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Lions must heed breakdown lesson

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Bryn Palmer | 19:55 UK time, Saturday, 6 June 2009

First the good news. The Lions didn't lose. Their South African tour is still on track.

James Hook kicked all his goals, they scrummaged well, and will not be playing at altitude again until the second Test in Pretoria in three weeks.

But after the euphoria of Wednesday's dismantling of the Golden Lions, the 26-24 victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein was a major reality check.

Andy Powell (left), Shane Williams (centre) and Matthew Rees contemplate a narrow escape after the Lions' win against the Cheetahs

You could see it in the faces of the Lions players at the end. They knew they were the width of a goalpost away from an embarrassing defeat, and it didn't feel good.

If Louis Strydom's drop-goal attempt had passed inside, rather than outside, the left upright a minute from time, their pride would have been dented even further.

It may be as close as the Lions come to defeat before the real business starts, given the decision by Springboks coach Peter de Villers not to allow his frontline players to turn out against the tourists before the Test series.

But a fortnight away from that first, all-important, set-to at Durban's ABSA Stadium,
Ian McGeechan - while taking solace in victory - would surely have been hoping for more pointers towards his Test XV than he received on Saturday.

Of the nine players making their first starts of the tour, only a third probably did themselves any favours with regard to pressing their claims.

Fly-half Hook gave himself every chance of a place on the bench in Durban in a fortnight with a composed display, landing all six of his kicks at goal and creating a try for Keith Earls with a delicately weighted chip.

The Welshman's form may have been patchy this season, but he looked a class act here.

The backline rarely fired in the way he would have liked, but that owed much to the poor quality of ball as the Lions were beaten up at the breakdown.

Scrum-half Harry Ellis, who scrapped away diligently, was constantly being forced to dig out possession at the base of rucks, if it came back at all.

The Leicester man is also likely to be on the bench behind Mike Phillips come Test time, but the rest of the backs on show - Lee Byrne apart - did themselves few favours.

Shane Williams had one or two runs off his wing, but the forced pass that Corne Uys intercepted to gallop away for the Cheetahs' third try was symptomatic of the wing wizard's desperation to make an impression, and his inability to do so.

Shane Williams makes a break during the game

If McGeechan sticks to his intention to pick the Test side on form, it is hard to conceive Williams will be running out in the number 11 jersey in Durban.

Leigh Halfpenny and Luke Fitzgerald had few opportunites to shine on their Lions debuts, while Earls' obvious finishing ability was undermined by his inability to hold onto the ball in contact on occasion.

He wasn't alone. One powerful run onto an Ellis pass in the first half showed the potential of Andy Powell, but too often the big number eight sought contact rather than
space and surrendered possession as a result.

The Cardiff Blues man lost ground to Jamie Heaslip in the race for a Test place, but could still be an effective weapon off the bench.

The 10 minutes Stephen Ferris spent off the field proved costly for the Lions, but the Northern Irishman impressed with his speed of thought and foot for the other 70.

He and Tom Croft both have plenty to offer, and it will be a close call for the blind-side position. Joe Worsley is still in the mix, depending on which approach the Lions take, but he was ineffective at open-side on Saturday.

The Lions lacked a forager on the ground where Cheetahs flanker Heinrich Brussow did a one-man demolition job. Martyn Williams, who would have started but for a shoulder problem, might conclude this wasn't a bad game to miss.

Donncha O'Callaghan was solid alongside Paul O'Connell but is probably still fifth in the locking pecking order.

The front row of Andrew Sheridan, Ross Ford - two slightly non-straight line-out throws apart - and Euan Murray can all take credit for another encouraging outing at scrum-time, an area where they will hope to gain an advantage over the Springboks.

But none of them produced a definitive display elsewhere which demanded their inclusion.

Having stuck to his word and given every member of the squad, Gordon D'Arcy apart, a start in the opening three matches, McGeechan's selection for Wednesday's fourth tour match against a Sharks side denuded of 10 Springboks, will be revealing.

The Test side is likely to have only one full outing together - against Western Province next Saturday in Cape Town - before they tackle South Africa, so those picked for Wednesday may conclude they are not in the forefront of the coaches' minds.

As they leave behind the Highveld for a few weeks, the cooler, clearer air down at sea level should provide some relief.

But some hard thinking, talking and training awaits. The lessons from Saturday were painful, and they have a fortnight to sink in.


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  • Comment number 1.

    I have to agree in the main, Ferris, Byrne and the front row stood out, Ellis and Hook played well given the service fron the pack, but the rest I'm afraid are looking like the midweek team.
    Powell for all his power is too one dimensional (as England showed in the 6N) and was turned over far too easily, Smit and co. would have a field day. Williams is just not at the races at the mo and I'm afraid cannot even be considered on current form. Bowe, Byrne and either Kearney or Monye look set for the back 3. I have slight concerns also over O'Connell as well, AWJ was superb on Wednesday, to date OC has not done enough to guarentee inclusion, an outing with the likely 1st XV will hopefully shore his position alongside AWJ.
    This outing certainly secured a number of places for the test 22, shame only one or two were seen today.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hook is looking like a good bench option for the tests - O'Gara and Jones are too similar to both be in the test 22. A good game to miss today - now a straight fight between Wallace and Williams for the 7 shirt.

    Shane Williams and Andy Powell both make impacts, but make too many errors on current form for a test start. Things should become clearer once the team for Wednesday is named.

  • Comment number 3.

    Ellis had a really good game, I thought. Joe Worsley, for all I rate him, was outplayed by Brussouw (sp!). Otherwise, Ferris and Hook did well. Was disappointed 1/2p and Williams didn't see more of the ball. Will be interested to see Wednesday's line up!

  • Comment number 4.

    POC hasnt earned his test place yet in my books. AWJ and hines combined really well midweek to put pressure on his test place.

    Byrne had a good game again....(minus the only high ball i have ever seen him drop near the end)

    Ford did ok, mears is ahead of him i would say though.

    Ellis didnt do anything wrong but hardly shone.

  • Comment number 5.

    Agree with the blog in general. Powell was embarrassing, a one trick pony whose inability to look around for the offload shows why he doesn't start for his club. Shane W is a shadow of his former self and will not make the test squad - Bowe and Monye are in good nick, while Kearney can play wing and Halfpenny will do alright when given some ball.

    Sheridan (bar non-performance in the loose), Ford and Murray were solid and with Jenkins, Mears and Vickery will provide a world class front row. Hines stepped up when required to play back row and, following O'Connell's comment that Alun-Wyn Jones is playing for his (O'Connell's) position, Hines is in the driving seat for the other second row berth. For all the praise for Ferris, his amateurish sin binning changed the course of the game. I'd prefer Croft at 6.

    Fitzgerald was a big disappointment, although played out of position. Making his debut on the third game and doing zip however means Fitzgerald joins Worsley, Powell, Shane W, O'Callaghan, Earls (miles out of his depth), Adam Jones, Rees, Shaw, Powell, Shane W and Blair in the also rans.

    In that respect, today was useful in identifying the also rans more than the definite starters. 37 on tour but we're slowly getting closer to the real 22.

  • Comment number 6.

    Woops, didn't mean to suggest Powell and Shane W should be in the also rans twice . . .

  • Comment number 7.

    Agree with most of it however i dont agree with o'callahan being 5th in the pecking order if he was playing on wednesday it would have been a different story, aw jones and poc are probably the test 2nd rows

    Powell was awful we are in trouble if heaslip gets injured

    id also like to see earls playing as a winger its probably his natural position and its clear that he can finish. i would agree that he is out of his depth he is class and his try showed that, bowe probably has the 1st test spot but the 2nd is wide open

    a big improvement at breakdown time is needed if they are to get anywhere near the boks though

  • Comment number 8.

    Big names are failing to shine. How can Shane Williams expect a place when he plays like that, considering Monye's game midweek? Front row played ok, but seemed under presure in the scrum at times, and will surely get some stick from the boks in 2 weeks. Ellis played his typical game making life difficult for the opposition, but the lions will need to adjust to his way of play, should he get a test spot. Ok Hook kicked well, but on the ball was not too sharpe.

    Bar Lee Byrne the rest of the backs need to get a grip. And Andy Powell really does only ever do one thing, get the ball and take the contact, nothing else. I would have bet my mortgage he would not pass the ball. As a result of the constant contact the lions were turned over far too many times, and this along with poor passing explains why the lions began to fall apart after the 20 min mark. Since Ferris was harshly carded, the lions collapsed and never looked the same again. Hopefully the Lions will learn from this game, and produce a performance like last wednesday's. God knows they need it now if there is any chance of taking some confidence into test one in two weeks.

  • Comment number 9.

    I knew that this would happen, if you read 1/2 penny's quotes he says he was frustrated, came into midfield to look for ball but never really got it. There were times in the game where there were men outside but the centres just didn't straighten their lines up to realise these wingers. Williams throwing a bad pass like that is not really the point, when Johnny Wilkinson threw a pass to Jo Roff in the Lions 2001 that effectively gave Australia the series back I still said he was the best flyhalf, interceptions happen. It was a poor midfield, earls keeps losing the ball in contact. Powell did lose the ball in turnover but hearing the sky sports commentator (can't remember his name, he is useless) talking about him holding the ball in one hand as the reason was like listening to people being alarmed by the round the corner technique for kicking. I saw the ball nicked off him on the deck and nearly everytime he broke through everyone was standing watching and the support was non-existant, back row terrible. I don't think the ref helped, Isaw the Cheetas players on many occassions pick the ball off the ground whilst lying on their backs, clearly an offence, not even close to being legal and Barnes waved it away!!!! Joe Worsely (who was picked as a lion because he can tackle?????) was terrible again. Ferris, for all his fantastic ability to run was sinbinned, O'connel very quiet again and leadership was awful again. The wings didn't get the ball as I expected and predicted prior to the match. It got so bad even Lee Byrne got infected and dropped the ball at the end. I have never seen this before, can we keep him away from the others and make sure he's ok?
    It's a shame for 1/2 penny and Williams, both fantastic wingers I just wish they could have a chance with a decent midfield and some quick ball, they are being hung out to dry and people like Monye are riding the gravy train!!! On such things careers hinge, what team you are picked to play in! Now these guys are going to be completely lacking confidence trying extra hard and probably going down an earls route of pushing it too far and making errors. You need to give players confidence and I see this as competition a little too far as it is only fair competition if everyone is on a level playing field and they are not. There is emerging two teams, if Geechs backed his competition pure form theory he'd break the two apart and swap 50%b of them with one another otherwise the players out in the cold are going to get worse by trying too hard and making errors. You can't play rugby on passion and effort alone, you have to be calm and play with a cool relaxed head, you know what Gareth Edwards used to say "Body in the fire, mind in the icebox."

  • Comment number 10.

    does the bbc pay you by the blog bryn? or have you a contract to write an article after every lions match? either way i enjoy this form of entertainment...

    as i mentioned on a previous blog its important to remember that this was not (by a long way) out strongest xv and only 4 maximum are likely to start against the boks

    dissapointed about the comments regarding fitzgerald, von stoobing in particular. for me he didnt really see enough of the ball plus he was playing out of position. would like to see how he starts at 11 cos for me that jersey seems to be between him and monye after s williams non performance today.

    was pleased for earls as well today especially given the amount of stick he came in for after last week as he answered his critics with a brilliantly taken try

    highly rate ferris after his 2 performances and i'd like to see him and croft play together at 6 + 7. powell's performance was abismal and agreeing with john goober we really are in trouble if heaslip gets injured as i dont like wallace playing at 8.

    hooks brilliance has left geechan with a headache as to whom he picks at 10 and all 3 are bound to get another run out before the 1st test.

