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Kings provide Lions with timely test

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Bryn Palmer | 23:02 UK time, Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Durban, Tuesday evening

The bruised and battered faces on the Lions' flight to Durban on Tuesday night told its own story.

Every rugby match is physical, especially in South Africa, but the one they had just played against the Southern Kings stretched the boundaries of the term to its outer limits.

But on reflection their final warm-up match before Saturday's first Test was perhaps the ideal way to prepare to face the Springboks.

After all, if the dozen players already in Durban watching on television were in any doubt about the "massive physical confrontation" - in the words of Kings coach Alan Solomons - awaiting them, events in Port Elizabeth provided a timely reminder.

The city on the Eastern Cape has a special place in Lions history, as the venue for the first ever Test the tourists played in 1891.

Lions prop Andrew Sheridan

But it also has a notorious one, as the scene of the infamous "Battle of Boet Erasmus Stadium" on the 1974 tour, when Welsh full-back JPR Williams responded to the infamous "99" call by running 30m to lamp Springboks lock Moaner van Heerden.

At times in the first half on Tuesday, the game appeared on the verge of a similar fracas as the hosts seemed more intent on roughing up the Lions than playing rugby.

Gordon D'Arcy, Riki Flutey and Joe Worsley all felt the force of some reckless late hits, but only one - by Jaco van der Westhuyzen - was punished with a yellow card.

Kings coach Alan Solomons made no apologies for the hosts' approach afterwards. "They made it clear they would come here expecting some physical confrontation in South Africa, and we didn't want to disappoint them," he said.

And while no-one should expect the Springboks to go about their business in such an obvious and undisciplined manner, the Kings captain Derick Kuun was happy to put the rough-and-tumble into the context of what might be coming on Saturday.

"The Boks are a lot bigger than our team and the Lions are going to have a lot of trouble, he said. "It is a Test so I think it is going to be more of a kicking game but physically, the Springboks will definitely be up for it."

No-one doubted that Derick, but thanks for the confirmation.

Lions coach Ian McGeechan was not keen to dwell on the cheap shots that might have undermined his playing resources even further, having already lost Euan Murray - who left for Durban with his foot in a protective boot - and James Hook to injury.

He understandably took pride in the discipline and composure his side showed in the face of such tactics, believing "you can't under-estimate what strength of will comes out of that."

His mind was probably already wandering to the initial chat planned with his fellow coaches on arrival in Durban, before a more formal selection meeting on Wednesday morning to finalise the side for the first Test, which will be announced on Thursday.

Of those on duty in Port Elizabeth, wing Ugo Monye looked less secure in his defensive work with different team-mates around him but still remains a strong contender.

Fly-half Ronan O'Gara did his hopes of a place on the bench in Durban no harm with a composed display in difficult circumstances, replacing the unfortunate James Hook at the height of the early Kings storm.

If Hook is deemed fit for Saturday he may still edge it on the basis of previous performances and his extra versatility, but the Irishman has had a solid tour.

Nathan Hines made a decent fist of his shift in the back row and could also still make the Test 22, while Andrew Sheridan, Donncha O'Callaghan, Joe Worsley and Andy Powell also kept going manfully in their second game in three days, as did Flutey and Keith Earls in the backs.

Lions forward Euan Murray receives treatment during the Kings match

There were again worrying signs though that without a specialist open-side 'fetcher', the Lions could suffer against the Springboks, who have opted to draft Heinrich Rossouw - the scourge of the Lions for the Cheetahs - into their side as Schalk Burger's replacement, rather than the more physically imposing Danie Rossouw.

Interestingly, McGeechan thought the Lions "came out pretty well in the contact areas" after a first-half pummelling, insisting "We are every bit as effective at the breakdown" [as the Springboks].

Kings coach Alan Solomons disagreed. "I thought they struggled at the breakdown," said the former Ulster and Northampton coach, who was happy to dispense some advice to McGeechan on one of the major selection dilemmas left to him.

"The Lions will certainly have to pick an out-and-out open-side [flanker]," he added. "Martyn Williams is an outstanding footballer and David Wallace is a great rugby player, but whether he is a specialist open-side I am not sure.

"He is certainly a great ball-carrier but if I was them I would be looking for an out-and-out open-side."

Who would get your vote? Williams or Wallace? Narrowing down the identity of the 2009 Test Lions has taken 10 months of fevered conjecture, but the wait is nearly over.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Good article. Interesting stuff from Solomons, I'd say he might have a point and go with Williams.

    Agree that I can't wait to see the Lions Test squad, hope some Scots will make it.

    Blair is a superb defender so I see him sneaking the Test spot because of his tackle count and he will be a good option if the Lions find themselves going backwards.

    Hines might be the bench option but he must be knackered by now and Ford may sneak it by default.

  • Comment number 2.

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

  • Comment number 3.

    It has to be Williams!
    Obviously Wollace has more ball carrying ability but you need a tenacious no.7 playing against the Boks.

  • Comment number 4.

    My Test 22

    1. Gethin Jenkins
    2. Lee Mears
    3. Phil Vickery
    4. Paul O'Connell
    5. Simon Shaw
    6. Martyn Williams
    7. Joe Worsley
    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. Andrew Sheridan
    18. Donncha O'Callaghan
    19. David Wallace
    20. Harry Ellis
    21. James Hook
    22. Rob Kearney

    I don't think there is anyone who can disagree with the backs. All of them having performed well, with the occasional exception of some questionable UM kicking. I do think that it could be a toss-up at 10 between SJ and ROG. I think SJ's creativity just edges it in my opinion. I'm assuming JH will be fit, and he will be on the bench ahead of ROG, because he can cover a range of positions and has proved he can deal with pressure and slot final minute kicks.

    The back row has been blown wide open in my eyes. I've opted for MW, JW and JH. MW, providing the vital link between the backs and the pack, also with his footballing skills and sheer experience i think he should be a dead cert. JW, has HUGE defensive skills and with a formidable Boks line up, he will be vital around the breakdown. Not too sure which way they should be round, 6 or 7, but hey, if i knew, i would be in Geech's position. JH has proved himself on the international stage and has had a great tour. A great runner with the ball i can see him making those rocket balls in the tests.

    POC, will, inevitably, be chosen in the 2nd row; and rightly so. Although he has had some questionable problems with leadership, he has so much experience and, again is proven internationally. Who to partner him? That's a different matter. Any of the others could play and i'd be happy to see them. Perhaps it's because i'm a Wasps man, but i think SS will provide a challenge in strength for the Boks, in height too. He's a great runner aswell. DOC, i would be just as happy to see at 5, he has experience working with POC and that could prove to be important. His lineout technique is perfect. He managed to get every one of our lineouts in i think it was the Port Elizabeth game, and stole one or two from the oppo aswell. Astounding. I can't be bothered to change it now, but id rather have him at 5 now, not SS.

    GJ is a certainty to start. Wonderful prop, huge strength, and wonderful at the breakdown. LM's lineouts have been great, which will be important when we come up against the Boks' jumpers. PV's position is also open, but i think his experience at international level, and against the Boks will just edge it.

    BOD should be captain. POC's leadership is not up to par, and BOD led the Irish to a grand slam earlier this year. There is not a single player in the squad who does not look up to him and idiolise him.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts.
    Come on The Lions!
    Julian

  • Comment number 5.

    Am I the only one who remains a bit underwhelmed by Monye? He's been the best of the wings other than Bowe on tour but 3 run in tries and a knock on that the video ref should have noticed do not make for a Lions Test Winger to me. Of all the guys I've seen on tour who could fill that wing slot, for me, on the basis of his game at Fullback last night, I think I'd go for Keith Earls. He has the pace and whilst his positioning wasn't as good as Kearney or Byrne, he showed enough presence under the high ball and enough ability and pace to beat a man that I'd pencil him in for the 11 shirt. Especially if Kearney doesn't heal up in time. He had a shocker of a first game but he's rebounded well.

    My comments on the guys on show last night:

    1. Sheridan - I thought he did a great job, dominant in the scrums and carried a lot of ball. He'd be on my bench for Saturday
    2. Ross Ford - succeeded in gifting Matthew Rees the backup hooker role for the Tests. Absolute shocker in the lineout.
    3. Murray/Adam Jones - both did well while they were on the pitch but I'm happier carrying a loosehead on my bench because Jenkins can cover TH as well.
    4. Simon Shaw - didn't shirk anything but I think he's been the weakest of a good crop of locks. Midweeker all the way
    5. O'Callaghan - not his best game, lineouts went awry. Could be the reserve lock?
    6. Nathan Hines - showed some nice hands at times and flashed his versatility though he clearly is not at his best at 6. Emergency cover only there but it may be enough to get him in the Test 22.
    7. Joe Worsely - pretty anonymous again. The Weakest Link. Goodbye.
    8. Andy Powell - showed some presence of mind late on to change his game, drew tacklers and offloaded to put a couple of guys in space. Was bottled up as a runner and gang tackled. He took too long to realise this but I still think his style of play could suit a spot on the bench depending on who covers the backrow options there.
    9. Mike Blair - Jekyll & Hyde. He went through phases of dreadful play and some multi phase movements where he totally commanded the game. Not enough to win him a place on the bench I think but he's showing some signs of recapturing some form. In patches.
    10. James Hook/ROG - Shame Hook got hurt, he was looking confident out there. ROG came on, controlled the game with the ball he had and kicked well. Might have won himself the bench spot but that performance wouldn't be the one that wins him the test jersey. Like Jones the game before, missed a shocking kick to touch at one point.
    11. Luke Fitzgerald - Came in looking for work and overall did well with the ball he had, which wasn't much. A possibility for the Test jersey at 11 which is still a pretty open contest.
    12. Gordon D'Arcy - Nothing shown here says he'll be anything but a midweeker. Still not the player he was a few years ago but then again, I don't think he's lined up with BOD once on tour? That will make anyone look better
    13. Rikki Flutey - largely anonymous but the ball didn't come his way much.
    14. Ugo MOnye - one great tackle (on a prop no less!) and a knock on that was given as a try anyway. I felt he could've caught that cross kick on the full but strangely he seemed to shy away from the contact? Weird given that he'll tackle a rampaging prop. Front runner of the genuine wingers but is it enough?
    15. Keith Earls - Rough start to the tour but he's rebounded really well. Played out of position and did pretty well. Not great position wise but safe under the high ball, kicked a few good length ones himself and made a couple of nice breaks. My current choice for the #11 short in the Test team but if they go with ROG on the bench Earls could be a definite candidate for the utility back slot on the bench covering centres, wing and now full back.

