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Ruthless Lions bare their teeth

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Bryn Palmer | 22:02 UK time, Wednesday, 3 June 2009

After the rustiness of Rustenburg, jubilation in Johannesburg.

The Lions needed a big statement to kick-start their tour and at Ellis Park, the spiritual home of South African rugby, they certainly delivered one.

It was barely a third full on Wednesday, but will be bursting at the seams in a little over a month when the tourists return there for what could be a series-deciding third Test.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The Golden Lions are not the Springboks, far from it. They looked exactly like a team that struggled in the Super 14, have sacked their coach, and were missing key players.

Ian McGeechan is far too wise to think that scoring 10 tries, five in each half, against limited opposition means this pride of Lions are going to blow the Boks away.

But Wednesday's performance might have at least put the first hint of doubt in the world champions' minds.

Two and a half weeks before the first Test in Durban, this was just the fillip the Lions needed.

After struggling with the altitude on Saturday, the Lions shook off their lethargy in sparkling fashion with a performance full of precision, power and pace.

Lions wing Tommy Bowe takes on the Golden Lions defence

It is difficult to think of a single player who didn't put his hand up as a Test candidate, such was the collective cohesion and quality.

As is usually the way of these things, it all started up front.

Barring the Lions' very first line-out, which went awry, the set-pieces were rock solid. Props Gethin Jenkins and Phil Vickery anchored the scrum superbly and hooker Lee Mears found his targets at the line-out.

Whereas on Saturday captain Paul O'Connell called virtually every throw to himself, here Mears had the spring-heeled Tom Croft and Alun-Wyn Jones to aim at, with Nathan Hines and replacement Andy Powell providing further options.

Jenkins, Vickery and Mears were also much in evidence around the park, as were Wyn Jones and Hines, while Croft made a mockery of the decision to leave him out of the original squad with a barnstorming display, capped by a superb finish for his try.

The Springboks may have Pierre Spies, but in Croft, Stephen Ferris - his thunderous finish from halfway completed the rout - Jamie Heaslip and Powell, the Lions also have big men who can shift through the gears.

With such a solid platform to work from, the Lions backs found room to strut their stuff, and did so with ruthless precision.

Half-backs Mike Phillips and Stephen Jones were in total command, and will take some shifting as the likely Test pairing, despite Ronan O'Gara's solid opening effort.

Jones also linked superbly with Jamie Roberts and Brian O'Driscoll, another combination that sparkled on their first outing together, the angles of running and support lines a joy to behold.

If Roberts and O'Driscoll are already inked in for the Tests, Tommy Bowe should be joining them.

When two tries are the least impressive aspects of a winger's work, he must be doing something right, and Bowe created four more tries with his appetite for work, clever running and sumptuous offloads.

Ugo Monye also showed searing pace and can be pleased with his two-try Lions debut, one defensive lapse apart when he and O'Driscoll got sucked in for the Golden Lions try.

Replacement number eight Andy Powell urges his team-mates on in the closing moments.jpg

So far ahead were the Lions, they could afford to field Phillips and Bowe in the centre by the end, and scored a further 14 points when Monye's departure had reduced them to 14 for the final eight minutes.

Despite all the attacking prowess on show however, what must have pleased the coaches more than anything was the defensive solidity right up to the final whistle.

Leading 67-10 approaching the final knockings, the tourists could have been forgiven for slacking off.

But the likes of Jenkins in particular were still throwing themselves into the fray on their own line with such relish that the hosts were denied a second try at the death.

Not one player took a backward step, demonstrating exactly the spirit and survival skills that will be required come the Tests.

The Lions are up and running, they have bared their teeth, and the juices are well and truly flowing. The Cheetahs are next up in Bloemfontein. Bring on Saturday.


  • Comment number 1.

    just what the doctor ordered. great cohesion throughout a side that looked like it already had a point to prove. roberts looks a certainty for the test spot, but i'd like to see flutey get his chance if he's fit by saturday... competition for places can only be a good thing though to my mind...

    job done tonight anyroad....

  • Comment number 2.

    A cracking performance. Power, precision, passion.

    I thought Tommy Bowe was excellent. His support play, intelligence, off loading was top notch.

    Golden Lions were poor, obviously shorn of a few key players and lacking the quality to bring it to the Lions.

    The picks for the next few games will be interesting, how will the test side develop, who is in the side after the first two?

  • Comment number 3.

    Cracking! This is just what the tour is all about - people stating their case for inclusion in the Test side with a scintillating performance from 1 to 22. Still too early to cement a Test squad but plenty for the coaching team to think about - a healthy situation indeed.

    Anyone else spot comparisons with 97?

  • Comment number 4.

    I was impressed.

    I've never seen a Northern Hemisphere team show such great handling skills - even France. It was a treat!

    Players from all four nations weighed in, team spirit and competition for places seems healthy - bring on the next match!

  • Comment number 5.

    An utterly fantasic display from the lions, despite being against avergae opposition-4 years ago they may have found this game a struggle, not this time!!
    well done!

  • Comment number 6.

    Superb. It may not have been the strongest opposition, but the scoreline speaks for itself. Excellent performance from the front 5, at least 3 or 4 of whom should be favourites for the test team. Likewise the phillips, jones, roberts, o'driscoll, bowe combination looked very strong individually and as a unit.

    Still a lot of work to be done though, and realistically the large majority of the test places are still up for grabs.

  • Comment number 7.

    It was brilliant to see the backs gel so quickly, and if anything I was disappointed I didnt get to see more of Bowe in the centre. at the start of his career he was intent on running from deep, but since I saw him perform brilliantly at 13 for ulster, I have always been intrigued to see if he could feature in this position at test or even lions level!
    Although there were some great tries, another team with a better half-back pairing and better backline in defense would have easily kept out a few (only a few) of these tries, and perhaps been on the front foot more, especially with the penalties that the lions gave away at the breakdown in the first half.
    also, with the possibility of having to chase a game in future, it is conceivable that some of the wide, flat passes on show tonight could be intercepted in future.
    Phillips' decision making was a lot better tonight, and aswell as there being good running lines from the backs, the second row, along with Jenkins and heaslip played really well.

  • Comment number 8.

    PJL90 - Bowe has played a few games this year for the Ospreys in the centre and looked really good, I think with the balance of this Lions squad he should be given a wing spot but it is good to know that he is a more than capable centre in case of injury or yellow card.

  • Comment number 9.

    I was on holiday in NZ in March/April and I watched the Chiefs V Lions Super 14 match. Look up the score if you don't already know it, and you will find that the Lions were in the lead for most of the match. It was a tight gameagainst the eventual runners up which shows they are a useful side. I know they are missing some players and a coach but at the end of the day these guys can be a useful side. It would be a very different proposition playing the Bulls but a very encouraging display none the less.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think the test backline is almost sorted:

    9 Phillips, 10 Jones, 11 Williams/Monye 12 Roberts, 13 O'Driscoll, 14 Bowe 15 Byrne

    The back row is the biggest selection headache for Geech and I think no candidate has a test shirt right now.

  • Comment number 11.

    Full ponty, I think thats the backline based on displays so far, we've still got a few games to go before the Tests. The 11 shirt is up for grabs for sure. We haven't seen Fitzy yet. Would prefer Monye over Williams as he's a big strong runner and much better defensively.

    I think Jenkins and Mears have almost certainly got themselves in the front row. AWJ had a big game too.

    Tough calls for the Lions management, but we need to see the boys tested more than last night to really make some calls.

    Whilst Roberts has been excellent would like to see the combo of Jones, Flutey and BOD as a variation.

  • Comment number 12.

