reeeeally do urge anyone criticising Ugo's defensive game to pick any Quins game this season and have a look. Then tell me he can't defend!


  • Comment number 74.

    Just read on Sky that Stuart Barnes has seen an unofficial team sheet for tomorrow with AWJ at NO.6!! Not sure if he was jesting, but an interesting call, nonetheless. What implications does that have for Saturday, I wonder? May just be to confuse the Boks, followed by a late team announcement.

  • Comment number 75.

    JJ Williams in his blog says Shane Williams is "trying too hard" and is trying to do too much e.g. forays infield off the ball, extra scrum half, but that he will come good if picked for the first test.I agree,that he is trying to many slick tricks(remember the headless chicken inside pass leading to a try, last week)I doubt that he will start, but could be on the bench.The test side needs "captains" in various positions and this may be part of the thinking, as well as form.Thus I think Vickery,Martyn Williams (stand out player for me, who will get down and dirty with the Saffas, as well as linking superbly)Add BOD and POC with Stephen Jones as a steady, big game player, working with Phillips and it is game on.The Boks can be rattled and beaten, and we are definitely up for win on Saturday.Great squad,savvy management too

  • Comment number 76.


    Dont look at at defence at club level - lets see how he does against a class wing?

    Further to that the tight 5 of the Springboks will dominate - Spies, Smith, Both, Matfield, Burger/Rossouw will be were the game is won. The Lions have been weak at the breakdown and the Boks will destroy them in the loose!

  • Comment number 77.

    Can't wait.

    For me it's

    Jenkins, Mears, Jones
    O'Connell, Wynn Jones
    Croft, Williams, Heaslip
    Phillips, O'Gara
    Monye, Roberts, O'Driscoll, Bowe

    Bench: Vickery, Rees, Hines, Worsley, Ellis, Hook, Flutey

  • Comment number 78.

    Many posters talk about picking on form, then ignore it for their line-ups.

    64. At 11:17pm on 14 Jun 2009, No Rules - Only Laws

    Here was a classic example. The two best locks on tour have been O'Connell and O'Callaghan, but he goes for DOC & AWJ, with no lock on the bench. Why? To be controversial? Because he believes the Lions are going to lose and wants to blame O'Connell?

    Some Welsh 12-year-old has been posting repeatedly on multiple threads that O'Connell doesn't off-load enough, so he wants Hines and AWJ in the Test team. D'oh!

    The main purpose of a second-row forward is to jump in the line-out. The 2 best at this have been O'Connell and O'Callaghan. They have also tackled hard, carried hard, and cleaned out hard. That's what locks do.

    I do not wish to engage in the infantile process of denigrating the other locks on tour to promote 'my' choices. Hines has played very well, Alun Wyn Jones is a wonderful talent, and the veteran Shaw is very skilled for such a huge beast. But they have not been the best locks on tour. (Don't argue. Check the stats.)

    In the back-row Heaslip and Wallace must play. There has been some suggestion of moving Wallace to 6, to accomodate Martyn Williams. I am sorry, but while Martyn has played well, Wallace has been a better 7. So let us have Croft at 6, where he has been the best apart from Ferris.

    Who has been the form 10 on tour? O'Gara.

    He and Jones have played 2 games each, and O'Gara has played better. That is the entire discussion. His place-kicking is better, he runs, passes and tackles just as well as Jones, and his kicking from hand and running of the game has been better than Jones.
    (Don't argue. Check the stats.)

    I also think Euan Murray will play Tighthead. I think Geech picked him as Test Tighthead before they left, and is giving Vickery and Jones every chance to change his mind. All 3 have played well, and seem in good form, but Murray's destructive scrummaging seems on another level.
    (This is more a hunch. I could be wrong about why Murray is playing so little.)

    The last place in contention is number 11, Left-Wing.

    Many people pick Monye because he's fast and has scored 3 tries. However he has, as even his admirers admit, had difficulty understanding the Lions defensive system. He is suspect under the high ball, and even the provincial teams have identified him as a weakness to be attacked.

    Rob Kearney would be a fine choice, but he's injured and hasn't played there on tour.

    Shane Williams is a the bottom of a year-long decline. He won't recover in a week.