  • Comment number 6.

    My comment which you removed was not obscene of defamatory in any way. It merely pointed out that this was a very one-sided analysis which avoided any mention of the positives of the occasion (something Lions tours are supposedly about)?

    I can only assume whoever is moderating wishes to protect their journalists from any reasonable criticism. My comment broke no rules! Is this Iran?

  • Comment number 7.

    Good Blog, We can sit here and guess the test selection all day but knowing Geech i would put a wager on it that not one person gets it right. He is going to put in one selection which surprises everyone, Hines in the back row, Kearney on the wing, even Hook at 12. We're just going to have to wait!

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm with orangedrink on Monye, although he's done pretty well. Would go for Kearney instead.

    Agree a toss up between Wallace and Williams. As a Munster man, hope Wallace gets the nod. In my opinion one of the most underrated players of recent years (even as respected as he is). Croft's versatility provides a number of options.

    If Vickery starts, hope he can avoid giving pens away!

    I found the comments questioning POC's leadership pretty amusing. I'm looking forward to seeing some more classic pregame speeches (YouTube clip Bhgt2pnSywI) on the documentary!

  • Comment number 9.

    It seems the BBC picture editors have a sense of humour. In the story headlining O'Garas' anger at the rough play of the Kings yesterday, is a picture of him tackling a Kings player around the neck without the ball! The picture also wrongly identified ROG as the Kings player.
    As for the possible selection of Hines at 6, this would carry shades of Geeches first Lions tour to SA in '74, when Roger Utterly was selected as a lock and ended up playing all 4 tests at blindside. The Lions also need another L/O option to combat the Boks 4 (5 until Burger withdrew), in which case if Hines is chosen Geech would probably go with MW at 7 and wish that he had another Mervyn Davies to complete the trio!
    As for the game yesterday, I obviously missed the news that another Welshman, in the form of Nigel Owen, had joined the touring party.

  • Comment number 10.

    Jules ORRRFC - I was with you on Simon Shaw due to his physicality and moments of handling genius but he got turned over so many times last night when in open play, he doesn't stay on his feet long enough which is especially dangerous on the 6th or 7th phase when support us spread all over the pitch. That said, I cannot decide who should play next to POC, all have qualities, all have negatives.
    Worsley's tackling was on song again last night and reminded me a little of the 'Roberts' game but I am going for Williams and Wallace to start on the flank, Croft to cover back row and second row, perhaps Worsley on the bench as well. Judging by the carnage dealt out by a bunch of apparently young, lightweight saffies, there will be casualties on Saturday at the hands of the pumped up and huge Test team. Monje also makes it for me, just because I enjoyed him picking up their rumbling prop and dumping him into touch.
    We have Saffie commentary in Dubai....comically biassed, worse than Brian Moore, but interestingly they really rate ROG, Earls and absolutely hate Powell....with them on that one, turning into the Ben Cohen of the back row, read too much of his own press and decided he didn't like running full pelt into contact.

  • Comment number 11.

    Nice article, and enjoyable discussion. David_de_Jong has made important points, upon which I'd like to expand. I think that we'll see a front row selected which will as a first priority try to put RSA under pressure in the scrummage, no opportunity lightly passed up to put more "grunt" into the shove, and at least three players who will take their own ball in the line-out and prevent RSA from taking their own ball as a given, but who exactly McGeechan picks will depend on specific tactical blueprints which I think he's keeping under wraps. (I believe the selection of three jumpers is a certainty: McGeechan will certainly remember - as he evidently did in 1997 - that the difference between the 1974 and 1980 Lions to RSA resided heavily in McBride's ability to take Ellis out of play by peeling with possession won by Davies, while Rob Louw ran amock in 1980 because the Lions did not do well enough at the back for Beaumont to do likewise.) Once we see the team, we'll be able to speculate what individual players will be trying to accomplish.

    At loose forward, on the other hand, McGeechan's options are narrowed, and speculation as to selections seems more interesting. Spies simply has to be contained when he hangs off to take passes and offloads, and that may well call for a very specific set of skills which might be quite rare: Spies does not play a game like that of the top eighth men in the northern hemisphere, Harinordoquoy excepted. Brussouw might not be as good as Burger at getting back into play from phase to phase, but he is very good. (And let's be quite clear about it: Burger is brilliant. Folk who criticise his current form ignore the fact that he is now getting the same attention as George Smith in the "Super fourteen" games, and teams are building into their game-plans sets of tactics designed to stop him getting back into play.)

    Here are thoughts which I'm sure will have engaged McGeechan:

    1. Should the open-sider be picked for his ability on the deck or for his ability to "knit" the opposition into a platform?

    2. How will the task of picking up and picking off Spies de assigned, bearing in mind the need for a grappler to support the open-sider, a jumper, and the open-sider himself.

    I'm keen to see how he tackles it.

    As to the backs, we'll see a lot of kicking and a lot of tackling - or a catastrophe. But if things go well, it won't all be kicking and tackling.

  • Comment number 12.

    Jules_ORRFC (#4) comments:

    "I don't think there is anyone who can disagree with the backs."

    I disagree with your backs! I've said it before and I'll say it again - it has to be Shane at 11 - Moyne is dodgy (and not in a good way), Fitzgerald is raw and unproven, Shane is, er, World Player of the Year (now let me see...?!) Still amazes me that virtually no one else even gives this truly wonderful, exceptional footballer, blessed with stardust, a mention!! (Maybe you lot are spot on and I'm the loony!)

    Anyway Jules, I can't agree with your forwards either. I mean, four Englishmen!?! (I'm a little surprised you picked Jenks over Sherry to be honest - which only goes to prove "Melon" must be one hell of a player!) Smacks of bias old chap - Shaw??? If they could invent a supercharged Zimmer by Saturday to get him round the pitch, then maybe! I assume you don't mean Worsley at open side (#7) but at 6, with Williams at 7 - I'd go with Croft at 6, who is far superior as a creative rugby force or even Wallace to give that extra presence at the breakdown alongside MW. I think the hooking resources are pretty limited - disappointed to admit that Mighty Midget Mears probably deserves the starting place, which just about sums up the efforts to date of Rees (who can actually be excellent around the pitch on his day) and Ford (who makes Rees' throwing look relatively accurate).

    By contrast, all the 3s are quality and have done well and I'd be happy with any of them.

    McGeechan will go with a true openside (Williams my preference but happy with Wallace as he's a fantastic 7 too); a decent 2nd row partner to POC (AWJ my preference and almost certainly Geech's too although I could go with DOC given his tried & tested partnership with POC); otherwise Jules your selection might be right, right across the park (unfortunately in the mysterious case of the No. 11)!

    My 22:
    Byrne; Bowe; BOD; Roberts; Shane; Jones; Phillips; Jenkins; Mears; Vickery; AWJ; POC; Croft; Williams; Heaslip (Repls: Kearney; Hook; Ellis; Sheridan; Rees; DOC; Wallace)

  • Comment number 13.

    I am based in the USA and have to watch the rugby on Setanta.

    I had to watch this game of rugby with two Saffas, one of which was Bobby Skinstad rip into the Lions, the Ref'ing and all things British and Irish for 80 minutes. I am as loyal as the next man and understand his bias but as a professional commentator he needs to be more even in his comments. I wish I could watch it with some commentators and not listen to that rubbish all the time.

    I was curious to know if anyone else heard this commentry and thought it was as bad as I did?

    Here is to hoping the Lions stuff them!!

  • Comment number 14.

    FlashHarry77 (# 13):

    Yes! I'm in Australia so also have to suffer the One Eyed View of the Saffas (Skinstad, Naas Botha etc) - the only decent one is Stransky. Just try to laugh it off - good thing is they seem to be a little insecure and in need of building themselves up with all the Lions and ref baiting (lost count how many times Skinstad attacked Powell for some alleged comments he made about the SA back row and Owens' refereeing). I find this comforting (and a little puzzling to be frank), particularly as I'm not overly optimistic - we must win the 1st Test otherwise it's going to be a long couple of weeks - in which case I'll be watching with the sound turned down by game 3!

  • Comment number 15.

    Ha I thought I was the only one suffering the unbelievably biased commentary from that pair of idiots. To whoever it was, lesson number 1: If you're going to criticise the referee, make sure you know the rules. Talking without knowledge makes you look very, very silly.

  • Comment number 16.

    ...and to the poster above, anyone who has Average Joe Worsely anywhere near the Test team should have their head examined. Yes he can tackle. Newsflash, so can everyone, it's a professional game. The media hoo-haa surrounding Worsely's man marking of Jamie Roberts in the Wales v England game was laughable. If you have to do that, you're a man short in the pack. Worsely's got his free holiday off his club coach, now let's just leave it at that. He is the worst backrower on tour, has been completely anonymous and is a liability at the breakdown. Not what you want in a Lions team.