    "Whilst Roberts has been excellent would like to see the combo of Jones, Flutey and BOD as a variation"

    Why do people persist in trying not have to have Roberts in the side? He is excellent (as you stated) he is a fantastic player and was the man of the match. Yes I know he was man marked by Worsely against Egland but that is a little ridiculous, if you put a man on someone there is a hole eslewhere or a part of the marker's game is taken away and so in a way he did a job. To think of him as just a big guy who crashes into people is also a very limited analysis,; he has a fantastic step and fantastic hands out of the tackle and if people want to find the BOD (ie Lions 2001) there he is. The "Real Test Centre partnership" as I stated before has been proven and that is why Geechs was so depserate to keep them on ice, even playing a wierd team with Phillips in the centre.
    I thought Monye was terrible, he scored tow tries, one where he was out wide and ran in a straight line and it was an easy finish and another training ground move from the centres where he was given the ball and again had to run in a straight line. He should really try a career in NFL as a wide receiver as his game awarness (ie passing to other backs when there are overlaps) was terrible, he lost the ball in comntact numerous times, gave away turn over ball that Habanna would kill us on and was the only one of the backs that didn't link up well. He looked like a league player in the rucks and gave away penalties. I was surrounded by English fans in the pub shouting this as well so it isn't Welsh biase, I just think he has no Rugby brain at all but is fast and good at running in a straight line.
    Test Team:
    1 A Jones 2 Mears 3 G Jenkins 4 O'connel (watch out, Hines was good)
    5 A W Jones 6 Croft 7 M Williams 8 Heaslip (wide open) 9 Phillips (not even close 10 Jones (8 out of penalties, proper game controlling, deceptively hard guy) 11 Shane Williams (get him playing in a game where the team aren't sitting off and it's a damp squib and he'll set the world on fire, the moves in the first half if he had been in instead of Monye he would have had 5 tries) 12 Roberts (awesome) 13 Bod (awesome, gets to play with other good rugby brains and it's awesome to watch 14 (wide open, Bowe is ordinary but he links up well 15 Byrne (nailed on)
    Now imagine the link play with Byrne's lines coming off the shoulders of the 2 centres, lovely lovely rugby. How did my boy Croft do? Yeah, awesome that's how.

  • Comment number 13.

    Good job done on the Golden Lions. A little more of the same. It became a bit of a procession towards the end and there were chances to move the ball around with fluency and to practice drills.
    There is still a lot of rugby to be played before the first test, with probably each player getting at least another run out before then. Some players haven't even played yet; D'arcy, O' Callaghan, Luke Fitz, Lee Halfpenny, Simon Shaw. Although they aren't everybody's natural selection there are obligations to the fixtures in midweek. Winning becomes a bit of a habit so maybe we'll see these guys on Saturday, with fire in their bellies and points to prove.

  • Comment number 14.

    Am I the only one who is wondering whether POC is worth his place in the test starting 15? It is starting to look like they chose the wrong captain.

  • Comment number 15.

    Let's see what the Lions do against a decent side like the Sharks before reading to much into a win against the Golden Lions and the upcoming Cheetah game.

  • Comment number 16.

    SuperGedwards9 - I agree with you Roberts/BOD combo. It's early doors but it looks pretty lethal and some similarities with the Henderson/BOD partnership of '01 although Roberts is twice the player Hendo was. Flutey could come off the bench with 15/20mins to go and use those quick feet of his to stretch the Boks defense.

    Totally disagree with your thoughts on the wingers though. Bowe was outstanding last night. He offers plenty more options than Williams who really needs to start re-discovering his magic touch of a few seasons ago. Left wing is the only spot in the backline without a serious marker being put down. Monye took his tries well and he has good wheels, but he needs to look at other facets of his game. I'm looking forward to seeing Halfpenny get a run after his sparkling end of season performances for the Blues and Fitzgerald needs a run to show he deserves to be there.

    Backrow wide open, although Croft has put his hand up.

  • Comment number 17.

    spleenboy2000 - yes! POC played well on Sat and he will grow into the leadership just like Johnno in '97.

  • Comment number 18.

    SuperGedwards9 - Your comments about Monye are completely wide of the mark. If you are comparing the S Williams of Wednesday (who had an absolutely shocking game) with the powerful running, tackling and support play of Monye last night, then clearly there is only one choice for the tests at this stage. I think people need to stop picking Shane on his 2008 performances. He did absolutely nothing when he came on either, apart from show his defensive frailties. I don't think Monye was perfect, but then neither was BoD, who was clearly at fault for the GL try - he has a tendency to push out of the line very fast and if he misses his man, then the winger outside him is inevitably going to be stranded.

  • Comment number 19.


    You are not alone to question his selection as captain. There is so much more to the role than merely pointing at the sticks instructing your fly-half to take 3 points. Paul is learning that, and I'm sure not long from now we will see the real Paul.
    It is bound to affect you on the pitch if so much of you is being asked off of it. Cut him some slack, there is a long time to go before the 20th of June, when if you screw up, it really does matter.

    If you go down to Thomond park and ask those sort of questions you are likely to be linched, tarred and feathered and tortured. They know the real Paul, the talisman that he is, the inspiration that he can be for others.

  • Comment number 20.

    bottom line - lets not get ahead of ourselves

    the sa xv will be a much more challenging side, on the bright side though i think geechan will have a much better idea of his starting xv. i agree fullponty the backline should be pretty much decided barring any injuries. the forwards will be more difficult, particularly the front row and we'd expect that to change again for saturdays game. the back line also looks strong and we've loads of options there between croft, ferris, williams, wallace and heaslip.

    all those critisizing (i know thats not spelt right) poc should lay off. that was his 1st game in charge against an inexperienced squad that was tried out for the 1st time.

    early contenders for player of the series? roberts, bowe a lot of people put one hand up last night and could put both up on saturday

    roll on the cheetahs!

  • Comment number 21.

    All hail the great masterminds of Ian McGeechan, Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards.

    I have a very good feeling about this lions' series...shame its on Sky though.

  • Comment number 22.

    It was a brilliant display and if I were Geechs I would leave in Croft and AW Jones in the test team as they have the potential to dominate the line out. Hines was also brilliant and last night the two locks should make Paul O'Connell take his game up another few notches. He needs to.. Also ill give a special mention to Vickery. His display was dominant and aggresive with a controlled passion. Strong qualities you would look for in a Lion.

  • Comment number 23.

    Great performance against shocking oposition. Some players really set their stall out and all but got their places in the test team. Would like to see more of Ferris, Powell, Murray, S.Williams and Halfpenny before the test team is decided.

    You also have to feel sorry for Blair and O'Gara because I'm sure they would have looked just as impressive behind the total domination that the pack gave.

    I think Shane Williams is still in front of Monye in my opinion. He's a good player but struggled on a few occasions and showed some signs of naivity in attack and defence.

    Jenkins, Mears, AWJ, O'Connell, Croft, Roberts, BOD and Bower must be shoe ins for the 1st test. Kearney was fantastic as well so Byrne has a fight on his hands.

  • Comment number 24.

    Fine performance last night but the opposition really weren't up to much. No-one should have gained a 'nailed-on' test spot on the back of that as we've still 4 warm-up games to go.

  • Comment number 25.

    **THE GOLDEN LIONS ARE NOT A SUPER 14 FRANCHISE** this was the currie cup side, thus still the second tier in SA rugby. B+I Lions fans should not get ahead of themselves as there is still a mountain to climb if they want to compete in the tests.
    A fantastic display however. A few guys really put there names forward for test spots.
    I cant wait to get on the plane to see the tests!

    PS - O'Driscoll should have been captain from the start!