  • Comment number 11.

    jenkins, mears, vickery, wyn jones, o'connell, ferris, wallace, heaslip, phillips, jones,monye, roberts, o'driscoll, bowe, byrne.

  • Comment number 12.

    bit of a shock to the system after the euphoria of wednesday's performance but maybe that's a good thing. it wasn't helped today by having wholly inadequate centres who couldn't get over the gainline. in the end we were grateful for hook who looked really impressive and must surely be on the bench for the 1st test at least.
    if the game did show one thing it was the sad passing of shane williams as a force in international rugby. he had a poor 6 nations and he hasn't really done much so far on this tour despite playing some part in all 3 games. unfortunately wingers just dont get any faster when they hit 32 and without his pace he doesn't really have much apart from 4 or 5 succesive sidesteps on the spot before he's inevitably tackled and turned over. he ran across the field in the 1st half and was caught by their hooker. bryan habana will hardly be having sleepless nights. it reminded me a bit of campese's last season when he just used to goosestep every time he got the ball but didn't have the gas to get anywhere.
    felt bad for both fitzgerald and halfpenny as one was playing out of position and the other never got given the ball. both deserve to play with with a stronger backline. in the forwards ferris again showed he could be in contention but powell goes to ground far too easily and heaslip, though talented is maybe a bit lightweight to take on the boks. could be a problem area....

  • Comment number 13.

    Hmm...thought Byrne didn't play as well off the ball. Got steamrolled for the last try, reminded me of a similar situation Rob Kearney found himself in in the six nations (a big Frenchman five yeards out, if memory serves) and Kearney seemed to defy the laws of physics in stopping the man in his tracks. Byrne's offensive running is better. But I wonder about the defensive side. Kearney seems bigger and stronger, and I wouldn't be so committed to Byrne's place at 15 right now. Still favourite, but no shoo-in.

    gjowen, good the backrow, Ferris - Wallace - Heaslip is a good combination, but would like to see Heaslip and Phillips getting another run out at 8-9. I don't like Monye on the wing, but I'm not sure who else plays there. Williams seems off form, Fitzgerald - albeit playing at center - didn't look anywhere near as good as six months ago. Could there be a place for Kearney in the test team at 11 instead of 15?

    Jones vs O'Gara, I think it's a good defence versus good kicking from hand. O'Gara's ability to control the game with the boot was undimmed by the ELV's, while it's never been the strongest part of Jones' game. O'Gara has beefed up his defence, but these big South African boys will run at him all day long. Maybe Jones to start, O'Gara to close the games out.

    Hard not to find room for Sheridan in the front row too.

    1 Sheridan
    2 Mears
    3 Vickery
    4 Wyn-Jones
    5 O'Connell
    6 Ferris
    7 Wallace
    8 Heaslip
    9 Phillips
    10 Jones
    11 Kearney
    12 Roberts
    13 O'Driscoll
    14 Bowe
    15 Byrne

  • Comment number 14.

    Shouldn't be too harsh on Worsley. He really is not an open-side and his best performances have always been on the blind. Still, hs is not in the running for a starting spot on either side.

    And SuperGedwards9, I was at the Lions game in 2001 in Melbourne and for me the turning point was when Dafydd James was through in a two on one with the Aussie fullback and decided to try to beat him rather than put his support runner away....another try then to cement our first half dominance and the series was done. Oh well, better luck this time I hope.

  • Comment number 15.

    The majority of these comments have been sensible, and logically thought out, but there is one tiny area that has been inexplicably overlooked. This is the case of Phil Vickery, there is no way one can say that he should represent Wasps, let alone England and most definately not the Lions! It is true what they say about rugby in England, it is not what you know, it is who you know! If it were not for Ian Mc G, then Phil Vickery would be kicking back into a PE job at a private school in Cornwall. He WAS, and I would like to re-iterate WAS an amazing prop, but those days have been and gone. It is a shame for England and the Lions that Matt Stevens is not around to initiate the transition from professional rugby player to PE teacher!

  • Comment number 16.


    "I was at the Lions game in 2001 in Melbourne and for me the turning point was when Dafydd James was through in a two on one with the Aussie fullback and decided to try to beat him rather than put his support runner away."

    Are you serious!! Nobody remembers this situation as it's rating on the significance scale is pretty low, sums up your biased analysis, focusing in on one thing as more important than another done by your heros!

    "The Lions' 11-6 half-time lead lasted just two second half minutes. Wilkinson literally threw it away with a long pass intended for Rob Henderson, which was intercepted by Joe Roff." - The Guardian.

    The Independent:
    "the Wallabies levelled the series there before going on to win in Sydney. A turning point was Joe Roff's interception of a Wilkinson pass."

    It's pretty aparent that although I make exaggerated jokes about Byrne being a god etc etc I do realise that there are other players from other nations who can make better contributions to the Lions. You have just proven how utterly biased you are by singling out D James for something nobody can remember!!!??? Wouldn't ever be able to criticise Johnyy!! Doing it in the guise of constructive criticism of technique etc doesn't wash. The reality is there are players who are good, some are pretty average, some have only just started playing for their national sides. All of these players have been brought together and viewed as one but played from different starts on the track. Starting on Weds is like being 50 yards head start in a 100 metre race, your opponents have to kill themselves to get back in. The praise on Monye just shows how little people really know about the complexities of support play as a back and useful unselfish running. Guys are getting hung out to to dry. The only reason I come down on POC so hard is that he's the pack leader and captain and that I couldn't see martin johnson in the same position having such bad rucking and such a badly motivated pack at the breakdown. Do you thik it's the day night difference? It is winter over there, these guys shouldn't be affected by the heat...

  • Comment number 17.


    Have you bumped your head, apparently Gethin Jenkins isn't very good now!!!

    Now you are thinking about dropping Byrne......oh god.......

  • Comment number 18.

    Ps I thought Ellis played well although his breaks are limited and he always looks like a club player but he's def my bench scrum half over Blair etc (kind of annoying that Dwayne Peel is wasting his time in the Sates- class act and former British Lion).

  • Comment number 19.


    You must be Irish - surely. You seem to forget that Croft was immense on Wednesday (although Ferris was good yesterday) and Williams has won, and will win, more ball than Wallace. Heaslip at 8 was my choice before the tour, but the only person who has played at 8 who the South Africans are wary of, is Powell.

    Powell's physicality causes them concern. Schalk Burger and Pierre Spies are very, very quick and are likely to swallow up the smaller Heaslip. Powell taking two or three men to take him down will create space for the others - I'm not saying he is a shoe-in, because Heaslip is a fine player, as he showed in the 6Ns. Personally, I'd like to see Dennis Leamy or Ryan Jones out here right now to give a better balance but the power of hindsight is a wonderful thing.

    Of the current tourists, as discussed at length last night, I would go with:

    Jenkins - a definate starter
    Mears - best we have in the absence of Flannery
    Murray - Vickery is suspect and Jones simply not good enough
    AW Jones - superb, like having an additional back-rower
    O'Connell - captain and leading from the front
    Croft - speed, handling, awareness - what more can we want
    Williams - best on tour at 7 so far, and will win vital ball
    Powell - if the SA's are concerned, thats a distracting advantage
    Phillips - Du Preez is the best in the biz, and seems best way to offset that
    Jones - could go with Hook equally, but only played 1 decent game so hardly merits selection. O'Gara not in it, only has a career as Ireland haven't produced a decent fly half in the last decade. If Pierre Spies runs at O'Gara, every SA scrum could = try time by running down the 10 channel
    No idea - Williams off form, not convinced on Monye - Kearney seems as good a shout as anyone right now, Maybe give Fitzgerlad a chance
    Roberts - compliments BOD wonderfully and goes forward
    O'Driscoll - pure class
    Bowe - only winger to have put his hand up so far
    Byrne - close with Kearney, but edging it IMO

    Having been in SA for a few weeks before the Lions and having seen the Blue Bulls crush all before them firsthand, unless 6 or 7 more players really step up, this could be another 3 nil hammering as one sided as 2005. This is just the wrong time to be facing the Boks.

    Still, come on the boys.

  • Comment number 20.

    My test team - whats your thoughts:

    1- Jenkins
    2- Mears
    3- Vickery / Murray - tight call
    4- AW Jones
    5- O'Connell - captain
    6- Croft
    7- Williams
    8- Heaslip
    9- Phillips
    10- Jones
    11- ???? (Monye/Halfpenny)
    12- Roberts - Find of the tour so far.
    13- O'Driscoll
    14- Bowe
    15- Byrne

    As far as subs go.

    Hook - will be a utility sub can come into centre or FH

    Powell - will be handy to come on against tired players, they wont want him running at them. But he needs to try and run through them not go to ground on contact.

    Sheridan - There are two reasons he doesn't make my starting line up they are 1. Jenkins is currenlty on form and best in Northern Hemisphere 2. Sheridens shear size seems to off balance the front row.

    Hines - Unlucky not to get a starting spot, O'Connell will be in as captain not nec essariy on form, but Hines will get on the pitch.

    Rees - They need a spare hooker, Lions weekest position imo

    A Wing - Not sure who maybe Williams on the bench but the 11 shirt is currently very much up for grabs

    As i said any thoughts?

  • Comment number 21.

    It's been a very interesting read, the comments so far and fretting about what happened 8 years ago aside, I think most people have hit a few nails on the head.

    Only 3 games gone, but each time POC has taken charge, the Lions have struggled. Weak selection or bad motivation? He's certainly not performing like the giant he was in the 6N, unlike Mr O'Driscoll.

    I can't understand the flak for Ugo Monye, he 's had one chance and I thought he had a pearler of a game. Unlike Shane, who is depressingly not making a mark, so to speak.

    O'Driscoll and Roberts are surely 1st XV, and having read the flak about Fitzgerald and Earls, i would say don't forget that Hook and D'Arcy are cover also.

    Disappointed by Powell's tunnel vision, not sure how the England props got a mention and having championed Blair, I'm having second thoughts. Very pleased with the Roberts - O'Driscoll combination and think Bowe has his running boots on. AWJ gives his all, Hines is a welcome improvement and Gethin Jenks is the man up front.

    My ramble ends with the inevitable 'my team'


    AW Jones
    P O'Connell - with a few sweet nothings from mr Edwards
    Williams (Martyn)


    Remember these guys have had 3 games of mix and match, so no settled unit yet and don't forget the mighty Boks struggled to shine against the mighty Namibia, so it's all in the pot - unless you're dyed in the wool of course.

    Love the Lions, it's the one time you get to cheer on the players in the other 3 Nations that you actually grudgingly admit aren't all that bad really...

  • Comment number 22.


    Not Irish. Agree there is a very strong case for Croft and Williams, and I originally had MW pencilled in before deciding to go with the established partnership. In general though the back row and the second prop (Jenkins has to play) are very much up for grabs. Most of the back line should be pencilled in based on the evidence of the tour to date and the 6N, the second winger is a tough call. For me at the moment it is between the pace of monje and the all round game of h'penny, would certianly like to see the latter get a run out in a decent starting XV.

  • Comment number 23.

    For the back row I would go for Ferris, Williams, and Heaslip. Croft could be on the bench and could give cover for both 2nd row and backrow. Other certs are Jenkins, Mears, POC, AWJ, Philips, BOD, Roberts, Bowe, Byrne. Would probably pick Vickery, Jones or ROG. Other winger is wide open.