    Luke Fitzgerald won the Grand Slam and Heineken Cup this year. He has been on fine form on tour, running great lines, showing great pace for his try, and his usual physicality in tackling and rucking. He is assured under the high ball and has a fantastic boot. He should be the Test 11.

  • Comment number 79.

    1. Jenkins
    2. Mears
    3. Vickery
    4. O'Connel (c)
    5. Croft
    6. Worsely
    7. Wallace
    8. Heaslip

    9. Phillips
    10. Hook
    11. Monye
    12. Roberts
    13. O'Driscol
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    16. Rees
    17. Sherdian
    18. Hines
    19. Powell
    20. Ellis
    21. Fitzgerald
    22. Jones


  • Comment number 80.

    gosh lions team just annouced on sky

    o callaghan (c)
    s williams

    that squad is a big gamble in my opinion... we could be sacrificing our unbeaten record depending on how our combinations perform. o callaghan as captain is also a big rish surely? its also a huge slap in the face for blair...

  • Comment number 81.


    Where are these stats you keep on telling us to check?

    Are they in a bar in Dublin?

  • Comment number 82.

    The problem is the breakdown which is why you have to start with Wallace. Williams is a good and tenacious player but i dont think he has the bulk to play against the Safa's. possibly wallace blind but i dontthink you can exclude him.
    I'm a big fan of ROG but i think Jones has had a better tour and when phillips and Roberts are shoe ins for 9 and 12 you have to play with a 10 who knows both their games. could be key.
    Still a shame Ferris went as i reckon it could have been an all ireland backrow.
    Unless some-one does something special i think Moyne has got to start. hasnt been overly impressive but can finish most things and has great gas. Will have to work harder against the Boks though.
    Croft on the bench to come on for any second rows/ back rows. so athletic and has a lot of speed for a forward.
    Also Although Jenkins is a bit weak in the scrum he tackles like a beast. start him and if he is suffering at set pieces take him off

  • Comment number 83.

    yea ruck maker i'm going to side with ellfromgavenny on this one although some of your points are good saying 'don't arge check the stats' doesn't really add anything to your argument unless you start quoting stuff at us...

  • Comment number 84.

    Ruck maker

    I agree POC has been getting unfair flak but to say O'Callaghan has been the form lock, he hasn't got any form because bar saturday he's hardly played (don't argue, check the stats)

  • Comment number 85.

    There are no questions about most of the spots and nine men are certainties for me, they should line up as follows:

    1. Gethin Jenkins
    2. Lee Mears
    3. ?
    4. Alun Wyn-Jones
    5. Paul O'Connell
    6. ?
    7. ?
    8. Jamie Heaslip
    9. Mike Phillips
    10. ?
    11. ?
    12. ?
    13. Brian O'Driscoll
    14. Tommy Bowe
    15. Lee Byrne

    Centre is a straight fight between Roberts and Flutey. I would play Roberts but I have a nagging feeling that Geech will err on the side of Flutey for greater experience and allow Roberts to be an impact sub.

    Wing on form should be Monye and I think it will be the case, though I would love to see Williams start, he just offers something special that could turn a tight game on it's head in a flash that I dont think any otehr player in the squad has. Even if he doesnt score the Boks will be more afraid of him than any other player so he will draw markers and l;eave space for others. More likely he will be on th bench though.

    #10 should go to Stephen Jones, he has been the better player all tour but my theory here is somewhat unusual. I don't believe that O'Gara can be a bench player, he just does not have the ability to come on with 25 minutes to go and make a difference. So either Geech will start O'Gara with Jones on the bench, or start Jones with Hook in reserve and I think the first of those is mroe likely even though I dont agree with it.

    #6 and #7 are probably the two most unpredictable calls. For me it should be Martin Williams and Tom Croft (now that Ferris has gone) but Wallace has a great shout and Worsley could also still be in contention. I actually expect all four of them to start at least one test each.

    Finally the front row. I would love to pick Adam Jones if only because of the understanding between him and Jenkins in the scrum, Vickery has been playing well and is the type of guy you want in there, Murray is technically the best #3 I think. Only Sheridan is out of contention for me.

  • Comment number 86.