  • Comment number 26.

    1. Spleenboy2000, YES, you are probably the only one to think that Paul O'Connell is not the right Captain or worth his place in the Test team

    2. Thank you SuperGedwards9, I was questioning myself about Monye, I wouldn't pick him on a Seconds XV at club level. He has no understanding of the game of rugby. He can run fast and nowt else.

  • Comment number 27.

    I love how the side is signed up according to the Welsh or the Irish. Only BOD, POC are guaranteed, Stephen Jones, Croft, Heaslip, Bryne and the Welsh props are likely. The rest is still to be decided for me. Its very understandable if Croft is the only England starter.

  • Comment number 28.

    im very much inclined to agree that maybe poc isnt the best man for the captains job as he doesnt merit a place in the team. Hines and alan wyn were brilliant last night! POC gets rattled as soon as his team goes behind. (hc semi).

  • Comment number 29.

    Hi guys

    I live in nz and have followed the super 14 for years. So i am afraid to say the cheetahs and golden lions are the weakest sides in the competition and are not going to improve quickly as they have been since 2007 so dont get your hopes up. But it has been a deffinet improvement since woodwards nightmare tour of nz. The forwards places could go to anyone in my point of view but the backs would be 9. Phillips 10. Jones 11. Williams 12. Roberts 13. O'driscoll 14. Bowe 15. Byrne

  • Comment number 30.

    Lets put it in perspective

    No, I mean the other perspective.
    The Gauteng/Golden/Xerox Lions played 7 home games in this years Super 14 and heres the results;

    Lions 34 Cheetahs 28
    Lions 9 Bulls 16
    Lions 25 Brumbies 17
    Lions 32 Hurricanes 38
    Lions 20 Crusaders 32
    Lions 27 Highlanders 22
    Lions 33 Waratahs 38

    Theres been a lot of talk about them being the 12th best in the league, but as these results testify, they didnt do too badly at home. The Bulls scored 1 try against them at the stadium they both share.
    As you can see, no one hammered them. More to the point, they racked up some big scores even when losing e.g. the last game. To be fair to our Lions, the sole try scored against them was the result of players not knowing each other in the defensive structure, something Shaun Edwards will put right soon enough.
    Yes, I know the GGX Lions were missing a few key players but come on! Dont tell me they werent totally motivated by the sight of those red jerseys last night?
    As well as that, last night our Lions were basically a scratch side that have been playing together for at least a fortnight!
    However, even if they lose all the provincial fixtures, its the Test series that counts.
    As long as they are building towards the 20th of June I dont really care (OK, Im lying about that last bit)

  • Comment number 31.

    p.s. monye faced with a 50/50 ball couldnt catch a cold. No way a test candidate!

  • Comment number 32.

    just because the lions wear red doesn't mean that only welshmen MUST be picked."Bowe is ordinary but he links up well" quote/unquote is a nonsense. TB has shown what an excellent all round rugby player he is. His movement, his eye for a pass and his link-up play have been exceptional. Don't rule out O'Gara either, he was very good on Sat and kept the scoreboard ticking over thru'out...NEVER missed a kick with several from the touchline. Wallace must not be judged purely on Sat performance with less than 24 hrs notice of preparation to play and outside his preferred position. In the 1st half Wed he was at his best with pace and power. Don't forget that Martin Williams was more culpable than most on Sat for the shoddy display.

  • Comment number 33.

    i agree spleenboy2000, i have said right from the start i think the two best second rows in the squad to play against the 'boks are wyn-jones and hines. both are far more physical than oconnell and against the boks you need that, especially against botha and matfield, to my mind far and away the best second row combo around.

    i also agree with an earlier poster that blair and ogara were a bit unlucky because if theyd played last night behind a forward pack that actually had a bit of aggression and vigour about them, they'd have looked pretty good too.

    likewise, was good to see wallace have a good run out. he was a bit unlucky in that he was filling in at 8 on saturday and looked ordinary, but was back to his usual, consistent form last night. the battle between him and williams for the 7 birth is going to be very interesting. both good players, williams has an edge in terms of ball-playing ability, but wallace is a bit bigger and stronger.

    i must say the golden lions were very poor last night. their one-on-one tackling was atrocious at times. but can we stop calling them a s14 team. they are the base of a s14 regional franchise. much as sir clive insisted on calling wellington and otago s12 sides in 2005. mind you, i guess he needed to try and put a positive spin on something. credit to the (b&i) lions though, you can only beat who is put in front of you.

  • Comment number 34.

    At 11:24am on 04 Jun 2009, iknowsitnow wrote:
    The Bulls scored 1 try against them at the stadium they both share.

    Since when do the Lions and the Bulls share a stadium. I guess the last 2 test are being played at the same ground???

    Get an education sunshine.

  • Comment number 35.

    A cracking peformance last night. Just the reply which was needed from our boys on the back of the performance against the Royals.
    I really would not be suprised if the team who started yesterday is close to the starting test team. Great cohesion and balance was showen. Mike Phillips controlled the tempo of the game with ease, and teamed with Stephen Jones who controlled and dictated play from fly half, perfectly allowing Roberts and O'Driscoll show off their skills, and also show that a partnership between then can work very well in midfield. Also with the likes of Tommy Bowe conributing in midfield, the Lions are looking very good.
    Another welcome change were the two flankers, with Croft and Wallace proving big points, which they needed to this game. They were dynamic and got round the park well, and I was suprised to see Croft at the breakdown more often than you would for Leicester. But saying this, I thought Heaslip was slightly non-existant, and Andy Powell showed much more of a threat once he came on.
    All in al, I think all players who started yesterday have done themselves alot of good in terms of a test place, except maybe Heaslip, Hines and Kearney (only due to that fac as he was unimpressive compared to Byrne's perfromance in the tour opener).

  • Comment number 36.

    Great game for our lions. Really took it to them - so inspriational. I am so impressed with most people, but Tom Croft - what an athlete. That's the sort of exception that will make the difference in the tests. Also glad the AWJ is being given a stab at leadership. Wouldn't mind betting that he will be the next lions captain in 4 years barring injury.

  • Comment number 37.

    LlanelliP- I know that he has played there on numerous occasions for the ospreys and he was even man of the match in the EDF whilst playing at full back, I just meant that with the likes of o'driscoll, the irish coaches havent even given him a go at 13, and if he were to have played more test matches in that position it would have been more likely for him to feature in this position in the springbok matches.

    This would also allow them to have an extra winger on the bench in place of a centre if need be.

  • Comment number 38.

    Whenever a British (or Irish team) performs in this manner, the first thing we do is write off the opposition.
    Lets assume an experimental South African team, playing and touring together for the first time, put 74 points on the 5th placed English team (Sale minus the odd player for example).
    Result? Massive respect and a general assumption they'll murder all before them, by both UK and SA media & public. I'm not suggesting we'll beat all before us, but if I were PDV, I'd be far more anxious now than I was in May.

  • Comment number 39.

    Good performance. Not sure why O'Callaghan and Fitzgerald havent appeared at all yet, especially as Bowe has played 2 games. Everybody seems to have nailed down the backs line-up. Personally there should still be consideration given to :
    Flutey - if his step breaks the line and IF he remembers to immediately offload to BOD coming through then he may be a btter option than the admittedly very good Roberts (Roberts just misses the odd tackle and occasionally looks a bit linear).
    Fitzgerald - should be a real contender against Shane Williams although I thought Monye did really well, if a little headless at times.
    Ellis - the "pick - step - step - pass" of Mike Phillips caused some congestion in the middle and the Lions only really got good penetration from the backs when coming from deep, often in broken play or when Phillips did pass from the base. Ellis's pass is a lot quicker from the base. However, I admit that Phillips looked physically very robust and also sharp around the fringes. He'll keep the Bok back row honest.