  • Comment number 24.

    my first ever here goes:

    i think discounting some players totally is a bad idea to be honest, S Williams in particular. the guy is still fastest (w/Monye) in the squad (so whoever commented on no getting any faster at 32 is clearly not paying attention), and is proven class, he's yet to play with a decent centre pairing: earls in the first game was a nightmare, and when he came on in the second mike phillips was at 12, and again yesterday the centres looked thoroughly unconvincing, as people noted, halfpenny barely even saw the ball, let alone touched it.

    and also, 'patriotic blinkers' are out again, im english, n trust me, the only english players thus far to impress have been monye and croft, and supergedwards it really doesnt matter if luck of the draw put you with a pair of firing centres or not, monye still got 2 tries...whats wrong with that? puts him ahead of 1/2penny, williams, kearney and fitzgerald in my eyes seeing as his job is to score those tries. croft just speaks for himself, i know im slightly biased, but in the last 6 months he's been the best 6 in the northern hemisphere, AND can cover 2nd row if really needed (and do a decent job if his performances for the tigers are anythin to go by), but the props...sheridan goes missing in the loose, and vickery...well...not my ideal candidate.

    and now the 'obligatory' team i'd like to see:

    jenkins (definately, what a beast)
    mears (problem position...)
    murray (has done nothing wrong thus far)
    AW Jones (only certain 2nd row so far)
    POC (think McG will stick with his captain...unless he frustrates again)
    Croft (shocker? :P)
    Wallace (played very well at 7, is a tough choice between williams)
    Heaslip (best 8 we a long way)
    Jones (the pairing here works, so why break it?)
    Monye (only 11 so far to make it worthwhile)
    Roberts (awesome)
    BOD (even more so)
    Bowe (certain start)
    Byrne (just edges Kearney)

    there we go :-)

  • Comment number 25.

    Got to pick up on the comments concerning Shane W. People claim that he had a poor 6 nations. This was mainly due to the game plan adopted by the Welsh team. Very few balls went down the line and even fewer allowed him some space, which any winger, even Shane, needs to shine. The instance on playing long balls down the middle, meant that most of the possesion enjoyed by the back three was with the whole opposition team in front of them. Lee Byrne obviously thrives here but it is not Shane William's game and never will be.

    The game yesterday again starved SW of the ball in decent positions. The format of a tour like this, where everyone is playing for their positions means that every time a player gets the ball in his hands, there is a lot of pressure to do something impressive. Especially if you are Shane Williams. Commentators get excited when he gets the ball in his hands and are sometimes guilty of expecting miricles. When these don't arrive he gets a slating! He surely needs a chance playing outside BOD and Roberts, who will give him some ball with some space to play with. Then you will see the best of him. Does anyone believe that he would not have scored the trys that Moyne did last Wednesday?

    By the way the guy who claimed that he has lost his pace does not watch closely enough!

  • Comment number 26.

    The AWJ comments that he's guaranteed the other second row are lazy and ignore POC's being reported as saying AWJ and he are going for the same position, making the other second row berth most likely for Hines (read the papers!). Hines captains Perpignan (who won the French 14s yesterday) and covered at backrow yesterday. Second row for the match will be POC and Hines, with AWJ a tremendous bench option. If Croft starts, you have three line out jumpers for the hooker to aim at too.

    Numbers 8 and 7 are looking problematic just now, am guessing Martyn W will come good on Wednesday and show why he should start at 7. Heaslip needs to raise his game while Powell may make the test bench purely by default, although Spies et al will be licking their lips after watching his performance yesterday.

    Just now, I'd say;

    Mears / Ford
    M Williams

    Can't see any flaws there. If Heaslip, Roberts and BOD get injured however, there's currently no depth whatsoever in these positions.

  • Comment number 27.

    laughingabehan you are actually a muppet!

    there is no way (barring injuries) your 2 props will be starting both sheridan and vickery are second class compared with jenkins and murray. vickery will probably make it to the bench though.

    croftalious above (huge name btw) has the right idea though i'd take issue with 2 of his picks. firstly i'd like to see ferris and croft starting cos i think they've been the 2 best so far.

    also whilst monye played well on wednesday and took his 2 tries well. i'd like to see him get another run out before we pencil him in at 11. almost certainally s williams has played himself out of contention and i'd like to see fitzgerald start at 11 (his natural position)

  • Comment number 28.

    SuperGedwards9, It really depends on what kind of game you want to play. If you go for fast, open running where you could expose yourself to more scrums from open play, you might want a focus on scrummaging from the front row, and I think Sheridan has the edge over Jenkins in the tight.

    Again, with regard to Byrne - it depends on what your kicking strategy is, and how you look to take the game to the Boks. Defensively, I think Kearney is better than Byrne. Offensively, the other way round.

    Ellis is as good a defensive half back as O'Gara is poor - but the trade off in offense is proportionate. I think Ellis' decision making has got better and better, but his speed off the base of the ruck, particularly off the left, is not what it should be for a Test 9. Defensively, though, very good - Tomás O'Leary would have had the edge on offensive capability, shame he's not on tour, Ellis is the best of the rest.

    WillyGilly1990, Fozzie Bear is actually a muppet. Vickery, on the other hand, is marginally better on current form than Euan Murray - I'll grant you it's tight, and could go either way in the next week or so.

    You can't have Croft and Ferris starting in the same team - Geech himself lamented the lack of a genuine openside yesterday, and I think that means that Martyn Williams or David Wallace will definitely start. Personally, I give it to Wallace, though I think it's a fascinating duel. The power the man possesses is frightening, and while Williams possibly has the edge in turning over ball on the floor and out of the tackle, the momentum that Wallace brings when he pumps the legs going into contact is priceless - that extra yard over the gainline could be the difference between winning and losing.

    What do you think about Kearney at 11? I'm not convinced by the rest yet either, and this was a problem for Ireland last year in particular (having Dempsey on form, with Geordan Murphy also angling for the 15). trade off between selecting class, and playing a genuine winger in the position.

  • Comment number 29.

    how has croft been the best 6 in the northern hemi,he didnt start for eng at start of 6n and didnt even make the initial squad so he couldnt have been that good,o'connell is gettin too much stick aswel,who won the pen at the end?won and disrupted lineouts,carried and offloaded well,powell is brainless,how does his physicality cause a concern,he lost it in contact for one of their tries and lost it again close to their line

  • Comment number 30.

    Great blog, just to say Ricky Flutey hasn't been given a start yet due to the fact he has been injured.

    My team for the first test:

    1. sheridan
    2. mears
    3. murray
    4. o'connel
    5. wyn jones
    6. croft
    7. wallace
    8. heaslip
    9. phillips

  • Comment number 31.

    Nice blog mate.

    just a couple of points:

    1) Time and time again we here of coaches/pundits/players declare just how important the breakdown is - especially in the super14/southern hemisphere, and how what can only be described as the ferocity that it is contested.
    Why are the LIONS not heeding what everyone is saying including themselves?!?! I could forgive their ignorance if they walked onto the paddock and were given a wake-up call that only RSA/SH can give you in this area - but the most frustrating thing is - they've been expecting it yet fail to do anything close to annulling or counter-rucking at the tackle. *sigh*

    2) This team not only had injuries in the 1st choice team, they also finished with the super14 wooden spoon. I know the lions need time to gel, and find their best combinations - BUT - what would the score have been if a (second string) SH team had played Bristol or Connacht ??
    Some food for thought...

  • Comment number 32.


    You are the muppet

    Sheridan over Jenkins? Seriously, i bet if you asked Sheridan he would tell you Jenkins is better than him he's that superior. What game do you watch

  • Comment number 33.


    Are you a muppet too or are you just trying to get as many Englishman in the side? Sheridan instead of Jenkins, god help me!!!!

  • Comment number 34.

    yea eh i notice you didnt address your earlier comments regarding sheridan. alright i guess you could call the race for the 3 shirt close but for me murray gets it every time.

    picking up on your comments about kearney i think you may be right. bryne is still the favourite and rightly so but his defense yesterday was questionable at times. me thinks kearney may just have the physical edge. for those of you who like a stat bryne is 3cm taller and 6kg heavier. that surprises me and i thought bryne should have stopped your prop guy. also for the cheetahs last try (that s williams intercept) bryne was far too high forward and indeed it was only fitzgerald tracking back who got any where near the try scorer. it will be interesting who's picked but kearney should at least get a start against the boks i reckon. wing? hmmm does he have the pace? i still stand by my original comment give fitzgerald a chance on the wing before we make any decisions about 11

  • Comment number 35.

    After watching all of the tour matches several times so far one of the things that stands out to me is how ineffective Paul O'Connell has been at the breakdown and with the ball in hand. AWJ and Hines performed well on Wednesday and I though Hines did well when he came on yesterday as well.

    We also saw yesterday the biggest case for including Roberts at 12 and Monye on the wing, and that was the trouble for the smaller backs to get over the gain line! Roberts makes the gaps for other backs to exploit, Fitzgerald was far too easy to stop one on one leaving the defensive line set. Shane Williams is not the player he was 2 years ago, he seems to be a bit slower and he's too weak in contact. Monye did well when given his chance and he'd certainly be my pick on the left.

    I think all the front row boys have done well so far in a country that prides itself on its physicality in this area. With the exception of Fords slightly iffy lineouts there haven't been too many minus points. I'd go with Jenkins, Mears and Murray, all solid in the scrum but capable of adding a bit in the lose as well.

    The back row has also been an area of mixed performances, but as we've seen the breakdown will be key to the test series. For me Ferris edges Croft at 6, Croft is an excellent lineout jumper and good in the lose, but we are talking about the breakdown and for me Ferris has the added bulk and aggression while losing little in open field pace from Croft. Williams has shown over the last few years he's one of the finest open sides in the world and I really can't look beyond him on this tour either. Heaslip also gets my vote at 8, Powell was the only other real option and he has failed to show the massive runs of his 6N and has lost ball at contact time.

    Thats just leaves the Half backs. Stephen Jones really impressed me, I've never been a big fan of his but he ran the game with confidence and also showed a good understanding with Roberts and O'Driscoll who look nailed on test selections. I think Phillips has also been a class above the other 9's on tour. Mike Blair was shocking, showing exactly why he was only a tour replacement, Harry Ellis was better but his lack of games towards the end of the season mean I still don't think he's back to his best. Phillips will offer a big physical presence behind the scrum and also provide good service and a strong running option to create that much needed midfield space.

    My test XV would be :-

    1 - Gethin Jenkins
    2 - Lee Mears
    3 - Euan Murray
    4 - Alun Wyn Jones
    5 - Nathan Hines
    6 - Stephen Ferris
    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

    Replacements: O'Connell, Rees, Sheridan, Croft (covering 2nd and back row), Halfpenny, Ellis, Hook (cover more positions than O'Gara).

  • Comment number 36.

    disappointed like everyone else. O'Connel needs to pick his game up to be in contention, has the captain of the lions ever not been selected for the tests?? Personally i thought Sheridan was poor too, and once again his temper flared up and nearly got him a card.

    But the backs pretty much sealed their own fate, Williams = no, Earls = no, Monye = not convinced. Roberts was awesome the other day, but i want to see a centre pairing of BOD and Flutey...that's got to be pretty mouth watering.

    Star of the backs so far has to be Mike Phillips

    9. Phillips
    10. Hook
    12. Flutey
    13. BOD
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    Oh and Croft has to be a yes!!

  • Comment number 37.

    I don't see how people could want Wallace ahead of M Williams- MW will be a lot better in and around the tackle, which is vital. If we're going on form, and AWJ and POC are playing for the same position, I don't really see why POC should get the nod- being selected as captain is not enough in my eyes. Powell certainly shouldn't start, but needs to be given a chance as an impact player off the bench. 1/2p is struggling from playing with centres who weren't giving him a chance- a big difference from playing alongside G Henson, a player who is excellent at straightening the line, which helps out the wingers (the Paris game aside!)