  • Comment number 17.

    Flash Harry 77 - we've got that line up on the commentary. Even Joel Stransky was saying the most stupid things.....but my favourite (i.e. worst) was Botha in the Analysis Van....who they go to at half time and full time of each game and all he does is point out the killing of the ball at the break down....nearly every one of which he highlighted was penalised! They also made Human out to be a hero....the man is wired wrong and offered nothing in attack, just kept flying off his wing to make big hits....Hook was very lucky to just get a clip on the head, a second sooner and that hit would have been horrendous.
    It's actually like the commentators have been briefed by SA rugby management to non stop point out the things they don't like during the commentary. Do quite admire that patriotism though. They also talked over and failed to mention that astounding kick into the corner by their 10. Soon they'll be up with Sky Sports going to Austin on the touch line whilst someone takes a quick throw and makes a searing break!

  • Comment number 18.

    breakdown=scary...im worried about it, and im sure im not the only one. I think that after yesterdays showing that the breakdown is going to be the part of the game really picked for, williams, wallace, heaslip back row, AWJ and POC. I also think that the backs are pretty much a given, though it will be interesting to see if Williams is picked...as I have a sneaking suspicion that he will at least be on the bench.

    Jenkins
    Mears
    Vickery (id have put Murray here, but im not sure if they'l risk him)
    POC
    AWJ
    Wallace
    Williams
    Heaslip
    Phillips
    Jones
    Monye
    Roberts
    BOD
    Bowe
    Byrne

    Rees
    Sheridan
    Croft
    Powell
    Ellis
    Hook
    Williams

  • Comment number 19.

    As an Irishman and a complete fanatic of POC after this year's 6N, it pains me to agree with Jules_ORRFC regarding his leadership. Watching the youtube video prescribed above doesn't say much about the 2009 Lions tour and his leadership in what has come to pass so far; perhaps nerves or the gravity of the occasion has got to him, but I've been telling anyone who will listen since his captaincy was announced: "let him do what he does best, namely play rugby. Leave the OFFICIAL leadership to someone else". What I never understood was why Geech overlooked (that's probably not the right word I know) Ireland's national captain, picked this year by a Munsterman who could easily have stuck with his previous club's leader, in order to have 'leadership from the front'. BOD proved that the captaincy wasn't what was holding him back this year (everyone knows the figures), he would've been chomping at the bit to re-captain the Lions after the debacle and disappointment of four years ago, and could've had immense support from the front in the form of POC, while still having the official title of captain and being able to truly gear up the backs. Having said ALL of that, it's not really what the blog's about is it?
    Think the idea of putting Kearney at wing is pretty inspired, consdiering the stand-outs of the back three have been him, LB and TB (and would keep with the coach's claim of picking purely on form), and would free up all sorts of possibilities in back three moves and combinations during Saturday's game.
    No-one's considering a different pairing for the centres other than JR and BOD, although I think orangedrink you're being a bit unfair to GD; he ran the line, took on and more than matched De Wet Barry physically, and, like DOC in the second row, could do nothing but improve personally while also settling his national teammate if paired with him (if only off the bench). The front row of PV, LM and GJ is solid as a rock (can't wait for those scrums) and I'm not even going to mention the back row but to say Heaslip should be a definite and Andy Powell should not feature in the 22-too slow to react and unable to vary his game, seemingly unable to think on the pitch.
    Finally, to be pedantic, if you're going to put Paul O'Connell in the staring second row, he should forever wear no. 5, and not no. 4. Just to be pedantic...

  • Comment number 20.


    people who start totting up the number of players from each country featuring in the test XV and XXII have no concept of the lions, and i wouldn't take their comments seriously as a result...

    and if shane williams was selected, it would fly totally in the face of the declaration by geech that he would select on form...

  • Comment number 21.

    if you're going to get pedantic, they're laws! Feeling pretty well told on my Worsley praise....although I never had him near starting, and the man marking ploy was just a necessity due to the lack of decent English midfield tackling....the tough debate on here seems to be playing two ball getters vs a third line out man, which is the most important? Croftalicious has Croft on the bench!

    I'd also forgotten about Kearney, is he fully fit? Good option on the wing and adds another monster boot as well as another player clearly on form.

  • Comment number 22.

    Problems ahead of the Test:

    Shane Williams, the only player apart from BOD that the Boks can't handle, is playing like his grandmother
    Paul O'Connell couldn't captain an Under-10s seven-a-side team
    Phil Vickery will probably start, and he scares the Boks pack about as much as Santa Claus does
    Ronan O'Gara is dangerously close to the match-day 22, which is ridiculous
    Ditto Ugo Monye

    Our only chance of a Test win is in the first match, against an under-done Springboks side, but I just don't think we have the players to do it.

  • Comment number 23.

    This would be my Test 22 (mostly in agreement with other bloggers):

    1. Jenkins
    2. Mears
    3. Vicks
    4. POC
    5. Alun W-J
    6. Worsley
    7. Williams
    8. Heaslip

    9. Phillips
    10. Jones
    11. Monye
    12. Roberts
    13. BOD
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    16. Sheridan
    17. Rees
    18. Shaw
    19. Wallace
    20. Blair
    21. Hook
    22. Kearney

    I think this would be the strongest and most effective team we can put out against the Boks. Their forwards (although always powerful) are not in the same league as the class of '97 in terms of scrummaging, so don't see the need for extra bulk in the pack. The breakdown will be crucial - we MUST get the ball away quickly and ensure we're clearing rucks. I honestly think we should go out all guns blazing and try and get the ball wide. Our pack have some great pairs of hands and strong carriers / link-men - and the back-line has shown world-class potential, and I think would worry anyone. BOD / Roberts combo in particular has looked awesome, and Tommy Bowe / Lee Byrne are always looking for work, and make good use of the ball. Shaw, Wallace, Hook and Kearney can all make an impact from the bench too - if we're winning or losing!

    Seriously - the boys need to go out and play without any fear. If we go and try to "fight" the Boks, we will lose. If we go out and try to defend for 80 mins, we will lose. If we give the Boks something to think about, play with a bit of creativity, and use our backs - you never know what might happen...!

  • Comment number 24.

    I am in Tanzania and have to watch it on Supersport (from RSA). If I go to a bar I have to close my ears to the saffer commentary which is so commicaly biased I half expect one of them to be Rory Bremner or SB Cohen. But its gets a bit boring after a while At least give us Brian Moore. They have one token Irish guy who balances it a bit. Still if the Lions win these guys sound even more funny eating humble pie and laying into the boks and the coaches. One of their common gripes is the refs (we all comment on the refing come to that) when they penalise the saffers at the scrum or a breakdown for example, and you get things like, 'he seems to be interpreting the scrum down laws like they do in the northern hemisphere'.

    On selections, which ever 15 plus bench is picked lions are huge underdogs on paper. The boks are superb in evry position. The lions havnt sorted out what goes on at the breakdown yet (ref has a bit influence). But they all seem united, having a laugh, they are unbeaten and should be very motivated to take to the boks. Also they seem to be playing with patience and are able to get themselves out of trouble as a result. POC needs to take full control, and cast doubt into the bok 2nd row. Hopefully they all believe their in own press too much. The french just took the ABs, anything is possible. If we can just nick the first test the lions can tale the series. Actually its probably all down to the first half of the first test.

    Come on Lions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111

  • Comment number 25.

    wow some passion is flowing.

    orangedrink* above re your comments on worsely...i agree he should not start the test but to say he is the worst back rower i think is a little harsh. if id had a pound every time powell went into contact only to be stripped of the ball, i'd be a rich man.

    i disagree with the comments of the author of the article re monye - his defense was solid, he hand engels run at him at speed (the man is twice his size) and he got dumped off the pitch. monye to start with bowe and byrne back three.


    front row - vickery, mears, jenkins
    send row - oc wynn- jones
    back row - heaslip croft and williams
    sh - philips
    fly - jones
    centres - od and roberts
    as i said - back three monye, bowe and byrne

    im optomistic for the test - boks have now not played for a few weeks, we have some momentum. boys must use the gas men and get wide, the tries will not come from the forwards unless the maul is improved.

    i cant wait, its gonna be immense!

    lions lions!


    back row - heaslip, croft and williams.
    seconf row - o'connell

  • Comment number 26.

    Wallace HAS to get the 7 shirt! No arguing. He's a great ball carrier and Brings the guys back up when he goes to ground. Williams just lands like a sack of tatties!

    15. Byrne
    14. Bowe
    13. Drico
    12. Roberts
    11. Monye
    10. O'Gara
    9. Philips
    8. Heaslip
    7. Wallace
    6. Croft
    5. Hines
    4. O'Connell
    3. Murray
    2. Mears
    1. Jenkins

    16. Rees
    17. Vickery
    18. Wyn-Jones (maybee O'Callahan because of his inspired runyesterday, and the Munster partnership)
    19. M Williams
    20. Ellis
    21. S Jones
    22. Fitzgerald

  • Comment number 27.

    Just read the news and Murray and Hook are out of the 1st test. Damn those Kings are a synical lot.

    Well Vickery would get my nod and Adam Jones would cover the bench, but hopefully Murray will be back for the 2nd test.

  • Comment number 28.

    In response to No1 (ScotsSevenNutJob): Sorry but I don't hold out much hope for many Scots in the Test 22. Murray might have made it but doubt his ankle will be OK for Saturday. Hines is probably the best bet, as someone who could come on and add a bit of grunt. But the fact they left Croft and Wallace on the bench last night suggests to me they will both be involved on Saturday. Ford was a candidate but think Rees will be the back-up hooker, and Ellis will edge Blair as the bench scrum-half.