    Ruckmaker, I'd love to find these stats. Plus, even stats aren't always objective. Based on 80 minutes played against a pub team and 80 minutes played against the World Champions, the player against the pub team will have vastly superior stats against the World Champions. This is when the become subjective. Take the Western Province game. In the lineout they didn't throw ball to Hines at all therefore his stats are appalling where as DOC's were superb. Totally subjective.

    IMO taking opposition into account and the playing conditions etc I rate POC lower than DOC and AWJ. So shoot me.

    (God, I love a good debate!!)

  • Comment number 87.


    Rather than say 'don't argue.Check the stats', I suggest you watch the games instead. You'll notice that it's not the case of Wallace being a better No.7 on tour, rather a case of Williams being injured and Wallace playing well himself in his absence. As a Welshman, I rate Williams as highly as anyone and would like to see him in the test team, but I think the first test could be too soon for him and Wallace has earnt his chance.

    With regard to O'Gara playing better than Stephen Jones, I'm assuming your posting is just one long typo. Jones has shown more to his game than O'Gara so far and is a better bet for the test team.

    The team is quite interesting seeing Hines in the team. Could this mean AWJ is going to be in the test team? I'm a bit surprised if this was to be the case.

  • Comment number 88.

    Have you strayed onto this forum from an Irish only one, you are so biased that you make SuperG look balanced and objective. You can shout check the stats all you like but everyone on here is watching the games so can see it for themselves.
    O'Gara- It is a disgrace that he has been able to get to the top of world rugby when he point blank refuses to tackle, has no one informed him that it is a fundemental requirement of international rugby, he is like an open five bar gate.
    AWJ is streets ahead of O'Call and if the management had the bottle they would start with AWJ and Hines, making BOD the captain.
    Is Byrne safe in your view?

  • Comment number 89.

    Hmmm, Welsh people accusing others of bias. That's funny.
    Please don't use the "everyone can see" / "everyone knows" construction in your posts. It's dishonest. What you mean is that "My opinion is"

    As for boring arguments about ROG's defence,that's the sort of area where stats can help. For the record, he's missed 1 tackle on tour so far, the same as Hook. In the 6N, he missed 3 out of 31. Really not the "refuses to tackle" type of stat some would have you believe.

  • Comment number 90.

    The Springbok team will be close as the below and who will be on top?

    Steyn F - Lions
    Pieterson - Lions
    Habanna - Boks
    Olivier - even
    De Villiers - even
    Steyn M - Lions
    Du Preez - Boks
    Spies - Boks
    Smith - Boks
    Burger/Rossouw - Boks
    Botha - Boks
    Matfield - Boks
    Smit - Lions
    Du Plessis - Boks
    Beast - Lions

    Lion beat SA in 5 positions
    SA beat Lions in 8 positions
    2 positions to close to call

  • Comment number 91.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 92.


    I'm Welsh and agree with some comments ruck master has posted. I just believe that some of his so called stats are slightly unbelievable.

    I agree Wallace deserves to be in the back row with Croft and Heaslip.
    O'Connell should be in the second row, who with is still open. AWJ, Hines or maybe Shaw, but not DOC. His lack of games so far must prove his level in pecking order status.

    Number 10 - I wouldn't say O'Gara is the form 10. He, like Jones kicked and played well in their first games but both had less convincing second games in hand and with foot. Though in my opinion Jones would be slightly ahead. You could argue then that Hook is the form 10, but would i be showing welsh bias.

    Number 11 - Fitzgerald hasn't been given the best of chances, whereas S Williams has had plenty, yet they keep playing S Williams as they want him to rediscover that sparkle he is missing. Why haven't they played Fitzgerald more, probably as they see a 75% S Williams still a better option than a 100% Fitzgerald. Experience being more valuable. I still think if picking on form then Monye still deserves this spot. Kearney i don't think will be considered for this position in the first test, they will want to give the wingers as much chance to prove as poss.

    Whoever gets the nod i'll be behind them regardless of nationality,
    I just hope the team they pick proves to be the right decision, and i know i wouldn't want to be the one picking it.

  • Comment number 93.

    so - is this Williams getting yet another opportunity to find form or do you think the decision has already been made ?