    My 1st test team:

    1) Jenkins
    2) Ford
    3) Murray
    4) Hines
    5) A W Jones
    6) Croft
    7) M Williams
    8) Heaslip

    9) Phillips
    10) S Jones
    11) Monye
    12) Roberts
    13) O Driscoll
    14) Bowe
    15) Byrne

    With bench places, amongst others, for Hook, Powell, POC and Mears.

  • Comment number 38.


    "SuperGedwards9, It really depends on what kind of game you want to play. If you go for fast, open running where you could expose yourself to more scrums from open play, you might want a focus on scrummaging from the front row, and I think Sheridan has the edge over Jenkins in the tight"

    Totally agree, the simple fact is that Jenkins is a better rucker, scrummager and player in the loose with the ball in hand than Sherridan. When Wales played England in 2009 your front row was murdered by ours and once you take that away you have nothing. That is what happened against the Cheetas. Sherridan is hype because he's very large and very young - great, if he can't play Rugby who cares.
    I'll leave the Guardian's player review of the two front rows and you can tell me what's changed, oh yeah, Adam Jones and Jenkins have just got better and better:

    "Andrew Sheridan Prop 5

    Frustratingly inconspicuous with the ball in hand and, for all his bulk, spent as much time bouncing out of the melée as he did bulldozing his way through it.

    Lee Mears Hooker 5

    England's front row needed more grunt and blunt force than Mears could give. His throwing was fine, but that alone is not enough.

    Phil Vickery Prop 6

    A foolish penalty for incorrect binding in a scrum cost England three points, but otherwise it was a typically whole-hearted effort.

    Welsh Front Row:

    Gethin Jenkins Prop 7

    A fantastic tackle on Armitage set the tone early on, and together with his front-row colleagues he gave England a tough time at the scrum.

    Matthew Rees Hooker 6

    A solid but unspectacular contribution. He held his throwing game together well, and was part of a solid Wales effort in the front row.

    Adam Jones Prop 8

    Another of Wales' outstanding players. Put in some thumping tackles and was more than a match for Sheridan and Vickery when it came to scrum time."

    Please stop pretending players are any good just because they are English. I am for example a massive Croft fan, I don't care where he's from. Bod is amazing. But when you've got guys putting in successive performances over years and approaching a Lions series on fantastic form and being actually feared by people and having murdered their contenders with technical scrummaging saying that others are better is just about as one-eyed as it gets.

  • Comment number 39.

    The numbers are out of ten and are from Wales v England 2009 in the RBS 6 Nations

  • Comment number 40.

    I'm surpised people are slating POC so much. His line out work is excellent both on his own and the opposition throw. He gets the ball in hand a lot, even the SA commentators noticed that. Is he not suffering from a back row without a genuine open side, with genuine pace?

    Same could be argued for Powell, if only he didn't keep losing the ball.

  • Comment number 41.

    i have to jump to fitzgerals defense here. morgham if you had watched any of him before this tour you would know he is an out and out winger (preference 11). i agree he did not play any where near as good as roberts does at 12, but key thing he was out of position. i would struggle to find footage of him playing at 12 before either for leinster or ireland. i've also now come to the conclusion that he started there (and not at 11) because geech wanted to give williams another chance at 11 (which i feel williams really didnt make the most of). i would almost guarantee that if fitzgerald starts at 11 and has a solid game it will be between him and monye for 11.

  • Comment number 42.

    The thing that concerns me most is that in the two matches that O'Connell has played the intensity of our pack at the breakdown has not been there. I agreed with him as captain initially as there was only one other candidate in O'Driscoll and he didnt seem to get everyone to gel on the last tour, but so far he hasnt looked the same player we have seen all season. When Wyn-Jones and Hines played together they looked a good unit and both organised and spoke to the pack at every break in play.

    We still seem to me to lack a quality 2, 8, 10 & 11. I would play Mears at 2 as he is the most reliable, if a little lightweight (also best lineout thrower, which will be vital), 8 is a real problem as we dont have anybody who is going to bother the boks in the loose and no natural 8/9 combination to boss the base of the scrum. Jones plays 10 as O'gara just isnt physically up to it and the way he plays his rugby with munster, he doesnt pressure the opposition enough with deep kicking, too much around 22 not 5 out. At 11, Fitzgerald needs a game in his position but barring someone having a blinder i think that finding a spot for Kearney may be a blessing in disguise!

    Some real positives so far though, especially Roberts/ O'Driscoll in the centres, Phillips played with control and zip at 9 and whichever props we pick will give them problems at the scrum. We have also had a bit of luck, which hopefully will continue.

    So, my test team (i know there is absolutely no chance of this being the actual side but there you go!):

    1. Jenkins (Extra loose forward. No real weak points)
    2. Mears (Steady, best endorsement for any of the hookers. Oh dear.)
    3. Murray/ Vickery (Can't pick this, if Mears starts then prob Vickery)
    4. Hines (One of the best in the Northern Hemisphere and will really upset SA)
    5. Wyn-Jones (Looks the part, future Wales captain)
    6. Croft (Real pace, power in the loose, extra lineout option)
    7. M Williams (Best around and will scavenge all day)
    8. Heaslip (Too small but Powell frighteningly one dimensional)

    9. Phillips (Speed of release and power edges it)
    10. Jones (Good unit with phillips/ Roberts)
    11. Kearney
    12. Roberts (Looks excellent BOD, powerful)
    13 Brian O'Driscoll (Don't really need to add anything here!)
    14. Bowe (Only wing to look like they are comfortable in the jersey)
    15. Byrne (Safe hands)

    Thoughts anyone?

  • Comment number 43.

    WillyGilly1990, I'm a Leinster fan, I've seen a lot of Fitzgerald and he's operated enough in the centre to perform much better than he did. I agree he needs to be tried on the wing but time is fast running out before the tests and with Bowe nailed on for the right wing spot and Monye having a good game on the left, I wonder if Geech has already decided on his wingers and is looking for all round cover? Williams can only really be considered a wing replacement (i know he can cover 9 at regional level but this is way above that) so I wondered if he wanted to look at fitzgerald at centre to add to his undoubted talent as a winger?

    I think McGeechen knows most of his test team already and is now just finalising his plans.

  • Comment number 44.

    i am startin to get a little worried about o'connell. Think he has done alright, carried the ball a hell of a lot without gaining massive yards and has done well in line out. However, its becomming clear to me that o'driscoll is captain and leader of squad in all but name. Fantastic performance and people seem to look to him as leader.

    just becasue o'connell is captain, his place should not be certain. Alun wyn jones is the outstanding second row on tour and has to start. I think o'connell will start but i would not mind movinf croft to second row to accomodate both him and ferris.

  • Comment number 45.

    Shane Williams very poor performance yesterday proved to anyone who hadn't already realised it, that he is no longer a threat in World rugby, I stated after Wednesday's game that MONYE is not really a rugby player, rather a runner, and a fast runner, who if and when the ball gets into his hands can get make ground. In fairness television can fail to give an indication of players positioning when opponants have the ball but Monye never gives the appearance that he is in a correct defensive position. O'Driscoll's moving up caused the Golden Lions try, no doubt about that but where was Monye ???

    We have a problem on the wing. Big time, Fitzgerald looked way off the pace, maybe Kearney, but ?????

    Cannot at all agree with anyone who would select either Vickery or Powell. Vickery would be a liability both in the scrum and at the break-down, Powell is a one-trick pony, plain and simple and gives turnover ball very easily. Was he not on bench for Wales in the 6 nations ???

  • Comment number 46.

    morgham bowe is certainally nailed on to start at 14 as he played incredibly well in his 2 matches so far. monye is also a good player and (assuming fitz starts at 11 for a match and doesnt perform as well) he will definatly start against the boks. i entirely agree with you about s williams tho the magic has gone bad times as we could really have used his pace and creativity on the wing. i really dont think geech can have decided the 11 spot yet. there are 3 matches left before the 1st test and i'd like to see fitz and monye both getting starts at 11 so we can size them up evenly. i dont agree with you regarding geech seeing fitz as a centre as opposed to wing. there are a lot of people ahead of him in the pecking order if thats the case (bod, roberts, fluety, d'arcy and maybe even earls or hook) and i cant see a senario where we will need him to step in at 12 or 13

  • Comment number 47.

    With the breakdown being such an area of concern, and the Lions lacking in players who can compete with the Boks agression in that area, we should be looking at guys who can link up and move the point of attack. This will keep the Springbok back row guessing and give them a different problem to deal with. And this is where guys like mears and martyn williams have the edge over players like ross, powell and worsley who are all bangers -but we are not going to outBang the Springboks, if we go toe to toe with them we will just be playing them at there own game and we WILL lose. Subtlety and cunning are whats needed, we must out think the Springboks, and in players like mears, m williams, wallace, ellis, s jones/o'gara, flutey, o'driscoll, bowe and byrne we have some clever players. Combined with strength and some old heads with experience in the right areas, the lions have the capability to play an exciting, intelligent and ultimately winning brand of rugby.

    My test team (on form so far) would be:

    4)A W Jones
    7)M Williams
    10)S Jones (gets the nod over O'Gara for his defence)
    12)Roberts (when fit, Flutey wiil be him pushing hard for a test spot)

  • Comment number 48.


    How can you select, Monye, Vickery, Ellis, Wallace or Williams on form ?? I can only imagine that you watching different games to the rest of us.

    Not one of them have played well so far, some a little better than others and for shorts periods but none of them make the Test team on form at this time.

    Williams may make it on reputation and past form, Ellis probably on the bench but again only due to Blair's ineffectiveness and Wallace has been relegated in the back-row pecking order due to Ferris and Croft.

    A friend of a friend, currently in Sth Africa (lucky man !) reckons that both Flutey and Martyn Williams are more seriously injured then previously thought.

    Wednesday's selection will be very interesting.

  • Comment number 49.

    "I was at the Lions game in 2001 in Melbourne and for me the turning point was when Dafydd James was through in a two on one with the Aussie fullback and decided to try to beat him rather than put his support runner away."

    Are you serious!! Nobody remembers this situation as it's rating on the significance scale is pretty low, sums up your biased analysis, focusing in on one thing as more important than another done by your heros!

    I remember it well! JAmes was put clean through from a backs move from a lineout on halfway and had Jason Robinson outside him with only the fullback to beat. It was one of the many try oppportunities that the Lions screwed up in the 1st half. Then Richard Hill was taken out by Nathan Gray and the wheels came off the game and the series.

  • Comment number 50.

    why all the stick for Monye??
    whats he done game...two tries a good performance looks in good form.
    Is it because hes not irish or welsh..welsh fans can't get over the fact that their little prince shane williams is not producing??

  • Comment number 51.

    A lot of food for thought from all the above comments. Only 3 games in and some players have stepped up to the mark, others stepped away from it. There seems to be a consensus of opinion for quite a few players for the test team:
    15 Byrne (edges Kearney)
    14 Bowe (great form so far)
    13 BoD (awesome - should he be captain too?)
    12 Roberts (powerful, fast, intelligent)
    9 Phillips (great all-round game, maybe faster distribution?)
    5 AWJ (most impressive second row so far
    2 Mears (best of what can be a dodgy bunch)
    1 Jenkins (is he a prop? or a back row? or a centre? Does it all!)

    The other positions have created the most fierce debate. I have been impressed with evryone's contributions and reasons for their choices, so here's my 'rest of the team':

    11 Williams ( I know, I'm Welah! His performances so far will have been a great disappointment to him. He will rise to the occasion. Remember last year in SA?)
    10 Jones (great start to tour, unleashes backs, calm under pressure, solid kicker, knows Phillips and his game well)
    8 Heaslip (better all-round game than Powell)
    7 Williams (quick, devious, best we've got at breakdown)
    6 Croft (quick, devious best we've got at back row line-out option)
    4 PoC ( just about.. Needs to justify captain tag and find 6N form)
    3 Murray (for scrum balance and his mobility round the park)



    Sheridan, Ress, Hines and Powell will bring power late on, if needed. Ellis will bring aggression and quick service, Hook and Kearney cover every other back position between them - with Hook bringing a different style and top-class goalkicking.