    Quiz question for you...who was the only Scot to feature in a Test on the last Lions tour to NZ?

    I agree with you No 11 (Segnes) - believe the Lions need at least 3 jumpers in the line-out, who I think will be POC, Wyn Jones and Croft. Despite the reputation of Matfield and Botha, Juan Smith also takes a lot of ball for the Boks, and Croft could challenge him at the tail.

    Would also agree with various posters that Kearney presents a tempting option at left wing, if he's fit. He's been excellent in the two games he's played, very solid defensively and a great kicking option. But dead legs are annoying...seem to take longer to get over than you think.

  • Comment number 29.

    OLLIETMO

    Williams just lands like a sack of tatties?

    Explain please cos i'm lost on that comment. The guy's offloading and link up play is world class, better than Wallace who i'm a big fan of to.

  • Comment number 30.

    fabuniquemembername wrote:

    Problems ahead of the Test:

    "Ronan O'Gara is dangerously close to the match-day 22..."

    What total rubbish ! I suggest you stop listening to the Stuart Barnes and Dewi Morris and analyze the game yourself. ROG is the most consistent kicker on tour. He dropped a beautiful ball in for Monye to tap down yesterday. You might recall that Stephen Jones bottled it against Ireland in the Grand Slam match earlier in the year. Anyway not only is Hook out for Saturday his continued presence on tour is now in doubt. In this case I'm sure you'll be calling for Cipriani, Wilkinson, Catt, Flood, Goode or any number of other flyhalves to replace him rather than concede that ROG is there on merit.

  • Comment number 31.

    Ollie tmo.Honestly, Williams is the best rugby brain playing on this tour,whilst Wallace is a fine player, Martyn Williams has the edge in most departments,I wouldn't ask him to place kick though;)

  • Comment number 32.

    Interested to hear about the one eyed S A commentators, having had to endure Miles Harrison and S Barnes Esq on Sky. While I enjoy analysis as much as the next person, the commentators constantly criticise and analyse, and generally spoil the enjoyment of the game for the informed viewer. And constant stats on the screen totting up the phases, and how many yards a player has gained... More like Aerican Football than rugby... By all means have analysis, but half time or breaks in play are the time for these. Nothing more infuriating than endless replays during the game, much better to experience the pause in play and try to get the feel that you are at the game.
    Listening to SB criticise Gethin jenkins all the first half, the other day, only to be put right by Paul Wallace at half time, [ a guy that really does know what he is talking about ]drove me nuts.... A shame we can't have viewing of the games with just the referee's microphone, and then analysis at half time.

  • Comment number 33.

    Preferugby

    "The boks are superb in evry position"

    You clearly haven't been watching Super 14 this season. True the back 5 in the scrum are all superb and I agree with comments regarding the brilliance of Juan Smith going slightly unnoticed, but their backline are not superb in every position. As I commented elsewhere yesterday Du Preez and Habana would coast into any international team, but the rest of their back line are not superb and not on form at all, so to come out with a grand sweeping statement such as the one you did seems to be a little ill-informed. I would also argue about your underdogs comments as I believe it's extremely even approaching the first test, individually there is nothing separating the two teams, and as has become increasinly obvious in the last few games the only difference will come in the way both back rows operate. I don't mean to rant but I was getting a bit tied of seeing people getting caught up in the hype and thinking the Springboks are gods among men, yes they're a good team but 5 out of their 7 backs have been picked on reputation and not form, so no they are not superb in every position.

  • Comment number 34.

    no need hfxoc1....Barnes never goes on tour without his size 9's in the bag.

    that said.....who is in line to get called up for 10 cover? If he can throw into the lineout as well all the better.

  • Comment number 35.

    eh the correct answer to your question bryn - gordon bulloch? the scottish hooker. i remember it cos it was the only lions test i watched that year and i think the commentator made a special point about it. cos again there were only 3 scots in the tour squad, and if memory serves this guy only came on as a sub? if this is correct btw do i win something?

    on a separate note i'd like to add my thoughts to the test 22.

    hook's injury opens a spot for o gara (most likely a bench spot but you never know...), and murray's injury means vickery will probably get the 3 jersey. this guy's discipline worry's me slightly...

    i still reckon we could see a surprise at 11 - monye's place is by no means set in stone. as an irishman i would love to see either kearney and fitzgerald line up. but given kearney hasn't been given a run out in this position, and given fitzgerald's size compared with the bok's this is unlikely...

    also i note several people above are suggesting joe worsley as a starting player... really?

  • Comment number 36.

    I found it interesting that after a number of penalities awarded to the Kings azt the breakdown that not one of the Lions were shown a yellow card where Skeat was shown a card for same/similar offences? Anyone with some knowledge of the breakdown care to shed some light here as it may be important in the test series?

  • Comment number 37.

    bring back edu

    I hope you are right and I bow to you S14 knowledge cos I dont see much of it. But the sharks and bulls are top outfits. Anyway you have reasured me a bit!

    But the bok are pretty dam good, and as I said I hope they believe they own hype. As you pointed out they have been over built up in the press which can only be good for lions. Why? the boks are world champions, they have had good NH tours since and 3N. They have known combinations. The lions by definition are an unknown quantity which is an advantange I think, while the press go on about Steyn, and the best 2nd row in world etc. Thay cant not write that cos thats what they have seen perform over last few seasons. So I say keep hyping the boks. The saffers I know here think its a done deal, they will walk it. Pride comes before a fall etc

  • Comment number 38.

    This is my first contribution but after weeks of reading I felt compelled to comment .

    #1 How can some people cpnsider Joe Worsley near the test 22 he is a product of the over hyped Guinness Prem run straight and hard but for God`s sake don`t off load - discard him from your thoughts .
    #2 Monye is of a similar ilk and Fitzgerald whilst having more talent hasn`t shown enough hence bring in Kearney very solid and has plenty of experience .
    #3 Openside - Is Williams fit enough ?
    #4 Number 10 O`G will control a game which is key and his flat passing to BOD off either hand will cause SA headaches .

    #5 How are we left with one functional hooker why was Best not called up Ford and Rees are brutal at the basic hooking skill of throwing .

    As for a predictions Lions to win on Sat as much to do with SA`s poor preparation .

  • Comment number 39.

    Ollie TMO:
    Although there was some 'off the ball' stuff, neither of the injuries was the result of 'synical' (sic) play.
    A lot is being made of the foul play by the SA team - a lot 0f it I believe is overblown. If it was as bad as the Lions made out, surely the citing official would have gotten involved. Whine whine whine - first there's not enough competition, then when there is it's a little bit too rough. Goldilocks comes to mind - they want it just right to suit them.

    Two points: De Wt Barry is indeed a mug and Jaco VD Westhuyzen a bit of a muppet - I was glad when SA rugby bid farewell to both of them. However, the Lions also committed a fair number of fouls and considering the ridiculous number of penalties they gave away, they were VERY lucky not to get carded, the Kings a bit unlucky with the card against the lock.
    Had it not been for these cards and the Kings' scrumhalf Hougaard being injured, I think the result may have been tighter than it was.

    Poor performance by the Lions, lucky to get awarded the Monye 'try'...

    Re SA commentary - have to agree with the posters on that - you just have to laugh it off. I do the same with the UK commentary on Sky, which can be just as one-eyed...

  • Comment number 40.

    Congratulations WillyGilly1990. Your prize is the undying respect and admiration from all contributors to this blog! Gordon Bulloch was indeed the only Scot to feature in the last Lions series in NZ - and that was only for the last 10 minutes of the third Test, when he came on for Shane Byrne. Bulloch also got a few minutes as a blood replacement in the first Test in Brisbane in 01, but Tom Smith was the last Scot to actually start a Lions Test - he was picked for all three in 01, as well as all three in 1997 of course.

    With Murray out now, be interesting to see which prop they pick on the bench. Sheridan for his scrummaging power if needed, with Gethin J switching to tight-head? Or Adam Jones as a straight replacement option for Vickery, who can move over to loose-head if anything happened to Gethin, but doesn't often play 80 minutes these days?

  • Comment number 41.

    Regarding the commentary, I couldnt agree more
    As a Welshman living in South Africa for 4 years, it has to be the most unprofessional and biased commentary Ive ever heard.
    My frustrations were so bad, my South African wife and I were at each others throats because of Bobbys comments She was agreeing with everything he said, which, as you can imagine, made me even more furious
    How can a person in his position commentate in such an unprofessional manner?
    I thank the people at Supersport for having Joel as the co-commentator yesterday in place of Bobby as its usually Joel on the touch line I think I would have thrown my 42 plasma down the road with my missus on top, if Bobby was in the co-commentator position yesterday
    To go on and on and on about Andy Powell And calling ROG unprofessional and unsporting during the incident with Stick (replacement winger) when it was Stick in the wrong for trying to get the ball off ROG when it wasnt even their possession, and Stick retaliated by slapping ROG in the face
    I would have enjoyed the game more watching it in Afrikaans or Xhosa as the English commentary was just as confusing to me

  • Comment number 42.

    I think last night proved what a liability Monye is. He doesn't do the basics well! He has averaged 4 mistakes a game so far (knock ons, penalties, forward passes, missed tackles, turnovers etc) which is far too high for test match rugby - where matches are one and lost on the smallest of margins. I dont know what his kicking game is like.

    After his first knock-on last night Miles Harrison actually said 'that's the 1st mistake Monye has made on this tour' which I found hilarious and Barnsey did actually pull him up on that.

    He just doesn't seem to get the blitz defence system either. He comes up much too slowly, this creates a gap between 13 and wing which has been, and would be against the Boks, exploited.