    Forwards were immense but again there are still alternatives. Vickery was great but Murray came on and looked frightening in the scrum. Jenkins is nailed on - awesome performance. Croft was good but sometimes disappears in a more physical game - a tad lightweight sometimes. If Ferris can impose himself on the game he may be a better bet. My preference at 7 is David Wallace but I dont think he is playing as well as he can. He is often a slow starter to a season so may be a horse that needs work before hitting peak form. Thought Heaslip was quiet even with the grunt work but still probably the best bet. Dont like AWJ normally but he was also awesome and looked good in his short run-out on Saturday also. Nailed on I think. Ditto Mears. Ditto Bowe, great footballer and ditto Stephen Jones, great control.

  • Comment number 40.

    SuperGedwards9 - where do I say I don't want Roberts in the team? I said I would like to see a variation, i.e. Flutey coming off the bench and do something different, i.e. a Plan B!

    Also to suggest Bowe is ordinary on the back of last night's display is bizarre, the guy was MOM surely. Scored 2 and created 4 and was everywhere.

    I am getting so bored of people (99% of the time, Welsh) suggesting Shane Williams is a likely starter. He's done nothing for ages and is way out of form, and showed that so far on the tour. You might not like Monye and I accept his shortcomings but he's a much stronger runner than Williams, especially hitting the line. Keen to see Fitzgerald and halfpenny in the 11 shirt soon.

    Great to see Croft showing that leaving him out was an odd decision, he's certainly bench material if not a starter for his extra lineout dimension.

    Second row a tough call between AWJ and Hines, both excellent last night.

  • Comment number 41.

    Excellent all-round performance by the Lions with a solid platform to build on now. I thought Phillips, Jones, Roberts, O'Driscoll and Bowe were really good and have strong claims for a test spot. O'Gara had a decent performance on Saturday but Jones has more to his game and contributed to the quick ball-game. Bowe is not ordinary, he was one of the few performers on Saturday and was outstanding last night.
    I would like to see Shane Williams given another chance against the Cheetahs this coming weekend and I believe believe he should get a test spot as his quick feet and trickery offers something nobody else does in the squad, although I get a feeling that Monye will get the left wing spot because of his size and strength.
    G Jenkins, Mears should get a test spot also, and Vickery, AWJ, Croft were excellent too and all staked a strong challenge for test places. The pack is quite difficult to predict at the moment. I think O'Connell will produce though and I think it is unfair to judge him based on last Saturdays game - he improved in the second half.
    Although Kearney had a good game, he didn't have the impact Byrne has. Byrne has to start the test. I'm looking forward to how the Lions do against the better quality opposition now.

  • Comment number 42.

    Really nice to see such a solid performance last night, what ever the opposition you still have to beat what's in front of you. a few highlights for me last night, I thought Vickery had one of his best games in a long, long time and only the fact that Mears and Jenkins both also played very well probably meant he did not stand out. Phillips albeit behind a pack going forward looked really good as well being physically imposing he sniped well, good balance of pass and kick as well as excellent distribution (although excellent point made by northstandwarrior) hard to see anybody else in the 9 shirt. I thought that Roberts and BOD look well balanced with flutey on bench to give them a plan B if required.

    One final word lets not underestimate playing an evening match versus afternoon kick off, bring on the heat of a Saturday and see if they can continue to improve and I personally believe will be a better marker for test selection

  • Comment number 43.

    I thought the Golden Lions were the currie cup team, with the Lions being the super 14 team...or did they change it to Golden/Xerox Lions so it wasn't Lions vs. Lions, to avoid confusion?

  • Comment number 44.


    AWJ, Roberts and Jones were superb (i'm English but for the next few weeks purely a Lion supporter), Bowe & BOD genius, the backrow looked great and the front row simply awesome, GJ & LM in particular. The offloading and link play was a joy to watch and almost the entire 22 stood up as real contenders to play the boks. I'm not a fan of Phillips but have to concede that he is currently the front runner at SH. My only concern is the form of Williams, with so many wingers on this tour he's going to need to find the form of 2008 PDQ or otherwise he will only be playing midweek.
    It's great that we have so many options in most positions and O'Connell should not be considered a definate despite being captain as AWJ for my money is No.1 SR currently. Blimey I'm starting to worry I'm part Welsh....

    Bring on the Bulls, bring on the Boks we have a new breed of invincibles.

  • Comment number 45.

    I don't understand the massive anti-Moyne feeling that is going on here!

    FeaRua, I assume you are using hyperbole when you say you wouldn't pick Moyne for your 2nd XV. By that comment you obviously believe you know more about rugby than Dean Richards, Martin Johnson and Ian McGeechan, let alone the England 7s coaches, yes 7s, where tactical awareness is paramount. The guy is as quick as they come (remember that try saving tackle against Scotland?) and, as every coach will tell you, there is no substitute for pace. You give him the outside and he will score every time, no exception. What he lacks in defence, and that is not a lot, he makes up for in sheer attacking instinct and flair, as well as skill. I would have him in my side any day, especially my 2nd XV side...

    Anyone who questions POC's ability to inspire and lead should go and say it to his face. I dare you.

    Good job from the Lions, loads to build on - Croft looks pretty exciting...

  • Comment number 46.

    Nice to see we all seem to be blogging now from a lion perspective instead of individual nations. On reading some of the negatives given to Monye tho, i think people are forgetting that it was his Lions debut and considering this i thought he did exceptionally well. He has to be in contention for the test team as his sheer pace and power puts him in a strong position against S Williams, who, although i'm a big fan of, hasn't performed to his full capabilities this season.

    I wonder what A Quinlan thought of Crofts performance last night?

    Great to see an encouaging performance and the players really seemed to play for each other and look as though they were enjoying it.

    Roll on saturday

  • Comment number 47.

    For me the names pencilled in are:

    1 Jenkins
    2 Mears
    4 POC
    6 Croft
    7 Wallace
    12 Roberts
    13 BOD
    14 Bowe
    15 Byrne

    all other positions are up for grabs although I strongly suspect Flutey will be on the bench.

  • Comment number 48.

    To me there are some interesting comparisons with the successful '97 Lions tour to SA. Roberts + BOD has echos of the Gibbs + Guscott partnership. Also bear in mind that in '97 we played without an open-side flanker until the third test (which we lost...). If it came down to Williams v. Wallace for the 7 shirt, Wallace will get it as Williams just doesn't have the power or pace to compete against SA. I also think Shane Williams on the wing is very unilkely - he has no defence, will be outmuscled under any high ball, lacks the threat going forward that he showed in previous years and is up against strong competition. I'm afraid I dont think he'll even make the bench.

  • Comment number 49.

    2. Mears
    3. Jenkins
    4. AW Jones
    5. POC
    6. Croft/Ferris
    7. Wallace
    8. Heaslip
    9. Phillips
    10. Jones
    11. Bowe
    12. Roberts
    13. BOD
    14. Monye
    15. Byrne

  • Comment number 50.

    great display from kearney, but I agree Byrne still in front for the tests at the moment. Does anybody know if Kearney has played much on the wing? appreciate there's plenty more warm up games to go, but would provide a top class option if no-one stakes a solid claim for the 11 shirt

  • Comment number 51.

    I think the test backline is almost sorted:

    9 Phillips, 10 Jones, 11 Williams/Monye 12 Roberts, 13 O'Driscoll, 14 Bowe 15 Byrne


    I agree, though I think it will be different.