    A 22 to compete well, IMHO!

  • Comment number 52.

    35 Morgham, 37 amic-99 & 42 Sweetchariot26
    Agree a lot with your comments/teams and interested to note that none of you have chosen POC. I also think it will be Hines and AWJ unless POC picks up his game. Despite Powell's poor game yesterday I think he will be on the bench for the sole purpose of running at the opposition from the 60 minute mark onwards. Who plays at No.11? Want to see more of 1/2 penny and Fitzgerald out there first. Hook's chances of making at least the bench are looking good.

  • Comment number 53.

    what are ye all on about what did hines do in a match that they won at a canter,at least poc is carrying offloading and winning lineouts,as for awj he's good but would anyone like to go back to ireland wales when poc cleaned him or maybe two weeks later when munster haammered ospreys!!??

  • Comment number 54.


    I agree Monye appears to be getting some unfair comments considering he scored two tries and played ok. The reason our little prince as you put it is being given consideration even after below par games is because he is currently World IRB player of the year, an accolade that you don't win without having star quality. His confidence is low at the moment but if he could just get that spark back, which will come through confidence, he is far superior than any other winger in the squad. The Boks will still fear S Williams as they know that given just a little opportunity he can create wonderful runs and can turn big games around. That's why he is still being considered.

    However, that confidence needs to kick in a bit quickly!!

  • Comment number 55.

    i watched the Ireland v Wales six nations game recently. POC and DOC absolutely DESTROYED the welsh lineout. they got about 9 welsh throws against the head and disrupted another three (the single most important factor in ireland win!). they did a similar thing against the scottish lineout the previous week. there isn't a better lineout operator (jumper + reader + caller) than POC in the business. no team including the southern hemisphere sides has gotten the better of the irish or munster lineout since he's been there.

    i can understand the critisism that POC is getting, but he's played two games in which none of the forwards has really stood out an he's still looked good. i'm a big fan of AWJ but i don't think he's quite the competitor that POC is when it comes down to the wire. witness POC's turnover at the end of the game on wednesday. indicitive of a player who is prepared to take responsibility when the heat is on. he's done the same thing for years for ireland and munster.

    being a captain isn't all about mouthing off during every break in play. BOD isn't a talker either. he lets his actions on the pitch set the tone in the same way that POC does. people critisied POC for not talking to keith earls during the first game. there isn't a person on that tour who knows keith better than paul. he is his captain for munster, they both come from limerck and paul used to play with his father. its frankly redicluous for a spectator/comentator to suggest that it was poor captiaining in light of these facts.

    unfortunately for AWJ he is the equivalent of POC in a team. on paper they look briliant together but in reality every team needs a dog like o'callaghan or hines in the engine room. even as a munster and ireland fan i'd still go for hines. he's an absolute beast if not quite as athletic in the lineout.

    i don't think you can blame POC for the teams performance on saturday either. the team had a really imbalanced back row with the two most one dimensional players on the tour in Powell and Worsley. a very inexperienced and light back line. frankly i think mcgeechan should take responsibility for the performance for picking a really poorly considered team.

    My Test Team:

    Jenkins (outstanding player, dead cert)
    Mears (best of an average bunch)
    Murray (as good now as vickery was years ago)
    POC (when the chips are down this is who you want on the pitch)
    Hines (beast! AWJ too similar to POC)
    Ferris (combins the speed of croft with worsely's bruttish defence)
    Wallace/Williams (depending on how you want to play)
    Heaslip (does more in the tight than people give him credit for and a good lineout option too)

    Phillips (can take too long to pass but class act otherwise)
    Jones (simply because of connection with Phillips)
    Fitzgerald (makes no mistakes, great defence, big boot, killer step)
    Roberts (might be found out against SA but defo best bet)
    BOD (indescribably good)
    Bowe (has been brilliant for club, country and lions this year. cert!)
    Byrne (class act, cert!)


    Rob Kearney

  • Comment number 56.

    I agree with the general selection of test team, apart from 1 or 2 positions.

    No.11 could turn out to be very interesting. I think you could see Fitzgerald make a claim for it. Should've been put there yesterday. Hopefully on Wednesday.

    Also, even though Roberts has ben awesome at 12 so far, we haven't seen anything of D'Arcy, who could yet come into the mix.

  • Comment number 57.


    From what i have seen, Moyne is quick, strong, defensively sound and has taken his tries well up to now. He has so far, been better than shane williams who is trying to force the play too often. Williams should still be a good option from the bench should the Lions need to change something in attack.

    Philips is quick and strong, good attributes for an impact player, but tactically he can be like a headless chicken sometimes, not playing heads up rugby and taking it on himself to often, come test time I feel he could be brutally exposed by someone of du preez's talent- even behind a pack taht was 2nd best in the contact area, Ellis showed that he is a great competitor and has a sharper rugby brain!

    I hope riki flutey is not to badly injured because although roberts looks good and is in pole position for a test spot, flutey has different talents that could be effective against the Boks hard hitting defence -I hope he gets a chance as i think he would dovetail nicely with BOD or roberts nicely in midfield.

  • Comment number 58.

    slotsie, ia gree fully that in the 6N and for munster O'Connell has been outstanding this season. As i said he was my pick as captain initially, ahead of BOD. The reality is that he is just not playing well enough to be picked on merit at the moment. We all know what a good player he is but he is just not doing it. The same applies to Shane Williams, on his day an absolute certainty to start but at the moment a liability. South Africa are one of the best sides in the world at the moment and we cannot afford to play anyone on the basis that they might do something unless there really are no alternatives. For the number 11 shirt, i still think Williams may well start but i would play Kearney, although the whole situation makes the omission of Armitage even more bizarre. If McGeechan sees Fitzgerald as a centre then we were light on wingers in the first place.

  • Comment number 59.


    You are a clown. Its obvious you would like a Lions team with an all Welsh contingent but stop embarrassing yourself with your hideosly binkered comments. Stick to supporting Wales.

    Powell was mediocre and lost the ball often. One dimensional. Way behind Heaslip in quality. Struggling at his club level.

    S. Williams - mediocre season and unimpressive on tour. Hes not being hung out to dry at all hes just not entitled to a starting placeon a reputation from a year ago.

    Rees - Hasnt been as impressive as Mears who hit almost every one of his lineouts and offloaded well in the loose against the Lion.

    Halfpenny - Jury still out.

    M. Williams - still in with a shout

    A.Jones - still in with a shout though Murray and Sheridan were impressive in the scrums

    Byrne, Roberts, Jones, Phillips and Jenkins have all put down good markers to start but when you start blaming poor performances by the rest of the Welsh on the lack of suport from the rest of the team its becomes a bit farcial. Powell didnt have a great game - end of. When Ferris was binned Worsely and Powell couldnt cope at the breakdown. Powells running wasnt hugely mpressive. Williams gave away a try and did very little else unless you cant failing to out run the opposition hooker. Rees has been mediocre and is only there because there is a lack of outstanding candidates in that departmnet. Mears has put down the best marker so far.

    Team for me so far should be:

    5.AW Jones

  • Comment number 60.

    Shane Williams has been done absolutely no favours in his hopes to make an impression on the game. for people who watch him every week he is the best player in the world with good ball and a little bit of space to work with. he was given none of those yesterday, and despite this he came infield to look for work in the midfield, ulike other wingers such as monye and bowe who would just stand on their wing and become a spectator. class is permanent, form is only temporary. form is also relevant, and i wouldnt say that relative to the majority of the backs on display this tour he is at all behind. if not in front of most of his rivals for the 11 shirt. on wednesday he came on with phillips inside him in the centre. still, when shipped the ball (and he is shipped poor ball by players such as bowe, expected to get the team out of a hole by skinning 5 players 'because he's shane') he actually sidestepped in total 7 players from a standing start each time. this may have come to nothing, but his ability to leave people for dead is unrivalled throughout rugby history, he just needs space. however, nobody noticed this. it is also a shame because if bowe or monye had done this people would be so quick to praise, but because williams has been doing it all his career it is not enough. he is still the world player of the year. dont write him off. hes the most dangerous weapon the lions have.

  • Comment number 61.

    Morgham has picked up the point I wanted to make. I am Irish. I can't honestly say that POC deserves a starting spot in the test team (and to tell you the truth, I am struggling to find a place on the bench for him). Ineffective as a ball carrier, no hands, leadership qualities missing. Good in the lineout but so is Croft, Hines, AWJ, Ferrisc etc etc etc. It pains me to say it but I wouldn't pick him. As for the debate re the front row, Gethin Jenkins has been the stand out prop not only on this tour (though need to see him play again) but for about the last 3 or 4 years in Northern Hemisphere rugby. Scum time and (esp) in the loose. Sheridan would be on the bench to kill of the Boks scrum in the final 20. Philips, Jones (though I would like to see o'gara play with Philips or Ellis rather than Mike Blair), Bowe, Roberts and BOD are the shoe ins with 1/2p or Kearney taking the other wing berth. Byrne is all over the 15 shirt.

    So then - as is obligatory.......

    1. Jenkins
    2. Mears (best of an ok bunch)
    3. Murray
    4. Hines
    5. AWJ
    6. Ferris
    7. Williams (or Wallace - need to see Williams again)
    8. Heaslip

    9. Philips
    10. Jones (see O'gara caveat above)

    11. Bowe
    12. Roberts
    13. GOD (sorry, BOD)
    14. The Irishman in me says Kearney, however I need to see 1/2p play in a good team
    15. Byrne

    16. Sheridan
    17. Ford
    18. Croft
    19. Wallace/Williams
    20. Ellis
    21. Hook (versatility)
    22. Kearney/1/2p

  • Comment number 62.

    Can someone tell me why Tom Rees is not in any touring teams this summer, I must have missed somthing about him. He dident even make the 'Saxon's?

  • Comment number 63.

    Starting team for first test will come from the following. Still some positions up for grabs.

    1) Jenkins - without a doubt best prop in NH
    2) Mears/Ford - Mears has played well but i think we'll see more of Ford before the first test. Rees is useless and may as well enjoy his holiday. Should never have gone in first place.
    3) Vickery/Murray - tough call here. I think McGeehan will go with Vickery though for his experience and power
    4) AW Jones - has been outstanding for the last 18 months and very impressive so far
    5) O'Connell - hasn't been great so far, but will up the intensity with better pack and better opposition. No way McGeechan will not play him in all 3 tests, despite what some people think.
    6) Croft/Ferris - both have been very good, and its a pity they both will not play. Croft will add an extra lineout option but Ferris will be more physical and agressive around the park. Both have pace.
    7) M Williams/Wallace - almost same arguement as above. Ball will be quicker if Williams play, but Wallace is way more powerful. To get balance correct, I think Croft and Wallace will play.
    8) Heaslip - V. good season and on form. Powell was useless yesterday. Didn't hit one ruck the whole match (although stood over a few).

    9) Philips - strong and full of pace, will be a danger to Boks
    10) Jones - pips O'Gara for his better defense. I think O'Gara will prob start second test
    11) ?????? - Monye has the head start. Williams has played his way out of the first test. Fitzgerald, Halfpenny and possibly Kearney would be best option as all are fast, skillful and offer a big boot to take pressure off Jones.
    12) Roberts/Flutey - Roberts has been excellent so far but don't think he will be as effective against the SA centresand back row. Flutey will get a chance with BOD and I think the pairing will speed up the ball and increase good offloads. Could go either way??
    13) O'Driscoll
    14) Bowe - outstanding so far
    15) Byrne - better all round player than Kearney, but if he doesn't work out, we definately see kearney start 2nd test.