    Kearney is the only real option at 11.


  • Comment number 43.

    Everyone is picking the same team. Considering the desperate state of affairs at the breakdown there has to be some level of 'out the box' thinking with team selection. If Geech and the taffia are as predictable as we think they will be, what do the Boks have to fear?

    As for the Bulloch point, presuming test selection for the series involves no Scots - as Geech et al seem to have been angling for from day one - there will have been only one Scottish player start the last 9 Lions tests (Tom Smith in 2001) with, possibly, only one player getting on the pitch in the last six.

    Can somebody also explain what Shaun Edwards has brought to this tour? Watching Living With Lions '97 for the 1,000th time, it occurred to me that tour flourished due to the balance of personalities on the coaching side. Will 'personalities' like Gatland, Edwards and Rowntree accept other opinions and is this the reason for the generally mediocre displays thus far?

  • Comment number 44.

    Brainztrust (#38):

    If only they'd pick the Ireland team, eh?

  • Comment number 45.

    Back line is almost certainly picked with one question mark over whether to pick Monye. IMO the choice will be between him and Kearney. Inclined to think that Kearney will actually start and Monye will be on the bench. Fitzgerald, S. Williams and Earls are just not good enough (at the moment).

    Pack is going to be a little trickier to call. Front row seems to be nailed on, as is POC and Heaslip. Personally I think the other second row berth is between Shaw and AWJ. Shaw would be my choice, but I think Geech will go with AWJ. Back row is even more difficult. Wallace I think is also nailed on to start, but not sure whether it will be six or seven. It will be between Croft, Williams and Wallace for those positions. Worsley is nowhere unfortunately on current form.

    I think the 22 they will pick is:
    1. Jenkins
    2. Mears
    3. Vickery
    4. POC
    5. Alun W-J
    6. Croft
    7. Wallace
    8. Heaslip

    9. Phillips
    10. Jones
    11. Kearney
    12. Roberts
    13. BOD
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    16. Sheridan
    17. Rees
    18. Shaw
    19. Williams
    20. Ellis
    21. ROG
    22. Monye

    I do think they have a chance of winning this, but they have to up the intensity.....

  • Comment number 46.

    timalbi ; Not the Irish team I was just commenting on Worsley as a product of a poor league which has promoted the bish bosh type of rugby which is not what you want for the boks . For the record my team would read ; 1 Jenkins 2 Meers ( Best would have been a better option ) 3 Vickerey 4 O`Connell 5 Alwyn Jones ( O`Call if you watch does alot of grunt ie rucking & tackling so don`t write him off ) 6 Wallace 7 Williams ( if fully fit ) 8 Heaslip ( Powell offers no option - very one dimensional ) 9 Philips 10 Jones ( with O`G for last tweny ) 11 Kearney 12 Roberts 13 BOD 14 Bowe 15 Byrne .

  • Comment number 47.

    FlashHarry77 @ 13.....Had you been able to listen to Stephen Jones and co on Sky Sports for the first 6 warm-up games you'd know the true meaning of "one-eyed". They complain about absolutely everything and absolve almost all of the B&I Lions of any wrong doing whatsoever. Its even more embaressing than the SA commentators(!)

  • Comment number 48.

    Adam Jones will get the 3 shirt, he was sublime yesterday....Vicks to cover both sides from the bench.
    Llyn Maes gets the 2 shirt and Melon at loosehead.

  • Comment number 49.

    Brainztrust (#46):

    Fair enough, most bloggers going for more or less the same XV/22. I'd play Shane W as the "wild card" - I know I'm alone in advocating it as I know he's been playing like Mickey Mouse but I also know what he's capable of on the "big stage". Unfortunately, apart from BOD (and at a stretch Bowe - who has really emerged this season - Byrne and Phillips) we really lack an edge and I can't see us hurting them too much. Upfront I think we'll do OK at the set piece but likely to be outpaced/muscled eventually - only chance is that they're not match ready. SA 32 Lions 18...

  • Comment number 50.

    Brainztrust #38

    At last some sense re Joe Worsley. If you run straight at him he'll tackle you. But if you side step him or run for the space around him (followers of Guinness Prem. may need to google side step to remind them what it means as they never see one!) he is lost. Totally out of his depth. On attacking front has no hands and couldn't finish a 4 on 2 yesterday when he gave Earls a hospital pass. How this man was picked ahead of Ryan Jones I'll never know

  • Comment number 51.

    Re. the Kings' physical approach
    - It was hard, but not particularly dirty
    - Even the Sky commentators thought the ref was biased towards the Lions, so he certainly would have intervened more if the Kings had been too physical
    - For a team that was put together from fringe players who don't know each other, with no preparation to speak of, they did very well against the second best fifteen the old Empire (+1) has to offer

    Re. South African commentators (and I support the Boks)
    - They are truly terrible: Not just biased, but inarticulate and mostly (apart from JS) just plain s t o o p i d
    - That said, the British commentators, while more articulate, are just as biased
    - The English specifically are too much in awe of the ABs, too sniffy towards the Saffers, and usually too critical towards their own team

    Re. the Lion's chances on Saturday
    - Very good in the 1st match, not bad in the 2nd and 3rd
    - The Boks are rusty to say the least
    - Ruaan Pienaar is not really sharp enough after his injury and Frans Steyn at fullback needs about a year's experience before he should play there in such an important game
    - That said, the Boks are a confident team (they usually are, except aginst the ABs)
    - The Lions have won it all so far without facing any real top-class opposition, or any top players - they will be a strange mix of confidence and uncertainty - for the sake of a good contest let's hope they don't freeze up

    Should be a fantastic match - can't wait!

  • Comment number 52.

    Okay this Blog seriously requires a South African point of view on their team and why they feel it will beat these lions. First of all, these games yo have already played mean nothing in comparison to the Boks.
    Royal XV- Team of complete unprofessionals, had only been playing together for a week.
    Golden Lions- Lost their two best players to the Boks, and are in fact a rubbish team.
    Cheetahs- Lost their Captain to the Boks and are the worst team in the Super 14.
    Natal Sharks- Lost 10 men to the Boks.
    Western Province- Lost 4 men to the Boks ( including their captain.
    And finally Southern Kings, team that had only been playing for a week together, had many players that had been playing that boring and soft game that is Northern Hemisphere rugby for sometime, so would not be used to real rugby.
    So non of these wins can be counted as note worthy.
    Next the team that you are playing on Saturday at the ABSA Stadium/ The Shark Tank;

    15. Frans Steyn (27) - One of the biggest boots in rugby today, very fast and a strong tackler.
    14. JP Pietersen (24) - Once again good speed, great under pressure and always makes his tackles.
    13. Adi Jacobs (21) - One of the most exciting players in a long time to play this position for the Boks, great tines and brilliant execration.
    12. Jean de Villiers (46) - Leads the Boks defense amazingly, interception God.
    11. Bryan Habana (46) - Need I say more? World player of the year 2007, one of the fastest in world Rugby, puts in the thumping tackles.
    10. Ruan Pienaar (27) Not a big fan of.. would of preferred Morné, as he was the top point scorer of the Super 14.
    9. Fourie du Preez (43) - Great running with the ball, always makes his passes and tackles.
    8. Pierre Spies (19) - Please remember although he is some 6 ft 4, he is the second fastest person in the Blue Bulls.
    7. Juan Smith (54) Good leader , brilliant at the break down.
    6. Heinrich Brüssow (1) Don't know, but he played well for the Cheetahs.
    5. Victor Matfield (80) - One of the best at line outs in the world, great presence at the break down.
    4. Bakkies Botha (55) -Once again brilliant in lines and at the break down, has been known to put in thumping try saving tackles at some speed.
    3. John Smit (81) captain- Huge experience, although not his preferred position, it is what he first played when he began professional rugby.
    2. Bismarck du Plessis (21) - Good in the Line out, good fitness and speed.
    1. Tendai Mtawarira (10)- THE BEAST!!!!, even though he is very fast and very strong , I don't care, but hearing 50000 people shouting 'beast!" when ever he makes a tackle or a run, will make it even better.

    Replacements:

    16. Gurthrö Steenkamp (20)
    17. Deon Carstens (7)
    18. Andries Bekker (13)
    19. Danie Rossouw (36)
    20. Ricky Januarie (34)
    21. Jaque Fourie (42)
    22. Morné Steyn (uncapped)

  • Comment number 53.

    Re Worsley...one of the statistics that would be interesting would be the percentage of times he offloads, compared, for example to Andy Powell, who seems to be getting a bad press in this discusson. Powell may be regarded, by the one eyed, as one dimensional , but watch him closely, he does a lot of grafting work, tackling just as much as Worsley, and often links beautifully with the backs, his background as a Wales Sevens player often visible, if you want to see it. Heaslip, for me at 8, with Williams AND Wallace if possible. Big fan of Wallace, but not done much this tour to press his claims, but if Williams not playing , we can forget winning the series...

  • Comment number 54.

    All fans think other countries' commentators are biased.

    Perhaps in the spirit of fair play we could transfer stuart barnes to the SA setanta coverage. This might help balance their coverage, with the added benefit that the rest of us would never have to hear him. The bonus of course would be him being out of a job when setanta goes bust. Now there's a win win.

  • Comment number 55.