    I can easily see Geech going with O'Gara to start the first test and Jones on for the last 30 minutes, mainly because I wouldn't want to have to rely on O'Gara to lift the team like that. If Jones starts I would rathr see Hook on the bench.

    Also I see Flutey in at 12 as long as he is fit. I wouldnt have even taken him on tour as I dont think his heart is British but now he's there I see him starting with Roberts on the bench.

    Up front the questions are who will play alongside Jenkins and Mears and who will play back row where all three shirts are still up for grabs (though Heslip has to be a claear favourite)

  • Comment number 52.

    i think kearney is a good option for the wing. in fact in my imginary test xv when i saw the squad named i had him pegged as one of the wings. not that my opinion counts for squat obviously but it seems to me you should make the best of your available resources. and if you have two good fullbacks, why not play one on the wing if he is a better option than the specialist wingers? he has played there often for ireland, in fact has only really cemented the fullback position in more recent times.

  • Comment number 53.

    My lions time at the moment:

    1. Jenkins
    2. Mears
    3. Murray
    4. PoC (Only for the fact that he captain though)
    5. Jones
    6. Croft
    7. Wallace
    8. Heaslip

    9. Phillips
    10. Jones
    11. Monye (people have said all he can do is run fast? But surely thats all Habana can do as well? Monye's defence is far superior to Habana's as well, not to mention Shane Williams')
    12. Roberts
    13. BoD
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    16. Ford
    17. Vickery (can play tight and loose)
    18. M Willams
    19. Powell
    20. Ellis
    21. Flutey
    22. Kearney

    Powell to come off bench as impact sub and Croft provides cover at second row. Hines pushing very hard as is Ferris.

    One last thing, whenever I read anything posted by supergedwards 9 is smacks of welsh bias, no matter how much he may deny it. There is no way Adam Jones should start in the test team and Shane Williams clearly isnt showing the form that Monye is. You slate Monye for only being able to finish but that is a winger's primary job. Bowe and Monye are the perfect foil for each other as Bowe comes off his wing and has a better all round game where as Monye has undoubted gas and his defence was actually pretty decent against the G Lions (he did have some fault in their try but a lot of that came down to BoD as well)

    Obviously its very early days and are yet to see the likes of Darcy, Halfpenney, DoC and fitz but those are the front runners in my mind.

  • Comment number 54.

    i am like every one really happy about that display it does give hope that we might not be imbarassed during the tests and may even win. however it is important to remember that the gold lions have been very poor all season whereas the springboks have een incredible lately, secondly look at the qaulity of the springboks and the could easily have racked up teh same if nota better score against this golden lions side. thirdly this side played well but is going to have to change because for a start paul o'connel who had a shcoker of a forst game, and was poor as captain, has to come in. that is why o'driscoll should have been captain, he is a more natural definite selection. mcgeehan has also already shown his poor judgment by picking earls instead of croft originally, and failing ot call up someone like armitage. therefore you know he will chose wrongly for the tests and we will get thrashed by at least 30 points a game.

  • Comment number 55.

    welsh rubgy bloke try posting without bias. you think that shane williams should get a test spot because he has quick feet, even though he has been playing so poorly lately that his selection was questionable and was mainly beacuse of who he is. secondly you say you think monye will get it because of his size and strength. well that is understandable dont you think, plus he does also have good feet, is better in defence and is playing exceptinally well.

  • Comment number 56.

    Excellent performance from the squad last night. It is interesting to see "informed opinion" selecting the Lions test side this early into the tour. Only the coaches will have a clear perspective on who performed as required given the roles and responsibilities issued before the game started. Some players clearly contributed to their anticipated standard and were therfore highly visible. Others have not yet had the opportunity to shine. For some players they will have to learn a completely new approach to the fast offloading game which appears to be the Lions method. It is frustrating to see contributors dismissing other countries players simply out of national bias. They all have something to offer otherwise they wouldn't be there!

  • Comment number 57.


    What are you on about? Earls instead of Croft. Why not get your facts right before making some stupid comment. Croft replaced Quinlan, they both play in the back row. Earls plays in the centre. Read earlier posts and you'll also see that the Golden lions are'nt as bad as you make out either. Keep your negative comments to yourself chum

  • Comment number 58.

    Todd Clever should have started for the Golden Lions.

  • Comment number 59.

    How can anyone say the backs are nailed on when half of them haven't even had a proper run out yet, i.e. flutey, fitzgerald, halfpenny, pointless comment with so many warm up games remaining

  • Comment number 60.


    1) Shane Williams, like Ferris (scored a good try), like Powell, like the others who came on at the end got the game when it was disjointed and the Lions were sitting off the golden Lions. They never had a chance to invlove themselves in the fantastic play of the first half. Roberts described the second half (even though 5 tries were scored) as a "damp squib" and what he meant was that the game lost it's shape although they scored 2 x intercepts as the Golden lions chucked the ball around but it was a bit mad pattern wise. None of these guys got to show anyone their game really. The point is Shane Williams is the IRB player of the year for a reason, do you think he just fell out of bed the wrong side? The same thing happened in 2005 for the Lions "ooh, he's too small, ohh his defence is bad" he was given rubbish ball and one hit I remember he took a ball head height (probably from Tindall) and got smashed by Chris Jack. He then went home and set the world on fire as he had done pre-lions. Now I know it sounds like Welsh biase but I think the Shane doubters are mainly English because it is very hard for English Rugby fans to accomidate the possibility of a non-physical player in a side. It is possible!! If he gets a chance in aside that is actually playing a bit of Rugby he's awesome, his defence is deceptively good, he has the gas to keep up with Habana, I worry that Monye will be schooled by Habanna. All through the game I was watching and having seen S Williams in the broken play I was almost crying watching the wasted chances of Monye when he had people outside him and 3 0n 1 overlaps. The tries well taken? Both I would have expected forwards to finish, Ferris definately!! It's like saying "sorry, we know Maradonna's really good, but we can't accomidate him in our midfield, sorry" it means your team is wrong. I take back what I said about Bowe, he is ordinary, ie he's not amazingly fast, big, hard, strong, or has a great step but he has a fantastic Rugby brain and links up inredibly well with the team so I guess he is a foil for Monye who has all the atributes minus the mind. Maybe they should send him to Cardiff for a few seasons and get him to play proper Rugby, I'm suprised he didn't get a nosebleed standing up so long W"quick, look for contact, hit the deck" English wingers in space, no wonder he's confused!!!!!! Ps I am only teasing!!!

  • Comment number 61.

    and hunterlevi i agree about williams and monye but not your views on o'connell and mcgeechan, stick to football mate

  • Comment number 62.

    Ps why have people got Wallace in their first 15? Makes no sense....

  • Comment number 63.


    because he is a class act at openside. A bigger, stronger version of M Williams who will cope with the Bok back row better and ask more questions of them.

    Does that answer your question?