    A lot of criticism of POC so far. Hasn't been outstanding but will definately step up when it counts. Maybe feeling the pressure of being captain though. S Williams has been terrible. Hasn't been anywhere near last season's form in 15 months. At 32 this will prob be his last chance to impress on international stage, and he is not taking it. Left wing is a tough call. Monye was good in last game, but I think he will loose out to one of the kicking wingers. Backrow is another tough call and it will come down to getting the balance right, whoever loses out will be hard done by.

  • Comment number 64.

    First test will be on June 20th. Realistically the team for the final warm-up match before that is unlikely to contain any of the test team, at least from the start. So, two more games to try out options. Most probably the Saturday team (next Saturday) will be closest to Test selection.

    Possible Wednesday selection... Kearney, Halfpenny Roberts Darcy Fitzgerald. O'Gara, Blair. Vickery Rees Jones Hines, O'Callaghan. Croft Heaslip Wallace.

    Hopefully Williams (Martyn)and Flutey will get a run out at some stage, presuming fitness. Important to secure a No.11 from this game.

  • Comment number 65.

    1 G jenkins
    2 R Ford
    3 E Murray
    4 P O Connell
    5 N Hines
    6 S Ferris
    7 D Wallace
    8 J Heaslip

    9 M Phillips
    10 J Hook
    11 U Monye
    12 J Roberts
    13 B O Driscoll
    14 T Bowe
    15 L Byrne

  • Comment number 66.


    At what point is it necessary to call me a clown?
    You must be a football fan, newly converted after ITV got the Rugby rights for the World Cup in 07, let your analysis do the talking:

    I'll adress your points point by point minus insults:

    "Its obvious you would like a Lions team with an all Welsh contingent but stop embarrassing yourself with your hideosly binkered comments. Stick to supporting Wales."

    Not at all, if England had won 2 Grandslams out of three and lost the other one by a tap tackle and a penalty kick playing a game plan that never got you out of second gear I'd probably say you should have quite a few players in the side. Add to that the fact that in many of the positions Wales have players who are world recognised, at the minimum 50/50's for their spot and at the worst a world class player "out of form" then I'm probably going to go for them for the additional reason they are used to playing a style that is THE only way we can threaten the Boks. Wales recently lost 20-15 to SA after dominating the match and losing to an intercept pass. SA were extremely troubeled in that game by two men in particular, Andy Powell and Shane Williams. Wales also tour regularly to South Africa and have players who have experienced the conditions as well as having a style of play suited to the hard fast grounds of South Africa.
    I note the performance of the other Nations:
    Scotland 10 South Africa 14, a great effort by the scots, Hines was a handfull and scored a try.
    Ireland haven't played them for years.
    Now we come to England, after getting to the world cup final after everyone knocked each other out and Australia truned up half asleep they never even looked like beating South Africa who sat off them and watched the limited creativity in their attack hit a green wall and instead Percy just kicked you off the pitch. It was like watching a teenage boy keep his younger brother at arms length by pushing on his forehead whilst he swung wildyly but never getting anywhere. Lots of effort though and really wanting it, power and passion, blah blah blah.
    South Africa then played you in your home fortress and gave you a record defeat at Twickers!!! You lost 42-6 at home to them and playing in the team were:
    Ellis I think came on...
    So who's biased? My views are based on this looking at the situation as a whole plus an analysis of a game...

  • Comment number 67.

    Personally i think that the team they fielded on wednesday was close to who should start in the tests . I think Sheridan is solid in the scrum but rubbish in all other aspects of the game where as Jenkins is better than Sheridan in the scrum and also in the breakdown situation . Paul O'Connel has dissapointed and has not played to his potential and thats why A.W.Jones and Hines should start 2nd Row . Stephen Jones is solid at 10 where as O'Gara is the weak link while defending , you can see this if you watched the Wales vs Ireland Match in the Six Nations where they ran his channel in the game and smashed him every time and James Hook can get over excited at times and try to do too much with the ball and ends up making mistakes .

    My Lions Team :
    3.Vickery or Adam Jones

  • Comment number 68.

    "Powell was mediocre and lost the ball often. One dimensional. Way behind Heaslip in quality."
    As said before, Heaslip offers you nothing more than sticking his bum out, Powell is an offensive forward and runs straight up looking to offload or crash a line.
    You then say:
    "When Ferris was binned Worsely and Powell couldnt cope at the breakdown."
    Yes, this was correct because he was playing with "tree cutter, no sorry I'm just a tree, I don't move" worsely. The rucking was terrible and the support for powell was bad. First half the english bouys in the pub were saying Powell was having a good game, second half he had no support and Wayne Barnes in an effort not to appear to favout the Lions starting ingoring the Cheetas players who were picking the ball off the ground whilst lying on the ground! Fair play to them they pushed it as far as they could but they were bound to. Powell is a good player, it's not biased to say that.

    Sahnee Williams - he is not getting a starting place from a year ago and I didn't know that he was having a mediocre season at all? Wales have played a kicking game and he hasn't got that much ball this year?

    Rees - not that interested in Hookers, you can have the best Hooker in the scrum and in the loose but if he can't throw, in the modern game that is death. Whoever throws the best should get in, simple. I never made a case for Rees.

    1/2 Penny, yes the jury is still out and will remain out if the guy gets not that much time tio aclimatise and plays in such a poor lions side, that's my point. His form was awesome so it's not him, it's the team!!!!

    M Williams, one of the only Lions forwards to win any ball, bad injury though I've heard, shame, he's a superb player in every aspect of the game and is a 3 x Lion. If he's really really injured it would be a tradgedy.

    A Jones is actually great, in Wales he was played for about 1 half at the start of his career as we worried about him in the loose and whether he'd last fitness wise then he started growing in the loose and lasted more and more of the game until we had no reason to take him off.
    He can play a bit of ball as well.

    Williams gave away a try? It was an intercept inside the oppositions 22!!! I mean if you have that attitude then you'd just put the ball up your jumper and hit the deck, oh I guess that's the type of Rugby you're used to at Twickers!!!

    No seriously, to not use Shane Williams and to go with the guys you have selected is like being in a war and trying to attack and army with clubs and sticks when you have a Draganof Sniper's rifle but you don't know how to use it. That's your fault not the equipment's.

  • Comment number 69.


    what has hines done to merit a position ahead of poc,and while i agree wit pickin jones over ogara,if your going to base it on that match why not look at poc destroying awj

  • Comment number 70.

    Great debate but some of the criticism of POC is silly.

    Hard to believe that Slausrugby can claim both to be Irish and that I can't honestly say that POC deserves a starting spot in the test team (and to tell you the truth, I am struggling to find a place on the bench for him). From Leinster Im guessing.
    He's been excellent in the lineout and has carried a lot of ball and made ground in the loose. And in case you forget he was the man competing in the ruck to win the last penalty against the Cheetahs. He needs to drive the pack and team forward more but that will come as the team settles.

    For those that think otherwise, he is the Lions captain and will start.

    For the battle of nationalities, its near certain that more Welsh players will start the first test than any other. For my money, the team at this stage would be:

    1. Jenkins
    2. Mears
    3. Murray
    4. AW Jones
    5. OConnell
    6. Ferris
    7. M William
    8. Heaslip

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

  • Comment number 71.

    So this SuperGedwards chap is arguing Adam Jones for inclusion ahead of Murray and Vickery!! And backing Andy Powell who played second XV schoolboy stuff yesterday, naive and ineffective with no plan B (ie offloading). The inability to acknowledge Shane W is past it is tedious. Yes, he was the IRB player of the year in 2008 but Mike Blair was in the top five too, and his form has suffered similarly. The 2005 Lions was picked on the basis of reputations and that was a catastrophe. Shane W is currently fifth choice out of five wingers on this Lions tour.

    Still think Hines and AWJ looks the best second row pairing just now. Also, POC volunteered he wasn't remotely interested in the Lions history in 2005, and only brushed up on it this year! This for an Irish captain who, when they won the Grand Slam this year, his first comment was to praise the people of Munster and then add "oh, Ireland too" as an aside.

    BOD's appreciation of the Lions is there for everyone to see and he's an absolute cast iron starter for the Tests. POC just doesn't 'get it', in my opinion. Still rate the guy as a player, especially for Munster, but BOD is a class apart. Suppose this argument is a bit dead now though!

  • Comment number 72.

    jenkins-useful against the backrow of the boks, and ads more than a lazy boks front row

    mears-spacial awareness plays like a centre, we dont need to go into contact with crashball against boks backrow

    vickery-sure up the front row

    poc-doesnt matter how he plays, borthwick for england-still has his place

    croft-got his place on tour with his games at second row in the hc and gp-why sacrifice either him or ferris hu have been stand out players so far! second row is lacking at ruck time otherwise

    ferris-powerful, can counter rocky elsom can definitly take the boks backrow

    wallace/williams-both class, wallace could edge it cus of work with ferris and heaslip

    heaslip-powell played heaslip in

    phillips-faster than ellis, blair lost his place first time out

    jones- could be hook in defence or ogara for kickin, jones happy medium

    fitzgerald-deserves it for the season he's played, will take his chance if it comes

    roberts-set in stone


    bowe-no contenders

    byrne-only one consistent in the games he's played, kearney can feel hard done by

  • Comment number 73.

    Shackleton's revenge has it nearest the mark i think.

    Way too many people on here have been seduced by the shiny game on Wednesday that as no similarity to a test series against the 'boks.

    And way too many think 1 game is enough to judge 'form'

    I'm pleased to say that our coaches know better.

  • Comment number 74.


    I am not suggesting A Jones should play instead of anyone, as this tour seems to have turned into one big trail game how you can you judge A Jones on a few 20 minutes spells? He's a good player so why shouldn't he play, who's better, with front rows these days they tend to take them off and freshen up the power towards the end anyhow or give another angle such as good loose forwards. They all might play. I was just commenting on the guy, he's been totally looked over and is a great player.

    I think it's perceieved wisdom to slate Powell and the reality is that he came on at the end of the weds game when everything had quietened down and then played in a game where he had no support, ferris in the bin, worsely MIA.
    To keep talking about him not looking to offload? Wierd comments, he holds the ball in 1 hand just for this reason, he is known for this, even his wikipedia entry (although obviously not the gospel) says:

    "Powell has a unique style of number 8 play. He is known for his high body position going into contact, always looking for the offload which is suited to Wales' style of attacking play."

    And guess what? You need the personnel in support for this to work, again. The support of the forwards WAS shocking against the Cheetas.

  • Comment number 75.

    i dont know where you have been for the last few months, i agree worsley is a ''treecutter'' the same treecutter that was playing for england when powell was destroyed everytime he tried to make ground, he was dropped for wales and cardiff, while heaslip won the grand slam and heiniken cup

    shane w on form should not get near the team he doesnt offer anything in atteack or defence apart from bowe nobody else on the wing has stood out at least the likes of fitzgerald or kearney would be defensively solid

  • Comment number 76.

    Some fair points SuperGedwards - Adam Jones does at least deserve a proper outing. And Worsley has been MIA for chunks of his two games. His and Wallace's non performances in the first game played a huge part in Blair's swift change from contender to also ran.

    The wikipedia entry for Powell means nothing to me, mostly as it could have been written by his mum. Powell is criticised by Welsh fans too for never offloading - it's a blindingly obvious flaw to his game hideously exposed on Saturday.

    mrskellyson's right too - Mears has been inked in for the test place on the basis of last Wednesday, for example. The pack had it so easy then, it was probably of more use for the management to watch Ford and Rees yesterday. Would anyone have been shocked or upset if Mears didn't make this Lions squad? Mears and his family apart, probably not. Hooker is for either Mears or Ford to grab.