    1.jenkins
    2.mears
    3.jones
    4.jones
    5.o'connell
    6.croft(ferris unlucky)
    7.wallace
    8.heaslip

    9.phillips
    10.jones
    11.fitzgerald
    12.roberts
    13.o'driscoll(should be captain no doubt!)
    14.bowe
    15.byrne

    16.sheridan
    17.rees
    18.hines
    19.m.williams
    20.blair
    21.o'gara
    22.s.williams

    fitzgerald has to start. his defence is unquestionable. he has kept nonu, tuilagi and vainokolo quiet before so pietersen should be no problem. he can also cover centre and full back which allows shane williams to start on the bench. also he is like o'driscoll on the floor at the breakdown. monye's tries have been run ins which any winger in the world could have finished(with the possible exception of anthony horgan). his positional awareness is awful and hands and kicking are poor. kearney has a big boot and is safe under the high ball but is weak in the tackle and doesnt have the wheels to stay near pietersen and habana.

  • Comment number 56.

  • Comment number 57.

    Hey GaryKES

    Good analysis, agree with what you say, except:
    Northern Hemisphere rugby may be a bit boring (PoV), but it isn't that soft. And the rugby played in France is not the same as that played in England (or Ireland, etc). Just as Southern Hemisphere rugby isn't the same everywhere: Aus rugby is very different to SA rugby, and Kiwi rugby is another thing altogether.

    One thing in the Boks favour: The bench. Jaque Fourie, Steenkamp, Roussou? Wow.
    Now if the Boks 2nd 15 played the Lions 2nd 15, that would have been a good mid-week match-up. Anyone know why there isn't a mid-week game between test 2 and 3?

  • Comment number 58.

    @ 33. At 09:52am on 17 Jun 2009, bring_back_edu wrote:
    ---------------------------------------------------------
    You're joking mate, springbok backline is superb!!!! Boks arguably have the best centre pairing in the world with Jean de villiers & Adi jacobs, not to mention jacque fourie coming off the bench. Francois Steyn is a brilliant versatile player and can slot in anywhere. Pienaar at 10 is not a kicker but a natural ball player and he can fire the back line. Your argument is based on form tho, but FORM IS TEMPORARY BUT CLASS IS PERMANENT!!!

  • Comment number 59.

    OK game on. This time tomorrow we will finally know the 1st Test squad.

    Lets have a wee comptition amongst ourselves.

    Name 22
    3 points for selection in 1st fifteen
    1 point for place on the bench and
    -1 if not in the 22.

    With a little personal pride at stake perhaps bloggers will leave aside national bias and make selections on form, probability etc. Any one gets 100% will get 52 points, 15x3 plus 7x1.

    And let's close this tonight because word will start leaking out in the morning.

    1 Jenkins
    2 Mears
    3 Vickery
    4 Wyn-Jones
    5 O'Connell
    6 Croft
    7 Williams
    8 Heaslip
    9 Philips
    10 Jones
    11 Kearney
    12 Roberts
    13 O'Driscoll
    14 Bowe
    15 Byrne
    16 Rees
    17 Jones
    18 Wallace
    19 Hines
    20 O'Gara
    21 Monye
    22 Ellis


  • Comment number 60.

    ROG should start at 10. Admittedly there is very little between him and Jones (both good kickers and both can run a game). Jones had his go against the ABs last time, now its time to test ROG from the start. He's a confidence player and the management should show that confidence by picking him first up - his form is good and his bottle has been tested any number of times - including the drop to win the slam.

    Wallace and Williams are worth starting with - Croft on the bench can make an impact with his pace later in the game. I like Shaw to partner POC - AW Jones hasn't had a great tour to be honest and is living a bit on reputation (more so than POC). Powell continues to show his limitations so he would not be in my 22.

    Kearney for the left wing is not a bad option but I think Monye deserves his start and Kearney is more effective at full back, where he can't displace Byrne at the moment.

    We need to win this first test - the boks are clear favourites for the second test given the altitude and the fact that it will be their second game back. Likely to come down to the third to decide the series. Looking forward to it.

  • Comment number 61.

    @ 52. At 11:47am on 17 Jun 2009, GaryKES wrote:
    ------------------------------------------------------
    Some lovely stuff written there, i'm just excited about heinrich brussouw. A real true fetcher, when last did a bok team have one of those. Brussouw will be brutal at the break downs & so will Juan Smith. So, lets put this in a nutshell. The boks will dominate the break downs, the lineouts and we're a much more physical unit than the lions.

    Would've loved to have seen Morne at 10 but his time will come.

    Bring on the lions!

    Boks 42-9 Lions (3pen)

  • Comment number 62.

    Ellfromgavenny

    apologies, I really should explain what i meant by that.

    When the ball is on the ground and bodies pile in, wallace never goes of his feet, but STILL goes down low enough to hit the bodies and bring them back up, thus no offence is made.

    Williams? Don't get me wrong he is a class player, but he just can't do that, he dives straight of his feet and slows it down. You need wallace for that reason.

    And on top of that, Have you EVER seen a Munsterman back off from a fight? because there's going to be plenty of fistiecuffs on saturday.
    And on that note Hines should partner O'Connell as he won't back down. You need a bit of grunt against Matfeild and Botha!

    QUIZ ANSWER - Gordon Bulloch, Rep, 3rd test, NZ Tour. (Prity depresing that tour)

  • Comment number 63.

    Chelseasaffer

    I think you're spectacles are a little tinted. Firstly when you mention that "form is temporary, class is permanent", the fact that this is a 3 match series means that it will be determined by form more than anything else, certainly the first test at any rate. However intense the SA training sessions have been, it simply can't replicate the physicality that the Lions have experienced on tour so far, so they won't just saunter into the first test and rely on class to see them through. Shane Williams is undoubtedly class, and has caused you boys trouble in the past, but he won't be making the starting line-up because he's not currently in form.

    Your argument surrounding your backline is way off the mark. The Lions have the best outside centre in the world in Brian O Driscoll, the best fullback in the world (on current form) in Byrne, Tommy Bowe outshines JJP quite easily imo on current form and Pienaar is not an international standard fly-half, at least not yet. Villiers has recently returned from injury and I think it's a great opportunity for Roberts to catch him out, and however good you say Steyn is (and I agree), he is not a specialist full-back and that has to be an area of weakness. I agree that Fourie is a great player, he should be starting and I'm glad that he isn't, because Adi Jacobs is like a poor man's jamie noon.

    I think it's time us Lions supporters stop worrying about the Boks and getting sucked in to the hype surrounding this springbok team. We have some truly world-class players who have had enough warm-up games to come into this first test in form, and battle-hardened.

  • Comment number 64.

    Folks,
    The comments about the antics of commentators are true, but it is the same the world over when it comes to rugby. Think it is because so many of them are ex players.

    This is also the case with some of the newspaper lot as well. Nearly choked on the coco pops last Sunday morning when one of them (from a Newspaper with a lot of sections) actually praised some of my lot, something they don't normally do despite the season we have had!

    On yesterday's game, thought ROG got the back line moving more often and well. At least he did when the forwards stopped playing out half for more than 10 seconds. Maybe if they concentrated more on making the ball available quickly and more often, then we would see possibly the most exciting backline in the world scoring more tries than SA.

    After all our game is not rocket science?

  • Comment number 65.

    wisehead, Worsley had no offloads and two turnovers on Tuesday. Powell had one offload and one turnover. For the Western Province game, Powell had two offloads and two turnovers, while Worsley had none of each. Stats available from scrum.com.

  • Comment number 66.

    Welcome to Springbok Country

    Our blood really is green

  • Comment number 67.

    here fearrua i will certainly join in your competition! i have to remind you however that win or lose, according to the boss (comment 40) i will still have 'the undying respect and admiration from all contributors to this blog'. are you kidding? what kind of a prize is that? it sounds almost certainly optional to begin with. can't i exchange it for something better? tickets to south africa perhaps? i mean i've sacrificed my university exams to contribute on these blogs, i have to get something more than that out of it!

    anyway my test 22

    1. jenkins
    2. mears
    3. vickery
    4. o connell
    5. aw jones
    6. croft
    7. wallace
    8. heaslip
    9. phillips
    10. jones
    11. monye
    12. roberts
    13. bod
    14. bowe
    15. byrne

    16. rees
    17. jones
    18. o callaghan
    19. williams
    20. ellis
    21. o gara
    22. kearney

    and here no cheating! i vote we all report back here after 12 tomorrow. may the best man win.

    p.s i also vote we should be allowed to switch players if any more injuries are reported between now and tomorrow

  • Comment number 68.

    I am sorry but I could not believe someone was still touting Shane Williams for the Test team, he has been a part of every game on tour but I doubt many will have noticed that, he has been dire, Iit is a great shame that this tour has come 12 mths too late for him and if things don't improve he may even retire. Joe Worsely (an intended misspelling) showed yet again last night that he has the ability to spurn massive overlaps by having little or no vision of anything but the few yards in front of him, international rugby is a very different game than 10 or 15 yrs ago and everyone has to have skill nowadays. Andy Powell again got turned over several times last night by going to ground even quicker that a latter day Dallaglio and would be a liability.
    I can see the left wing going to either Earls or Kearney, Fly half going the way of the tactics McG wants to play as will the backrow, personally I am still mourning the loss of Ferris who was looking superb. If Mike Blair got picked in front of my Granny , who has been dead for nearly 35 yrs, I would be surprised. How he even got there is a mystery.
    So it's Byrne,Bowe,Bod,Rob,KE or RK, ROG or SJ, Phillips, Jenks, Mears, Aj or PV,POC,AWJ,Heaslip and 2 out of 4 (MW,DW,TC or Nathan Hines).
    Maybe Ian McG will surprise us all and pick combinations like the Munster 2nd Row and the Leinster midfield and the Ospreys back 3 but I doubt it

  • Comment number 69.

    ChelseaSaffer: Your overconfidence is emblematic of the Bokka's as a whole. This is exactly why I think the Lions have a real chance. Thanks

  • Comment number 70.