  • Comment number 64.

    yea also hunterlevi what are you going on about welsh bias for, when u clearly are pushing an english agenda yourself -croft, armitage and monye? i agree croft should have been going to begin with but armitage? i'm sick of you english banging on about him like he's the next jason robinson, he's far from it! certainly give him one day he'll get there (or near it) but don't push him to hard (by throwing him into lions tours which he clearly isn't ready for) or u'll ruin him. the lions tour has started for dear sake why are u still having a winge about the squad just get behind the team and support them! also slightly disagree about monye, alright he put in some hits on his opposite number and finished his tries well but aside from that... he has to be a contender for 11 tho (as i think bowe is penciled in at 14) given shane williams form. given we've scored 14 tries already and shane's played in both matches (albeit as a sub) we would have put money on him bagging at least one of them. thats why i think geehan's choice will be interesting on saturday.

    seems everyone else is putting forward their xv so i thought i'd stick mine into the mix

    1: jenkins - played well in 6n and had a good game last night
    2. mears - again played well last night and the most solid line out thrower
    3. murray - vickery had a good game last night but for me this guy is a machine easily the best player from scotland atm
    4. poc - we need someone like this guy to lead from the front, all his critics watch him on saturday (assuming he plays
    5. aw jones - another excellent line out jumper and him a poc worked well together
    6 and 7 - wide open atm out of the 4 (ferris, croft, wallace and williams) wouldn't be surprised if all of them where starting at some point during the 3 test matches. on the basis of last night tho i'd say croft and wallace tho i would like to see ferris starting a match
    8. heaslip - sorry welsh fans i just dont think powell is good enough
    9. phillips - had an excellent game last night (particularly compared with blair on saturday) ellis - no fun
    10. jones - o gara had an excellent game on saturday but jones has a bit more of a physical edge to him as i think the boks will target us here and works well with phillips
    11. williams / monye / fitzgerald - williams' form has let him down, key to him starting a test will be if he plays on saturday, given fitzgerald hasn't been given a run out yet i'd say thats not likely as an irishman i'd love to see fitzg there but until we see how he functions in the red jersey lets leave it a while. on this basis i'm going to say monye
    12. roberts - hands down going into this tour i thought fluety's creativity and side step had won him this position but roberts has had 2 terrific games
    13. bod - (no explanation needed)
    14. bowe - is awesome links up well with everyone and is already functioning well with 3 tries to his name
    15. bryne - kearney had a stormer last night and must have been under pressure given bryne performance on saturday. but for me bryne looks just that little bit more secure under a high ball

    doubtless this will generate some healthy debate!

  • Comment number 65.

    Lions should not get too excited i think the matches against tghe Sharks and western Province will tell us how solid this Lions side and if they can pull off an upset against the Boks

  • Comment number 66.

    Oh, it's probably because I am Welsh but Halfpenny is absurdly good:
    1) Very Talented
    2) Very quick
    3) exceptional finisher
    4) strong
    5) Excellent link player
    6) Superb Rugby brain
    7) great kick from hand
    8) scores regular 60 metre penalties
    9) was on fantastic form prior to minor injury

    Seriously, it's not because I'm Welsh, this kid has it all, he just needs a run and when all the players we have mentioned get games just look at the type of ball the forwards are giving them and the pattern of the game. Lat night's ball was about as quick as it gets, I think the coaches gave the forwards an absolute rocket as they were awesome.

  • Comment number 67.

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

  • Comment number 68.


    we agree on 1/2p at least. But we need to see him play before pencilling him into the side. If he can reproduce his Blues form then he will play his way into the side over the other wingers.

  • Comment number 69.

    If I had to pick a test team at the moment it would be :-

    1. Gethin Jenkins...A certainty at the moment. Strong in the scrum, mobile, tackles like a dervish and great hands for a big man. The world's strongest openside!

    2. Lee Mears...edges it right now. Works hard at ruck and maul and good with ball in hand but most importantly hits his jumpers at the lineout.

    3. Adam Jones/Phil Vickery...It's still up for grabs with these two. Vickery's got all the experience in the world and looked strong wednesday in all phases of play on Wednesday but I think Jones maybe a stronger scrummager and has an outstanding tacklerate for a prop. We shall see.

    4. POC...If you make him captain you'd better pick him for your test team but on last nights performance Hines will push him close. O'Connell needs to raise his game.

    5. Alun Wyn Jones...The most complete 2nd rower the lions have in terms of ability. Dependable at lineout, extremely mobile, great carrier and has the stamina to keep going for the full 80.

    6. Croft. His mobility and tackling see him in this slot. Will keep the 'boks working hard in defence, great lineout option.

    7. Williams/Wallace. I can't decide yet, will need to see more over the coming games from both players.

    8. Heaslip...Not the most dominant game from him but Powell will have to really shine to dislodge him.

    9. Phillips...In defence it's like having a forth backrow player, running with the ball it's like having a third centre. And he can do all the scrumhalf stuff too. Has the physical ability to bully any opposing scrumhalf.

    10. Jones...O'Gara didn't do anything wrong on Saturday but Jones has the edge. Comfartble with the boot but equally with the ball in hand and is great at getting his backline going. Deceptive strength and physicality too. Plus, those quick hands to Bowe was the highlight of the game for me on Wednesday.

    11. ???...still wide open. Monye showed good pace but is a tad one-dimensional. Williams hasn't really shone yet. Fitzgerald and 1/2p have a lot to play for.

    12. Roberts...Flutey looked good in patches on Wednesday but Roberts strength and ability to disrupt an opposition defence. Dangerous with the ball or as a decoy, he could be the perfect foil for our outside centre.

    13. BOD...Still got it and his partnership with Roberts is well balanced. Can turn matches on their head, just try to last a little longer this test series, eh Brian?

    14. Bowe...Is the form winger, took his tries well and was excellent when he came into midfield looking for work. Great all-round ability.

    15. Byrne...I feel sorry for Kearney, he played quite well and made some nice breaks but unfortunately a fit Lee Byrne is possibly the best fullback in world rugby right now. Imperious under the high ball, a cannon of a left peg (it'll be interesting to see him punting at this altitude) and runs brilliant angles when hitting the line.

  • Comment number 70.

    Test team:

    1 Jenkins
    2 Mears
    3 Murray
    4 O'Connell
    5 Wyn Jones
    6 Croft
    7 Williams (could be a key player as opposed to Wallace who had a decent game but is over-rated IMO)
    8 Heaslip
    9 Phillips
    10 Jones (physical edge on O'Gara)
    11 Williams (Monye may have the defensive advantage but can't split a defensive line open like Williams has proven he can)
    12 Roberts (possibly Flutey as an impact player)
    13 O'Driscoll
    14 Bowe
    15 Byrne


    16 Vickery
    17 Ford
    18 Powell
    19 Ellis
    20 O'Gara
    21 Flutey
    22 Kearney

  • Comment number 71.

    SuperGedwards9 - you can't justify every welsh selection with "its not because I'm Welsh". You seem to default to a welsh player whenever you're not sure of a selection. You worry Monye will be schooled by habana, so what will Williams do to him? Williams was a joke in 05 in good form, so god knows what will happen in his current form. I don't hate the guy, and I'd love him to come out at the weekend and score a hatrick, but I don't see it happening.

    Asking why Wallace is in most people 15...errr.... because he's bl*ody good maybe?

    Now the tour has started, most previously one eyed Welshies have started to accept it shouldn't be a welsh 14 plus BOD, so maybe you can join us? The shirt is red after all.

  • Comment number 72.


    Great team, that's my team, I think Powell needs a run as Heaslip sticks his bum out and is limited but besides that that's the team.

    Annual Dagger

    Yes please, that'll be the team I picked ages ago!!!


    No, they are the best players....I want halfpenny in though, mmm, it's so hard....Halfpenny is like Bowe but so much more but then it is a Welsh back line and BOD whcih is never going to happen, reverse Welsh biase!!!!!!

  • Comment number 73.


    Yes, SuperGedwards9 is biased, but then a lot of the postings from English fans here have been biased too. Croft won the match single-handed apparently.

    Your comment about "one eyed Welshies" shows very clearly where you're coming from. Bias is one thing; abuse is something else.

  • Comment number 74.

    SuperGedwards9 I wouldn't worry about choosing between bowe and halfpenny, take williams out and you can have both. Notice it's only the welsh that want him in the team even though he isn't in form

  • Comment number 75.