  • Comment number 77.

    Joley6 - you're right - Leinster - though even I can't bring myself to have D'Arcy and Fitzgerald starting too. Is a shame that Elsom fella isn't from the home nations though.....

    POC is one dimensional and isn't proving to be the best or most inspirational leader. He's not doing anything wrong on the playing side (certainly not one to lose the ball in contact which is a plus in SA) but isn't making yards and, if I had the choice of fronting up to him or Nathan Hines I would plump for the former (though, to be fair, I would probably need a change of underwear for both!!). I would love POC to shift up a gear or two

  • Comment number 78.


    How come when ever a welsh player has a bad game it's because of everyone else but never them! Powell has been poor because of no support from 6 and 7? S Williams has been poor because he got no ball? Halfpenny for some other ridiculous biased reason! I suppose if Roberts ever has a bad game it will be because O' Driscoll didn't run the right supporting lines?

    S Williams has been poor, full stop! Powell is nowhere near Heaslip's level!

    If you're like a few other people here (and you may well not be) who say all Moyne has done is score 2 trys I'd go with a wing who only scores 2 trys in a game over a wing who just does 5 sidesteps on the spot before getting hit and losing ground! S Williams WAS the player of the year, the operative word being WAS! He is past it and should count himself lucky with a place on the test bench!

    I look forward to wikipedia link telling us that Williams is the greatest athlete to ever live (fact) and that Powell in fact created the universe out of his armpit hair!

    I only hope one day you realise how ridiculously biased your views are!

  • Comment number 79.


    Obv wikipedia is a completely unreliable sourse, I just meant that he is actually known for particularly his offloading, former sevens player, he's just been used as a battering ram and I'm sure has been told to go into contact and use the lines to open holes. It's his job.


    What do you think has happened to Shane Williams? Someone has sawn off his leg? He has had a labotomy? As soon as the Lions is over then and he returns to the Wales side and plays really well just like after 2005will you just say he has "re-discovered his form"? Don't you get it?
    This used to happen to John Barnes at Liverpool, he was the best player in the 1st division and then he'd play for England and wouldn't get any ball and spend most of his time tracking back. It happens currently with England midfielders and the general astonishment is "why can't they re-discover their club form for their country"? Do you think they have spells put over them or is it that when they are in the former team they play in a style and with personnel that are better and less rigid? Is it at all possible that they are missing the ingredients and support needed to perform in that manner? If you want a paint by numbers style of rugby where it's a few passes at most and then contact, ok no probs, only people happy will be eating biltong. If you want a more cohesive, phase type game with proper rugby and gaps being created you know who to pick. I said this before BOD and JROB were picked and wasn't at all suprised when they linked up. The scary thing is that if one had been with another of the centres it may have never happened and they'd be in the position the others are in.
    That isn't biased, it's just using the thing in my head called a brain.

  • Comment number 80.


    You have no comprehension of the idea of man marking in sport in general.
    Man marking as an option has fallen out of favour in sport due to the fact that although it denies the player marked any game the player doing the marking has nothing to contribute. If you are looking to play tight and hold on then fair enough. England competed in that game due to this tactic and to be honest I think it was pretty revolutionary of Johnson to put a 10 in as an 8 every scrum and an extra man in midfield who can tackle. Worsely didn't play out of his skin he was a spare body, he was put behind the centres and in that way any of the set moves couldn't create a hole as he acted like an advanced full back with the real full back sweeping deep. In this way he had absolutely nothing to think about besides the runner who was JRob mostly and occassionaly Powell. All of the decoy runs and fades were ignored by him and he tackled those two when they recieved the ball. No as fantastically amazing as that is it really has little to do with Worsely playing a blinder and more about Johnson's tactical nouse. He got a Lions call up on that as has proved how much of a wise decision it has been ever since.
    Do you see what I did there? I used my brain, I didn't hear the word "treecutter" from some sky sports jingoistic useless commentator and repeat it to people.

  • Comment number 81.

    I know this is a horrible thing to admit but a part of me is hoping for an injury to a back-rower so that Ryan Jones can be called up, I think the Lions are in need of a solid no.8. Powell looses the ball in contact on too many occassions for such a big unit. Heaslip is a good option but I think he'll get swollowed up by the Boks over 80 mins. I thought Ferris stood out and will be in pole for the 6 position, though Croft is a very good lineout option but lacks Ferris' physicality in defence.

    Many people are sighting Powells 'running down a blind avenue and turning over the ball', which resulted in the oppositions try, but personally I thought Fitzgeralds inability to clear the ruck was to blame, unfortunately he was powder puff throughout at this area and should be chosen in his true position of wing. Darcy, who should have been chosen in the centre alongside Earls would have faired much better. Fitzgerald should have started instead of Shane Williams, perhaps the balance of the team would have been better as a result.

    Personally I thought POC was good, though shouldnt be guaranteed his place on captaincy alone, I also thought Murray came through well, apart from a lack of vision in midfield at times, he seemed to be destructive in the scrum, though you have to be an old front rower to quantify that comment.

    At the end of this series, nobody will really remember these games, so as long as they keep winning, the result and the trial combinations will matter more than the performnce as a whole. Just to enter into the wing debate, I think Kearney should be chosen, safe hands and a good boot, and more than enough gas to exploit any open spaces, though Moyne does look a good bt at present to start.

  • Comment number 82.

    In the whole this article seems spot on. However i believe it and some of the comments are a little harsh S Williams has yet to play outside BOD who makes any winger look good, Monye benefitted from this scoring 2 tries that any winger worth anything would score. Monye also however ran up blind alleys dropped balls and failed to pass to men in space when it was patently obvious to be the right decision. Back 3 is still up for grabs with Byrne and Bowe as nigh on certs but still a chance for anyone to claim the 3rd wing spot.

    In order to see the best we need to play them all outside BOD and Roberts because clearly that will improve any wings performance.

  • Comment number 83.

    Supergedwards, sorry to point this out again, but you are only as good as your last game. if we're going to go back to football analogies, does anyone remember beckham in the wally's reign? was he worse than useless...yes...why? was he out of position? did he play with bad players? no, was he in a system that didnt suit him? no. do you explain that ineffeiciency? poor form. easy. now however, he's played his way, through grit and determination, back into the england squad, and team. fair play.

    back to williams? has he played with any grit or determination? no. so does he deserve yet another go ahead of someone like fitzgerald or monye? no. stop glorifying on past credentials mate, its making you look biased and silly. williams has had no good effect (aside from 2 good broken field runs in the 1st game) in 3 outings, bowe has, monye has, even phillips did when found on the wing towards the end of weds' game. williams, atm, has done nothing to enhance his own reputation. he doesnt deserve to start, and atm doesnt even deserve the bench ahead of fitzgerald, monye, hook (as utility back) or kearney. im a wing, played at junior regional level (not brilliant, but not bad either) and shane simply isnt pulling his weight, i've yet to see him enter a ruck that forms on his inside channel (cardinal sin number1), he hasn't cut in on any lines when theres been space behind and an overlap isnt going to work, and defensively he's been brushed off too often. intercept passes are part and parcel, they happen to everyone, but its the bread and butter he needs to do better, and right now, he's simply not delivering. sorry, but THAT's fact.

  • Comment number 84.


    Your constant retalliations are seriously beginning to tarnish this decent blog. While I agree with quite a few of your points, I think you have to let a couple of things go. Firstly, Powell and Worseley were as bad as eachother on saturday, you can't just blame Powell's below par performance on worseley's inactivity. Worseley is certainly out of a test squad place,clearly it is not enough just to be a good tackler against the Boks so he's out. Powell has shown nothing as of yet to warrant a starting or a squad place. yes he runs hard and direct, but based on what he has done thus far against the club sides, he doesn't justify inclusion. I don't think the Boks would have any more trouble dealing with him than they would with Ferris, who has certainly put his hand up, and could fill the number 8 position if Heaslip does not step up. He might possibly have an impact of the bench, but I then think you're going to have a hard time accomodating the likes of Williams, Wallace, Croft, Ferris and Heaslip, all of whom I think should be in the test squad.
    As for Shane Williams, he has clearly proved himself in the past againt the Boks and I agree that for several players like him on this tour, he has not played in a backline which would see the best of him. But that certainly isn't an argument to put him in the test squad. All you can do is do the best on the day and players like Monye and Bowe, albeit having played in a backline with BOD and Roberts, have both scored tries, and if this test team is going to be picked on form thus far, then if you pick Shane Williams you have simply ignored the whole premise for picking your team in the first place. Monye and bowe have scored tries, they have both come infield to look for work, notably Bowe, and they have been sound defensively, although I'm not totally convinced by Monye.
    I think it's time we put an end to this Powell/Williams argument. Both are good players who haven't quite had the opportunity to play in a midweek team with real cohesion, but that's life, and based on their play so far they won't be starting. Adam Jones I agree is a good player, although I think it is between him and Vickery for a place on the bench, with Murray starting.
    Hopefully you agree with what I've said and we can stop this rant which has taken up the entire blog.

  • Comment number 85.

    My Test 22

    15 - Byrne
    14 - S Williams
    13 - BOD
    12 - Roberts
    11 - Bowe
    10 - Jones
    9 - Phillips

    8 - Heaslip
    7 - Williams
    6 - Croft
    5 - AWJ
    4 - POC
    3 - Murray
    2 - Mears
    1 - Jenkins


    16 - Sheridan
    17 - Ford
    18 - Hines
    19 - Wallace
    20 - Ellis
    21 - Kearny
    22 - Hook


    Ferris just misses out as is too similar a player to Croft and i wanted the option of Wallace to replace Williams if things arent working at 7 and he can also (just about cover 8)

    Hines is unlucky not to start but the other 2 are nailed on certs (unless this talk of AWJ and POC playing for the same position is true which i hope it isnt)

    S Williams he is a game breaker to those who say he has lost pace i asked M Williams this

    Q: Who is the quickest guy on tour?

    There hasn't been a flat-out race yet, but I'd go for either Ugo Monye or Shane Williams. I wouldn't know which one to put my money on though.

    Yes he has been unimpressive so far but he is yet to get a real shot outside Roberts and BOD. Neither wing looked good on saturday because they were outside a wing and Earls who is still trying too hard to prove himself. It is my opinion that Shane is still the best option we have. (i wasnt impressed by Monye see my above post)

  • Comment number 86.

    As a Welshman living in South Africa; ultimately just want the Lions to win the series whoever's selected.

    Comparing the last two games it's obviously not like for like. Firstly the Cheetah's are a far better side than the G Lions; secondly the team selected for the G Lions game had a balance to it as opposed to Saturday's - very inexperienced centre partnership and a one dimensional back row.

    Why wasn't D'rcy brought on earlier we lacked penetration in the midfield. Continuity in the midfield is vital it generally creates the space out wide. The game against the inept G Lions was a prime example how much space did Bowe & Monye get in this game compared to the wingers on Saturday. To be honest any international winger, worth their salt, would've scored Monye's tries. I was at the game the amount of time and space the B & I Lions were afforded was incredible hence the scoreline. The wingers in Saturday's game were given nothing.

    Obviously there are still test selection headaches ahead due to injuries and form. As a former back rower (albiet not to this standard) I was disappointed in the back rows performance, as a unit, on Saturady bearing in mind the dominance we had at the set pieces. We were slow to the breakdown, lacked variety and generally got isolated. I know I might get some stick for this (but I don't know who else there is) but surely the management should be looking at bringing the likes of Ryan Jones into the squad as a 3rd no 8 option (not 6)? He hasn't had the best of season's generally speaking, but he is a proven campaigner at test match level when it matters (kept heaslip quiet during the 6N finale). For me he's more of a ball handling no 8 rather than head down and drive and therefore offers the selectors variety - also gives another genuine line out option. Although I'm Welsh I'm not a fan of Powell - Wales look better balanced with Jones at 8.