    Oh Bryn, oh Bryn.
    You make me shake my head in dismay.
    Clearly you are allowing what you read on these forums to influence you more than the rugby you should be watching in South Africa.

    What has Stephen Jones done on tour? He was on the pitch against the Golden Lions, was he the reason for that 10-try rout? Or can we write it off as good players running riot against lackluster opponents who stopped trying after 20 minutes? Because if he was, then he deserves the #10 Test jersey. But on the evidence of every other game, Ronan O'Gara should be the Test outhalf.

    "Fly-half Ronan O'Gara did his hopes of a place on the bench in Durban no harm with a composed display in difficult circumstances, replacing the unfortunate James Hook at the height of the early Kings storm.

    If Hook is deemed fit for Saturday he may still edge it on the basis of previous performances and his extra versatility, but the Irishman has had a solid tour."

    This is crazy stuff. Hook is a very promising player, but has done nothing to show he is anywhere near Jones or O'Gara in terms of controlling a game, on this tour, in the Heineken Cup, or in the Six Nations. Your talk of O'Gara hoping for a place on the bench is unworthy of both him and you.

    As regards the back-row, I suspected Geech might try Hines or O'Callaghan at 6, and he's tried Hines twice now. As that hasn't really worked out, I think he'll stick to the obvious and go with Croft, Wallace and Heaslip. Martyn Williams on the bench.

    Jones/Vickery at tighthead and Monye/Fitzgerald at wing are the other marginal calls. While the two tightheads will be in the 22, only one winger will make it, as Kearney will cover wing off the bench.

    I think the first Test selection will be;

    1 Jenkins
    2 Mears
    3 A Jones
    4 Wyn-Jones
    5 O'Connell
    6 Croft
    7 Wallace
    8 Heaslip
    9 Philips
    10 O'Gara
    11 Fitzgerald
    12 Roberts
    13 O'Driscoll
    14 Bowe
    15 Byrne

    16 Rees
    17 Vickery (covers 1 and 3)
    18 O'Callaghan (covers 4, 5 and 6)
    19 M Williams (only cover for openside)
    20 Ellis
    21 S Jones
    22 Kearney (covers wing and fullback, himself and Fitzgerald cover center)

  • Comment number 71.

    All interesting above and all very valid depending on how you would to take on the Boks.

    This would be the starting team with reasoning at the end:
    Sheridan, Mears, Vickery, Shaw, O Connel, Croft, Wallace, Heaslip, Philips, Jones, Kearney, Roberts, O'Driscoll, Bowe, Byrne

    Bench: Jenkins, Rees, Powell, Williams, Ellis, ROG, Monye

    People may raise eye brows at starting Sheridan ahead of jenkins who is having a fantastic tour but it is purely for one reason to really have a go a Smit in the scrum put Shaw behind him and say hello Mr converted prop have 40 stone of pressure coming through - rattle the scrum and capt will nulify there back row and lead to indiscipline.
    Shaw impressed with his work rate last night - O Connel in purely becasue he is skipper - personally think Wyn Jones would be a better option.
    Wallace at openside as he he is abit more physical at the breakdown and compliments Croft and heaslip.

    Of the backs i have gone for kearney on the wing as the boks like to kick so playing two full backs could give us an advantage.

    On the bench Jenkins, Williams and powell can really change the pace of the game in the second half with Croft covering second row.
    ROG on the bench with Hook injured - not sure what happens if BOD or Roberts get injured and if mears gets injured the line outs will be like a throw back to the 74 tour with everyone jumping for the ball as neither Rees or Ford can hit a barn door!

  • Comment number 72.

    CHELSEASAFFER

    42 - 9 !!!!

    Dream on mate. I can't wait to read your comments saturday afternoon when you cocky boks will be outclassed and beaten. We done it 12 years ago and we will do again it this year.

    10 - 18 to the Lions

    Come on the Lions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 73.

    GaryKES no 52
    So Adi Jacobs has brilliant expression of abhorence has he should help a lot on saturday as Francois gets out of position for the umpteeth time

  • Comment number 74.

    Like all the Northern Hemisphere team, the Lions need to stop fixating on individuals like Spies and Habana. The more these players are hyped the more likely other players like JP Pieterson and Juan Smith will get the space to dominate.

  • Comment number 75.

    @ RJSheffWed & bring_back_edu
    ----------------------------------------------------
    U guys are jokers, funny indeed. Ain't no way possible that the lions are gonna win. U haven't seen the best of Adi Jacobs, i actually rate him higher than jacque fourie, he's a diminutive little runner who finds gaps, breaks tackles & off loads with precision. JP Pietersen is fast and has a massive tackle, defensively sound. The only point we agree on is Pienaar, not a fly half, but a true natural ball player with brilliant attacking instincts. At 2nd we'd probably see the introduction of Morne Steyn, the super 14's top pivot.

    Regardless of how our back line attacks, the battle will be won up front. Our forwards are domineering!

    Boks 42-9 Lions (3pen)

  • Comment number 76.

    I'm getting both nervous and worried now. I think there will be a lot of penalties. I think there will be far more skullduggery on the floor than there has been to date. I think the forwards will need to be actively supported by the backs on the floor.

    What does that mean? Well - for starters, you need your best goal kicker - which is O'Gara, but I don't think he'll pick him, partially because he could get himself a red card inside 5 minutes, and partially because he's not Welsh ;-) You also need a specialist blindside flanker, and that means you're not going to have both Williams and Wallace on the field together when Croft is an option. I really don't know if Hines is a realistic option at 6, but my guessing is he'll find the bench as the only cover for 6 (as well as locks, of course).

    What is comes down to is whether you think you will have more of the ball in the first half - before you go and make some changes. If you feel you need to disrupt the Bok offence and win back the ball with an aggressive defense, then probably Williams shades it over Wallace.

    Wallace gets to play if possession is being secured at line out and through good discipline and forcing turnovers.

    Similarly, the kicking strategy may well dictate who plays at 11. Monye is third best kicker beside Kearney and Fitzgerald.

    Oh, and jwilliamg - in Munster, our blood is also green, even if our shirts are red :-)

  • Comment number 77.

    I'm getting both nervous and worried now. I think there will be a lot of penalties. I think there will be far more skullduggery on the floor than there has been to date. I think the forwards will need to be actively supported by the backs on the floor.

    What does that mean? Well - for starters, you need your best goal kicker - which is O'Gara, but I don't think he'll pick him, partially because he could get himself a red card inside 5 minutes, and partially because he's not Welsh ;-) You also need a specialist blindside flanker, and that means you're not going to have both Williams and Wallace on the field together when Croft is an option. I really don't know if Hines is a realistic option at 6, but my guessing is he'll find the bench as the only cover for 6 (as well as locks, of course).

    What is comes down to is whether you think you will have more of the ball in the first half - before you go and make some changes. If you feel you need to disrupt the Bok offence and win back the ball with an aggressive defense, then probably Williams shades it over Wallace.

    Wallace gets to play if possession is being secured at line out and through good discipline and forcing turnovers.

    Similarly, the kicking strategy may well dictate who plays at 11. Monye is third best kicker beside Kearney and Fitzgerald.

    Oh, and jwilliamg - in Munster, our blood is also green, even if our shirts are red :-)

  • Comment number 78.

    @ ellfromgavenny
    -----------------------------------------------------
    truer words have not been spoken, hard to see the lions break our defensive line, this springbok teams is all about defense. How do u think we won the world cup???

    I ecpect an intercept try to be scored by either Jean de Villiers or Habana. Jacobs to break a few tackles & play a major part.
    The only concerns we have is the at times immature Francois Steyn & Pienaar's ability to command the backs. Other than that the springbok will turn carnivore come the weekend.

  • Comment number 79.

    laughingabehan clearly thought hi words and opinions where so important there he had to put them down twice... lol

  • Comment number 80.

    GaryKES,

    Not sure Jacobs' execration will be enough to scare off the Lions, I'd say they're all well used to some choice language ;-) Some excremental play from him would be welcome though.

    And ChelseaSaffer - glad you said arguably about de Villiers & Jacobs. I'd argue from what I've seen that for the next three weeks, the best centre partnership in the world is BOD & Roberts. Guess we'll find out soon enough.

  • Comment number 81.

    FERA RUA
    Here is my team for the record

    Jenkins
    Mears
    Vickery
    AWJ
    O'Connell
    Croft
    Williams
    Heaslip
    Phillips
    S Jones
    Kearney
    Jamie Roberts
    BOD
    Bowe
    Byrne

    Sheridan
    Rees
    Hines
    D Wallace
    R O'Gara
    S Williams
    Ellis

    With Hook's absence from the team i'm a little worried that we haven't sufficient cover in the backs. Hence, S Williams (only in due to his experience over other candidates) possibly replacing Kearney if he had to change along the back line during game due to injuries. I also believe S Williams inclusion will be justified as i predict him coming on in the latter parts of the game and scoring a sublime individual try. I'm Welsh and always the optimist.

    I've got to stop smoking this stuff!!!!

  • Comment number 82.

    The'the undying respect and admiration from all contributors to this blog'. are you kidding? is for answering the Scottish questions, we unlike the players do this for the love of the game, the amateur ethos.

  • Comment number 83.

    you brits whine an awful lot. The lions have been rough and broken down play at the ruck and scrum in every game otherwise you would have been exposed. the boks will blow the lions up on saturday

  • Comment number 84.

    81. ellfromgavenny

    Hey good team and I like the logic but a little worried over your backs selection on the bench, perhaps a case for a Wildcard !! Earls, can play full back, wing or centre and McGeechan loves a wildcard.