    I admit that I am slightly biased and I have to check myself but I genuinely without biase think the team I put up is the best team.
    S Williams is one of the great players to play in the 6 nations.
    He seriously makes holes and his favourite thing in a very tight game is being very quiet and then doing the game breaking movement, be it a fade drawing in men and then slipping the ball away to a full back who flys in, be it a step that destroys a line and relseases someone else, the quick hands tap the ball on to set up a try or getting in at the corner himself. The one thing that wins a game. The only people who will be happy will be the South Africans. Shane Williams is the mark of whether we have the balls to take the Rugby to the Boks. Last week we didn't, we turned up, almost ashamed to be in South Africa "oh Rugby wonderland" and then this time out we took the rugby to them, led by Bod and Jrob. It was fantastic, now I don't want to get carried away but if we stop crying about how much bench press the Boks can do and start fronting up RUGBY WISE we can beat them. The English boys just find it odd that a guy so small can make a team as they are fat boy obsessed. You had one of the best centres in the world hardly touch the ball because bumface carling was told to crash into people. These days I hardly ever see the England team put more than three passes together and all the players when faced with an oppo player hit the deck to protect the ball. It's so conservative, stop killing Shane's Chi baby and get positive!! No wonder you are worried about croft "eek, he's not really slow and fat, he might get hurt" c'mon, it's 2009!!!!! There's a flanker for the Wallabies called Hodgson at no.6 who's gotta be the smallest in the world but you know what he can play a bit and he's on the ball on the deck first everytime. Horses for courses, each player has a different angle, it's just limited to only worry about size (not that English Rugby is limited). Worrying about trying to match the Boks is like trying to approach Mike Tyson with a plan to brawl him, why not do what Lewis did, sit off and jab him to death, don't play to his strengths, that''s the way of the crazy man.
    Peace to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Together we add value to our already wonderful talents and if we get it right we can take downn the emperor's new clothes Boks and their constantly offside defecne. "Shalk, I see you, your 5 metres off man!!!"

  • Comment number 76.


    I was not being biased, it is actually my opinion.

    It is fair to say that Shane Williams has not been at his best, so I agree with you there. But my thinking behind puting him in the team is that with the likelihood of a Roberts/O'Driscoll central partnership, who are strong runners and tacklers, and with good support from the forwards, therefore taking a SA player out of the game, so Williams could find himself with some gaps to exploit. And he is far more likely to exploit those gaps than Monye.

    He will still take the opportunities that goes his way and he's not that bad at defending either. But like I said, the coaches will probably give Monye the nod because they will want a more physical presence in the side against South Africa. I'm not critcising that but I would prefer Williams.

  • Comment number 77.

    I'm sorry, I'm Welsh but agree Williams shouldn't be in the test team. He's had a shocking season so far and Monye had a storming game. He'll likely feature in one of th eupcoming games as the coaches stated early on that each player would have an equal chance of putting their name up for the test team.

    At the moment though I can only see POC and Byrne replacing members of the team from Wednesday. That was a very cohesive team with great skills on show.

    Granted the team isn't exactly the best of SA but considering the Royal XV is a division LOWER they did very well

  • Comment number 78.

    Is it possible for any of you welsh lads out there to make unbiased comments???

    i really don't understand where this underrating of Bowe comes from, the lad was arguably Ireland's best player in the 6N and along with Roberts and Croft gave the most eyecatching displays so far. He has easily been the most impressive winger so far. Monye is muck, Fitzgerald is talented but Williams will start.
    Personally I reckon Roberts is a shoe in for a test jersey, although i think D'arcy will push him hard. The back row is going to be very interesting. I think O'Gara doesn't get the credit he deserves either. He didn't do much wrong in the first match, and he had nowhere near as good service as Jones got. I would like to see him start, although I don't think he will.
    My test team so far would be:
    15 - Byrne
    14 - Bowe
    13 - BOD
    12 - Roberts
    11 - Williams
    10 - O'Gara
    9 - Phillips
    8 - Heaslip
    7 - Wallace (although Williams & Ferris are right there)
    6 - Croft
    5 - POC
    4 - Jones
    3 - Vickery
    2 - Mears
    1 - Jenkins

  • Comment number 79.

    It's interesting to see that when a Welsh person says that they would prefer a player in the team who happens to be Welsh, they are accused of being biased. Yet when some others from different nations prefer players from their own country, it's not seemed as biased (even when they can't back up their view).

    I agree with Mugenheimer though in that Bowe has been superb.

  • Comment number 80.


    Speaking as a Welshman i do agree that us Welsh do talk up our own boys a little too much the majority of the time. I can't understand how anybody could think that Tommy Bowe doesn't deserve a test start as he is sheer quality. Considering most Welsh fans would see him playing week in, week out for the Ospreys, where he was one of only a few shining lights from a very poor season for their standards, baffles me. Perhaps these Welsh Bowe dislikers are hoping Halfpenny will take his place? Well as a Welshman i hope and pray that Bowe does start and perhaps we could put Halfpenny on the left instead!!

  • Comment number 81.

    Frankly - despite the nickname - I couldn't care what the composition of nationalities are in the test side as long as they do the business. At this stage the following have done enough to merit selection:

    15 Byrne
    14 Bowe - best of ANYBODY so far
    13 BOD - a very clever player, excellent communicator & back to his best
    12 Roberts - I wouldn't want to tackle him!
    11 ?
    10 ROG or Jones?
    9 Phillips - because of his physical presence
    1 Jenkins - phenomenal work rate
    2 Mears - same as Jenkins
    3 ?
    4 POC - because he has been picked as tour captain. BUT?
    5 AWJ
    6 Croft
    7 Ferris
    8 Heaslip

    There are still players who have not had much game time and some NONE at all. For instance, Powell, O'Callaghan, 1/2 penny, D'Arcy (let's not forget he has just joined), Hook, Ford, etc.
    I also think that the front row is a dog fight at the moment between A. Jones, Murray, Vickery and Sheridan. What a great problem for the selectors to have!
    On the bench perhaps: Martyn Williams, Kearney - but wouldn't mind if he started he's really good, Powell if not starting as he is a good impact player, any of the front rowers mentioned above and whoever else the wise old heads want to put there.

  • Comment number 82.

    Still a bit early to be picking test sides, there's two weeks and quite a few matches to go yet, and we haven;t seen everyone yet.

    For example, Euan Murray and Ross Ford could well end up starting in the front row, Luke Fitzgerald and Leigh Halfpenny coould certainly be the starting wingers given their recent club form, and it would be nice to see Gordon D'Arcy get some time on the pitch

  • Comment number 83.

    team for saturday has gone up

    as an irishman (given the allegations of bias above i feel the need to say that now) i think the centre partnership is a bit risky. fitzg isn't used to playing there, in my opinion he's better on the wing and earls' confidence will have been knocked by his 1st half performance last week.

    also given the debate about s williams above - he's starting tomorrow is geech trying to get him into a bit of form before deciding the starting xv to face sa

  • Comment number 84.

    Well I think the debate about POC being captain is ridiculous who in the NH has been a better forward for the last three years and look at the Heineken cups and Grand slam that was won this year and I dont think anyone would argue that he was central if not pivotal in those successes, taking a captains role in leading from the front. Hes had one game where by anyones reasoning he played ok in a poor forward display (have to admit didnt see the match but read a lot of sport commentaries). Also am I the only person who thinks that Kearney cant tackle to save his life, personally I think he would bounce off a pigeon great going forward though. I am a Leinster supporter so I feel I am being unbiased.

  • Comment number 85.