    Test team so far: 1. Jenkins, 2. Mears, 3. Vickery/Murray, 4. AWJ/Hines, 5. POC (obviously capt), 6. Croft/Ferris, 7. Wallace/Williams (still injured), 8. Heaslip/Jones (if drafted in), 9. Phillps, 10. Hook, 11. Kearney, 12. Roberts/Flutey, 13. BOD, 14. Bowe, 15. Byrne

    Vital week ahead.

  • Comment number 87.

    Have to say that I think 6 will be the hardest decision for the coaches atm. Croft does have terrific pace and is very good at the lineout but Ferris has shown himself to be a really physical 6 with some new found pace, something I had no idea he even had. Think Williams is burning himself everytime he goes on to the pitch, but Monye is not a complete test winger. Would like to see Fitzgerald get a run out on the wing. Kearney may also be an option particularly if the Boks go for Morne Steyn, a kicking fly half, at 10 as his skills under the high ball are at least the equal of Byrne. Hook won't start at 10, will either be Jones or O'gara, most likely Jones for me because of his partnership with Philips, the nailed on 9, for Wales. Backline, bar the 2nd wing place, is sown up for me as roberts and O'driscoll are nailed on and Bowe has been the best player on tour so far for me. Byrne is nailed on too. Sheridan is not mobile enough for the test team and will become a midweek player. Jenkins and Murray will start at prop, Vickery will be on the bench because he can cover both sides. AWJ will start beside O'Connell, who will start despite all the rubbish spoken above. then its either Williams or Wallace + Heaslip. I worry if we go for an all irish backrow because i'm not sure that Ireland could cope with the Bokke back row so why would that be any diff in a Lions shirt. However Powell is the most overrated player on tour. People talk about his physicality, however all i saw on Sat was him running down 10 and 12 and not breaking the gain line. Would be very disappointed if he made the test squad.

  • Comment number 88.

    I'm quite suprised at the number of people calling for Ryan Jones to be drafted in. I'm a proud Welshman but i think calling Ryan up is a backward step in my opinion. He, like S Williams hasn't played to his usual high standards,and lets not forget it was Andy Powell who pushed him out of the no.8 jersey for Wales in the 6nations. He has looked tired and slow and ineffective all season for Wales and the Ospreys, not a patch of the player who was on fire against NZ in 2005.He came off against USA on saturday after 20 minutes with a head injury so i can't see him being included. Surely we can live with the back row players we already have, otherwise stick AWJ there, i'm sure he'd make a great number 8.

  • Comment number 89.

    Interesting that most people seem to pick the same 22 if not the same starting 15. It is almost a case of who has played themselves out of contention in some positions. With regards to the wingers who ended up playing outside fitzgerald/ earls, this was almost certainly down to the injury to Flutey. I feel much sorrier for Fitzgerald, played out of position in maybe his only chance to impress and being paired with Earls, who just doesnt look up to it mentally (yet anyway).

    The real big thing is that in 10 or 12 positions we have real options and several guys who are playing really well. I just really worry that Powells non performance gives us a problem at 8. Time will tell....

    On a separate question, other than Ryan Jones who people have already discussed, who else would be really handy to have on tour with hindsight? Armitage for me, bearing in mind the wing problems (or even Cueto at a push). Thoughts?

  • Comment number 90.


    Isn't the point of the blog to debate the issues. I could instead say "I think BOD and JROB should play Centre" but I did that before and that debates kinda over. The most serious aspect of debate at the moment is:
    1) Dodgy backrow
    2) Wings, who?
    3 Second row, although the fact that POC is captain gets rid of that debate
    4) other front row...

    Powell and Williams are at the forefront of that debate as they represent the most threateneing players albiet not convicning in some people's minds, ie you could go with a safer less worrysome version ie Heaslip and Monye, lose the test by 8 points and say we came close? It's really up to a manager and squad espec when playing development games to into a Test against the world champions with some kind fo plan, a plan mainly to play Rugby at a threatening level which wil beat SA. I see the use of these players and seeing what they have to offer wasted opportunities because the safer boring option will always win when you have brief moments in useless midfields.


    Talking about Beckham not playing well sums up what I said, under MaClaren he was shafted, told that "he'd lost his pace, blah blah blah" Mclaren wanted to court populism and thought he had a new winger in the shape of Lennon so he just got rid of a threat. The "clever papers" (The SUN etc) followed suit. Then it was perceieved wisdom to say he was bad even though he was before being dropped the best England performer. He then said ok I'll just prove I'm good and played well for his club, he then got picked again. Nothing really changed with him, the team, the shape, the attitude toward him, the idioyt managers who came and went, they were the paassive elements.
    Worrying about S Williams' defensive duities re: rucking is actually a comical way of illustrating my point, is that really the most useful way of using his attributes, he's just not "getting stuck in". Honestly, it reminds me of when Gregory bought Ginola at Villa and then got annoyed that he didn't spen his time tracking back!! I mean you know what he does, you knew that before, he was very good at it so why put him in a formnation or structure that gives him no ball but makes him do things that really aren't the best part of his game? That's the manager's fault and the fault of the style of play. Let's stop talking about football on a Rugby blog, my grandfather would turn in his grave at the mention of the "wrongly shaped ball". Ps please don't talk about playing wing at school, it's sort of as irrelevent as saying "I like strawberries"

  • Comment number 91.


    Excellent team - I'd swap A Jones and Murray and Powell with Heaslip both on and off the bench and whoever starts and comes on and off will be a coin toss. This team would really test SA. Hines to come on also.

  • Comment number 92.

    I think Saturday's game exposed the Lion's lack of any real depth at international class openside.

    In credit to Worsley, he is a strong tackler of trundling objects and he gives a lot of honest sweat and toil but he is not, in my opinion, an international class openside (a not really a top club one either). He is a no.6 and I think he lost his pace, such as he had any, a few years ago. He is an honest warrior but he was out of his depth against the Cheetahs backrow and Broussow took him to the cleaners. Brossouw has not even made the Boks squad.

    The Lions have taken a big risk by only taking Williams and Wallace as regular test opensides.

    The aged, small but classy Martin Williams is currently injured. Will he be match fit for the beefy Boks of Burger, Spies & Juan Smith? Doubtful.

    David Wallace is top class but can't play every match. The Lions will be rocked in every match at the breakdown unless they get another decent no. 7 on a plane.

    Leicester, Leinster, Ireland & current Heineken-Cup-winning flanker Shane Jennings would seem to be the obvious choice. He should be running to the next available departure gate to SA.

    Without some sort of speed to the breakdown and parity there it could be a very long tour for the midweek and test teams.

    Powell, although physical, lost too much ball in contact and does not display enough match smartness to make the test side.

    Currently the best backrow forwards are the Ireland trio en masse: Ferris, Wallace & Heaslip. But a back-up no. 7 is required in double quick time. Croft is too tall to get quickly down and dirty at no.7 against the physical Boks on the floor.

    Get Shane Jennings a one-way ticket & quick or this could be a very long and painful tour through the midweek struggles and test challenges.

  • Comment number 93.


    Based on what we've seen from the warm-up games so far, how is it playing safe to pick Heaslip and Monye? They've taken their chances and played well. It's not a wasted opportunity to play them seeing as they've performed better so far. To pick Powell and Williams as things currently stand would make it completely pointless for Heaslip and Monye to be on the tour. You can't keep resorting back to this stupid line of argument saying that Powell and Williams should be picked because you think that they'd be able to conjure up something really audacious. Teams are never picked on that basis, and I don't know how you can assume picking Monye and Heaslip would lose the game by 8 points. The game could be lost for any number of reasons so it's pointless to even hypothesise.
    The back row isn't really open to that much debate, the openside is between Wallace and Williams, although with Williams' gammy shoulder it's favouring Wallace. Blindside is either going to be croft or Ferris, and number 8 will either be heaslip or ferris, probably the former. Whichever of those players mentioned do not make the starting 15, I believe they'll make the bench, which would rule Powell out of a squad place, at least until he can prove to the management against western province that he can truly do some damage.
    At least Shane has been picked for the Sharks game on wednesday outside BOD and Roberts, so we might as well wait till after that game to talk about who has the best shot at playing wing along with Bowe.

    I agree that the second row is more or less nailed on. I can't see them dropping POC and AWJ is a certainty. The fact that they supposedly play in the same position imo doesn't matter, I'm sure after 20 odd years of rugby they can work things out between them.

    I agree that the whole point of blogs is to debate and hear other people's opinions, but as I said previously, this argument which is bordering on the ignorant, is a waste of time, at least until after the Sharks game on wednesday. Please leave it at that.

  • Comment number 94.

    Just seen the side for wednesday. I would imagine this is S Williams last throw of the dice. If he doesn't perform then i think he just as well come home, but playing on right outside Roberts and BOD could be that confidence booster he needs. An on form S Williams will have any Lions fan licking their lips with excitement

  • Comment number 95.

    lol praise from super gareth edwards :) and im an english man.

    Im actually a big fan of the hairy troll and was tempted to put him on the bench ahead of Sheridan but believe Sheridan could make a greater impact later in the game ... especially if someone slaps him about a bit before he goes on.

    However i am not convinced with Powell would like to see how he would perform alongside the other test candidates though as his losing the ball is as much the fault of his support as it is his own

  • Comment number 96.

    I agree, if Williams doesnt step up this time then he may as well just enjoy the rest of his holiday! My only worry is that with him playing so many games is there a danger of the wings who do start the test being a bit short of game time? If Monye/ Bowe play then they will have maybe 2 games each? I understand them wanting to play Williams into from but not at the expense of other players. Prob also O'Gara's last chance, bearing in mind form of Jones and Hook. Looks a good side though, at least half of the test XV and nice to see Fitzgerald getting a game in position!

  • Comment number 97.

    LINE UP to play the Sharks

    Lee Byrne
    Shane Williams
    Brian O'Driscoll
    Jamie Roberts
    Luke Fitzgerald
    Ronan O'Gara
    Mike Phillips

    Gethin Jenkins
    Lee Mears
    Adam Jones
    Alun-Wyn Jones
    Paul O'Connell
    Tom Croft
    David Wallace
    Jamie Heaslip

    Matthew Rees
    Phil Vickery
    Simon Shaw
    Joe Worsley
    Mike Blair
    Riki Flutey
    Leigh Halfpenny

    Strong partnerships all over the pitch. I am looking forward to this match alot now. No excuses for Shane if he fails to perform. Also very interesting to see the partnership of Phillips and O'Gara

  • Comment number 98.

    pleased to see fitzgerald is getting another run out, agree with ellfromgavenny this has to be shane williams last chance. he's the only player to have featured in all 4 games with 3 starts he MUST perform. good looking strong team though should be in line for another big win

  • Comment number 99.

    by the way is it just me or are we overdue on martyn williams column? bryn?

  • Comment number 100.

    Am I the only person a little worried about No.9 ?

    Phillips is the only decent scrum half on the tour, but he is only half the player he used to be. If he's injured ( which has happened quite a lot recently ) we're stuffed. I thought Ellis was very poor on Saturday. He's not even good enough for his club at the moment and it shows. He's got the slowest pass in world rugby and is very predicatble. Yes, he plays the percentages fairly well, but we really should be looking for more than that. Jones, Howley and Dawson all showed how much more you can get from a scrum half on previous tours. A quick dart, a break, taking on the'll get none of that from Ellis and Phillips is a less physical player than he used to be.Is it too late to get Dwayne Peel to come over ? If you are looking for impact from the bench, a quick detart or feint, he's the man.


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