  • Comment number 94.

    Just for the record, i'm ambivalent on the Jones/O'Gara decision. I think they'll both do a good job, though if it comes down to a clutch kick to win a test, i'd want ROG taking it.

    What gets my goat is ignorant comments directed at the record points scorer in the 2 major NH competitions.

  • Comment number 95.

    I agree, everyone goes on about O'Gara's lack of defence yet he still makes the tackles and gets straight up when hit week in, week out. I'm 6ft 2 and 16 stone yet i wouldn't fancy stepping into his shoes each week as he knows he's going to be in for a tough afternoon yet he still puts in those match winning performances. He's quality

  • Comment number 96.


    I think they must be giving S Williams another chance for the bench, but he must feel like a cat with nine lives at the moment. How many lives is that now?

  • Comment number 97.

    I have been reading the blog and listening to everyones opinion, it is facinating what we all think, a really good healthy debate. Following todays team for Tuesday it makes us all think what kind osf side Geech and his panel will pick for the first test. I think almost everyone is unanamous with the backs being Byrne, Bowe, BOD, Roberts, Moyne, Jones and Phillips. I like that back line it excites me a lot, it has power pace and lots of experience. The forwards are a bit more tricky but I am going for the following Jenkins, Mears, Vickery, POC, AWJ, Williams, Croft and Heaslip. Subs Shaw, Wallace, Rees, Powell, ROG, Kearny, and Ellis. Thats my selection and I predict we will win 19-15. "Come on you Lions". I just read Martyn Williams column and he is saying how the place is buzzing with more fans arriving by the minute, having been on the last 2 tours to Oz and NZ I know exactly what he means. The excitment is also picking up over here too as the talk is all around the test team, and the best pub to watch the game!!! Good luck guys I for cannot wait for the weekend to arrive.

  • Comment number 98.

    I think the selection for tomorrow could indicate that Martyn Williams will get the nod for the no 7 jersey. With Wallace and Croft on the bench tomorrow I think we could see Wallace come on at 6 and Croft in the 2nd row. This might be with a view to starting Wallace at 6 in the 1st test and Croft on the bench to cover 2nd row and back row. This would allow Geech to take a bit of a gamble and have Powell on the bench as an impact ball carrier as well.

    Either way I think Williams has to play 7. His overall reading of a game and linking of play between forwards and backs is going to be just as important as the work at the breakdown. The Lions should be looking to move the ball away from the breakdown as quickly as possible and Williams is one of the best in the game at doing this. And don't forget he isn't exactly a slouch at the breakdown himself and is constantly earning turnovers for Wales (even if it isn't always legal!). The arguement to go with Wallace just for extra physicality doesn't hold water with me. I like Wallace and would go for him at 6 but if it's a straight fight between him and Williams for 7 then the nugget wins every time for me.

  • Comment number 99.

    This entire debate seems to be people defending or promoting their own nations players. Can this pleas stop?
    We all know that every Welshman thinks Jones and Williams (x2) should play, and that every Irishman thinks O Gara, Kearney and DOC should. These views are then backed up with various 'facts' about the tour so far, which are simply personal opinions.
    From a non-biased (Scottish) point of view, the team will probably be:

    3.Vickery - should be Murray (couldn't resist it)

    There are a few players who have really not done themselves justice on the tour. ROG was the front runner for 10 at the start of the tour but has been slightly more average than Jones. The man who misses out the most will be Williams as he has played better than Wallace, but with Croft playing, they will go for a heavyweight.

  • Comment number 100.

    Come on guys, never mind the Wales vs Ireland stuff - this is the lions !

    Couple of comments :-

    No6 is a really tough call- agree that Croft lacks bulk but extra lineout option + pace gets him in the team. We are not going to out-bully the Boks, so we've got to have lots of options.

    No 10 - got to be Jones; didn't have his best on Saturday but will be ok and is tough physically. Really like ROG too but would get bullied

    11 - Shake up between Monye and Byrne. Fitzgerald will not worry the Boks at all. I would go for Byrne for added defensive strength, long range kicking and all round physicality.

    3 - Vickery was good on Saturday; although I'm a Jock I don't think the big yin has done enough in the loose.


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