    Whatya smoking that provides the intellectual prowess ??

  • Comment number 85.

    O'Gara couldn't tackle a lasagne. Did anyone notice the look on his face when he had to replace Hook?! Not only does he look like a scared little teenager, he plays like one.

    Shame Williams is selfish, and has been lacking form for some time. World player of the year? What's the old adage about laurels and resting on them? I do think Shame Williams has been one of the best wingers in rugby, but the simple fact is he is not on form.

    On a more positive note, I think Kearney should get a test spot. He is on top form, runs good lines, has a massive boot, and is solid defensively. The only reason he isn't given the test 15 jersey is because Byrne is simply the best full back in the world.

    Ruddy excited! Bring on the first test...

  • Comment number 86.

    FEARRUA

    I didn't think of Earls,could be instead of S Williams. I just think with the Welsh influence in the selectors, i think that they've already picked S Williams in the 22, even though he hasn't performed to date ( surely he's overdue a big game?). I know Jamie Roberts can be flexible in the backs too, but Fearrua you might be spot on with Mr Earls.

    For the record i'm smoking stuff called Victoriouslions2009. It's not on the market yet but should be soon.
    Better roll another to gain some inspiration for my next post


  • Comment number 87.

    It's going to be very interresting to see how the Lions backline performs against a really organised and experienced defence. So far Roberts hasn't really been tested and I have the feeling his inexperience might cause him frustration when he finds he can't bully his way past his opponent.
    Apart from the Golden Lions match, the B&ILs haven't done much considering the amount of possession they've received and I reckon Saturday will expose them to some desperate attempts at breaking the Boks defence out wide which will lead to turnovers and intercepts.
    All in all, the Lions pack, regardless of selections, is a rather pedestrian unit, workmanlike but with no genuine game breakers.

  • Comment number 88.

    comment 85...

    o gara plays like a 'scared little teenager'? how may scared little teenagers do you know of that have amassed over 1000 points in heiniken cup history? let me answer that for you - none cos he is the only player to have done that! leading all time points scorer in the 6n? ring any bells? oh yea thats him again you don't reach his status by playing like a scared teenager. he scores the odd try and out of the 3 fly halves on tour i would say he is probably the most reliable kicker. sure he has his weaknesses like any other player - his defense for a start, it's because of this i believe he is unlikely to start the 1st test. he is however an awesome player and well worth his place in any side he chooses to play for

  • Comment number 89.

    WILLYGILLY1990

    Well put. O'gara made some excellent tackles on tuesday and i think i'm right in saying that he made the tackle that prevented the Kings from scoring in the first half. It would have been a completely different game had they scored from that attack.

    And i'm sure if he wasn't too keen to come on to replace Hook yesterday was because all these boys want to make the test team this saturday and sat on the side seemed a safer option of making the test team than running around dodging the reckless challenges that were apparrant from the opposition.

    Leave O'Gara alone, he's a quality player who performs on the big stage. I'm Welsh and have had first class experience of his quality already this year ( although he wasn't a big fan of mine that day!!!)

  • Comment number 90.

    88. At 3:37pm on 17 Jun 2009, WillyGilly1990 wrote:and 89. At 3:47pm on 17 Jun 2009, ellfromgavenny wrote:

    Here are two men that I could drink a pint with any time. They don't choose O'Gara in their selection but recognise the mans contribution to Munster and Irish rugby. That my friends is FAIR comment.I would add that he has also played 14 times in the Lions jersey. I would love to see the lad get a Test spot but on merit only and even biased old me would on current form etc go with Jones for the 1st Test.

    Would also request 83, the tennis lover to note that not all on this blog are Brits !!

    Come on the Lions, lets hear you roar

  • Comment number 91.

    Any comments as per my earlier post:

    36. At 10:04am on 17 Jun 2009, ctmanbok wrote:
    I found it interesting that after a number of penalities awarded to the Kings azt the breakdown that not one of the Lions were shown a yellow card where Skeat was shown a card for same/similar offences? Anyone with some knowledge of the breakdown care to shed some light here as it may be important in the test series?

  • Comment number 92.

    The loss of Hook (who I think would have been on the bench at least) means that we have no one that go for goal from distance and that is as much of a concern as the breakdown issue. If he is out for the series, surely Armitage will get the call.

    Therefore the Springboks will be under less pressure infringing anywhere outside their own 10 metre line, penalty kicks to touch will bring Matfield into play for stealing possession, although Mears' throwing has been excellent.

    The ref will need 8 pairs of eyes and a lot more conviction than Nigel Owens yesterday, who had a howler, which as a Welshman made me very disappointed. Lions kept their discipline against a team with an agenda - should have been red for the bodycheck on Flutey and several more yellows, which was a shame because they had a couple of players who could actually play the game.

    Anyway that's history - we could have had no better preparation really and the players look really up for this, whoever gets the nod in the few debatable areas will get everyone behind them and it's about the team now. Can't wait til Saturday



  • Comment number 93.

    seeing as it might be possible to get some compliments from the bloggers if I know a few things about Scottish players in the lions (there don't seem to be too many things to know sadly) I thought I'd mention that the last couple of times a Scot started a first test, the Lions won. Admittedly there is no Scot who outright deserves to start this time around but I reckon there might be something important for success on tour about having at least one player from each of the countries represented. With Murray my choice and out of the equation I'll settle for two guys on the bench: Hines and Blair (clearly Ford arrived a tour too early though given the shortages in the back row he might be useful there).

    By the way about not having an overly beefy lions team because the boks are a bit light on their feet these days I think that's all the wrong way round. Whoever we pick in the back row isn't going to match the boks so we might as well scrummage them to death because there's blatatantly going to be a lot of knock ons in the first half and a lot of set pieces. Our backs are certainly a match for theirs off first phase, whoever plays at 10 or 11. Personally I'd like to play O'Gara first because he's a much better kicker than the others and Monye because he'll be great with the other backs around him

  • Comment number 94.

    Its got to be..
    Jenkins
    Mears
    Vickery
    O'Connell
    Wyn Jones
    Croft
    Wallace
    Heaslip

    Phillips
    Jones
    Monye
    Roberts
    O'Driscoll
    Bowe
    Byrne

  • Comment number 95.

    With regard to previous comment on the subject of Roger Uttley on the `74 Tour, and the subsequent line-out option. A viable back row formation would be AWJ, MW, JH. I feel that the second row would not be weakened by using the Munster boys as 4 and 5. I work in Nigeria quite a lot, and watch a lot of the SA Supersport Channels. They tend to be horrendously biased towards all things SA Super-14 or Springbok. But I get a sneaky suspicion that they fear Shane Williams taking on JP Pietersen, and even Habana. I see Monye as a bit laboured; good player, but not as effective as Kearney, and he`s had some fortunate breaks so far on tour.

  • Comment number 96.

    Here's my 15:

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

    Only one Englishman and no Scots in the side! Jenkins and Jones are experienced, mobile props who are world-class. Mears is right at the top of his game. In the 2nd row, a tough call between the aggression and physicality of Nathan Hines, but the line-out abilities of Wyn-Jones makes him pip the first place alaongside O'Connell who is a cert.
    Back row is tricky. Martyn Williams will be all round the park being a pain in the side of the Boks all afternoon, and Heaslip is a shoe-in. Wallace is a star player, and although usually an open-side, he has to start, therefore accommodate him at blind-side.
    Mike Phillips is a cert. He is best SH in Northern Hemisphere at the moment, and he is massive and physical by SH standards.
    My biggest vascillation was at 10. O'Gara is great kicking from hand, and a good play-maker. My worry is that his defence is weak and the Boks might target his channel to attack. He is surrounded by a physical 9 and a physical 12 in Jamie Roberts (who incidentally is also a shoe-in), which might serve to compensate for his defensive weaknesses, but it's a risk I wouldn't take against the most physical side in the world, that also happen to be the world champions.
    Brian O'Driscoll pairing with Roberts at centre is a partnership I am very excited about. The potential for Roberts taking a crash-ball to feed O'Driscoll brings water to my lips, and I look forward to seeing it.
    Tommy Bowe is the in-form winger, and I have plumped for Shane Williams on the other wing. He ripped the Boks apart when Wales toured SA last year, and although he has not been in form this season, given space, he has the capacity to turn a match, and I would include him for this reason alone. I think a couple of sessions with a good sports psychologist might do the trick with Shane Williams.
    As for full-back, there is no competition for Lee Byrne who is world-class in every department. The number 15 shirt is his to lose on this tour.

  • Comment number 97.

    Brainztrust,
    I am sure it is just not me but you Irsih are tediously one eyed, ok, you wom one Grand Slam but you have choked on everything else for the last 10 yrs because apart from a very few players your teams are uniformly average

  • Comment number 98.

    I refer to the Irish national team above not the consistently good performances of the Irish regions. You have some excellent players but not nearly enough to dominate a Lions touring party as many of you think.

  • Comment number 99.

    Welshtanman

    Us Welsh can be pretty biased towards our own players too judging by some of the posts written. There are a few welsh bloggers that continually jazz up the welsh boys and find fault in other nations players so i hardly think you can direct it at the Irish alone. Apart from the last few years we've been living off the reputation of the Welsh teams of the 70's as our national team has been bloody useless if i'm honest. We're all as bad as each other, lets try and unite as the Lions for a couple more weeks, then come the next 6 nations we can do back to slagging everybody else off and it doesn't really matter.

  • Comment number 100.

    Ellfromgavenny
    I read Brainztrust's comment and it was the straw that broke the camel's back, it is an on-going theme in this blog. However I can see your point and with all the setbacks we really will need an all for one spirit on Saturday.

 

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