    I think geech had to play this team in order to give everyone a crack, hopefully Halfpenny will have a stormer and stop everyone putting S.Williams in their test XV. I agree Williams in his day was a great player but he's not reached that form recently, he may prove me wrong but I doubt it

  • Comment number 86.

    In fairness to the chap, Monye has played one Lion's test ever, scored two tries and looked reasonably solid. It is now for other candidates to play in the remaining tests and improve upon his performance. The 2005 Lions picked too much on reputation and not enough on 'current' form and got the hiding that they deserved because of this.
    I thought Alun Wyn Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Lee Mears, Tom Croft, Jamie Roberts, Brian O'Driscoll and Tommy Bowe all had the kind of match that suggests that the top is theirs to lose from now on; but all the other places are still competitive (with the exception of O'Connell's of course).
    This is just as it should be this early into a tour, plenty of guys playing well, and plenty of time left for others to make their mark.

  • Comment number 87.

    I think tomorrow's selection isn't great for Shane to prove what some guys on here say he's still got. The midfield is not the heavyweight one of wednesday (and has the feel of a midweek side), so I'm not sure what quality of ball halfpenny and williams will get. I fear Byrne may be busy.

    Personally I think the below are "in possession" of the shirt so far:

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

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

    It will be interesting to see how things change of the next 2 weeks.

  • Comment number 88.

    Very easy to look good in a game like that. Mears may be less of a buzzbomb after a few scrums against a real SA team. This is where Murray and Ford will come into their own.

    Really lightweight selection in the backs for Saturday but a strong looking pack.

  • Comment number 89.

    I don't know why but i have a hunch that James Hook is going to have a great game on saturday at fly half and totally open up the debate as to who should honour the number 10 shirt. I personally think that if his confidence is there ( wednesday will have helped) he could potentially be the fly half we thought we were missing, by that i mean a fly half who can dominate and control a game and have that air of unexpectancy that quality f/halfs have and something O'Gara and Jones maybe lack slightly. When playing well, he is a world class player. I've seem Hook from his U19 games for Wales and he was in a different class, i also remember Dan Carter and the NZ team speaking so highly about Hook and that he would be a contender for the NZ team had he been from their country. I know at the Ospreys this season they've tried playing him at centre and full back as they felt the lions would choose S Jones for fly half so they saw his flexibility as an asset to gain selection. However, anyone who speaks to Hook will know that he only wants to play at 10 as this was the position he was used to. He will probably have a nightmare now and i'd wish i'd never wrote this but who knows, i'm sure it's a dilemma the Lions management wouldn't mind having.

  • Comment number 90.

    BobbySmith, I completely agree with your guys in current possession of shirts. I think with tight head we've yet to see Euan Murray who is the guy I was expecting to win the jersey ultimately. I think if it weren't for Ferris' display as a replacement against the Golden Lions we could add Croft's name. As it stands those 2 look in superb form and I'm pretty positive one of them will grab the jersey. I wouldn't be too worried with either of them.

    Tommy Bowe was the best player on the field on Wednesday, just excellent in every phase of the game. Roberts is going to be a seriously good player but I'll reserve a little judgement until I've seen Flutey and Earls play with BOD as well. BOD is so good at the moment playinig alongside him must be one of the easiest jobs in the world. But yeah ROberts has the jersey for the moment.

    I was very impressed with Alun Wyn-Jones but I think all the locks who played on Wednesday put their hands up. Outside of Tommy Bowe though I'd have to give my man of the match slot to Gethin Jenkins. He's a very good prop but even taking that away it's like having an extra flanker on the field with him around. Similarly with Mears. Lineouts still need some work but they do take time to come with players not used to each other.

    Oh and a word on Stephen Jones, who knew he had hands like that for the last try? Not me. Nice one Wellies.

  • Comment number 91.

    People being shocked at Stephen Jones' hands make me chuckle, the guy is so underated, there is a reason he has kept out numerous fly-halves in Wales for so long, the guy is simply a great Rugby player and has a very high percentage rate for kicking. He not only can control a game but makes more breaks than you think and has awesome hands. It is for a reason that he was voted a few years back by the French in their own league (the strongest club league) and obviously noted for it's great handling game as THE best player in the league. He is very good. ROG kicked out of hand far too much, grubber's and positional kicks, he never got the backs going and this is often when the line is flat he looks, sees nothing on and kicks through, if he wasn't so fragile he could step inside, take the tackle and keep the play going. Against a rush defence ROG is a liability, they'll snap him in half and this will add to his already weak game mind. Sorry, I've seen him have superb games but it's true. I agree with the comments about the midfield, it's very weak and I'd hate to be on the wing, you need beef in midfield with great hands and you can look good, just ask Monye!!

  • Comment number 92.

    Well, well. How many have played themselves out of the Test team today.

    Ellis, Williams (Shane), Worseley, Ford, Andy Powell.......... can anyone add to this ??

  • Comment number 93.

    Maybe I should have put Lee Byrne on that list as well. Pressure does amazing things to people !!

  • Comment number 94.

    agree with most of above ellis had a similar game to blair last week so phillips should have the 9 jersey in the bag (if there was any doubt)

    the best battle for starting jerseys is going to be between wallace, croft and ferris for 6 and 7. despite his rather generous sin binning ferris (in my opinion has played terrifically well and would be guaranteed a start if croft hadn't played equally as well.

    ref had a bad game though...

  • Comment number 95.

    Referee was poor today and not for the first time. He appeared to over-compensate against the possible allegation of bias towards Lions.

    1st Test
    15 Byrne, but only just.
    14 Bowe
    13 O'Driscoll
    12 Roberts
    11 Fitzgerald
    10 Jones
    9 Philips
    1 Jenkins
    2 Mears
    3 Murray
    4 O'Connell
    5 Wyn Jones
    6 Ferris
    7 Croft
    8 Heaslip

  • Comment number 96.

    So - O'Connnell captain, Lions struggle.
    O'Driscoll captain, Lions romp.
    O'Connell captain, Lions almost get beaten again

    Am I oversimplifying things?

  • Comment number 97.

    I think that O'Connell is getting used as a scapegoat here. If he wasn't captain people would be saying he was one of the positives of the game. He just needs to learn to off-load the ball when tackled instead of going to ground, this is his only flaw, but he still carries the ball well and maintains possession. Lets face facts, the majority of the team are not going to be in contention for a test spot yet we still won and never really looked like losing, even in the tense last few minutes. I think we should take more positives from the game than negative as prior to the game i was convinced we were gonna lose. Job done and move on to the next game

  • Comment number 98.

    It is far too simplistic to try and blame O'Connell, I thought he played quite well today, carried well, ok in the line-out although he seemed to call a lot of ball to O'Callaghan.

    I think it is fair to say that while most of Wednesdays team are very much in the running for a Test place start, very few of todays team will start on the 20th. Also the standard of opposition is vastly different.

    Next Saturdays selection will be a lot closer to the Test team and I think that it will be fairer to judge O'Connell after that.

  • Comment number 99.

    key thing to point out about todays performance is that our team today is only really had 4 possible starters for a test against the boks (bryne, ferris, murray, o connell, s williams) taking into account how young our debutants where, the inexperienced centre partnership and our front row line up is it any surprise it was as close as it was? again agreeing with above o connell played a lot better today with (in my opinion) a weakened pack. still looking forward to see how a game will go with o connell and bod starting together

    ford didn't have a good game so mears is probably good for the no. 2 shirt

    hook had a good game in fact all our 10s have performed well so far. geechan's selection for wednesday will be interesting therefore

    also regrettably for all you welsh fans (and others above) s williams's performance may have lost him a test place...


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