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Can new-look Lions square the series?

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Bryn Palmer | 19:08 UK time, Thursday, 25 June 2009

Cape Town, Thursday evening

So despite saying he "didn't want to make too many changes", Lions head coach Ian McGeechan has made five to his starting line-up for the second Test against the Springboks in Pretoria.

One of them was enforced with full-back Lee Byrne ruled out injured, but the four others were all done for specific "technical and tactical" reasons with the aim of squaring the series at Loftus Versfeld.

It doesn't compare with the way Sir Clive Woodward ripped up his original plan and made 11 changes, four positional, after the disastrous first Test in New Zealand four years ago.

But McGeechan has been here before. In 1989 in Australia, the only time the Lions have come behind to win a series, he also shook things up with five changes after losing the first Test in Sydney.

Jeremy Guscott (JG) was one of those brought in for the second Test in Brisbane, and responded with a superb match-clinching try in the decisive minutes.

I spoke to the England and Lions legend this afternoon to discuss how the Lions' team changes might affect the outcome this Saturday.

AT THE COALFACE:

Last week the Boks' starting pack weighed in at a combined 885kg, while the Lions eight weighed 876kg, with hooker Lee Mears giving away 16kg to his opposite number Bismarck du Plessis.

Adam Jones

This Saturday, with the addition of Adam Jones (127kg/20stone) at tight-head, Matthew Rees (108kg/17stone) at hooker and Simon Shaw (123kg/19st 6lb) at lock, the Lions' total weight of 903kg will see them top South Africa's (895kg with the addition of Schalk Burger).

JG: "I think everyone knew what was coming in the front row. From what I hear Adam Jones has got himself really fit over the last couple of years and is one of the un-sung heroes in the Welsh team. He has worked away and deserves his spot.

I am a little worried about Matthew Rees. In that first tour game against the Royal XV at altitude I felt he really suffered and didn't look fit. Nothing was happening for him physically, but when he came on in the second half last week he made some big dents and carried the ball well. Hopefully he will continue where he left off."

IN THE ENGINE ROOM:

After being told by forwards coach Warren Gatland he played "crap" in the tour opener against the Royal XV, Simon Shaw, 36 on 1 September, will write another chapter in the 18th year of his remarkable career by making his Lions Test debut, in his 18th match as a Lion, having also toured in 1997 and 2005.

Shaw, who takes over from Welshman Alun-Wyn Jones alongside captain Paul O'Connell, is only seven months younger than the oldest Test Lion Neil Back, who played against New Zealand in 2005 at 36 years and 5 months.

JG: "I think Shawsy's there because of his experience, his movement around the park and his ball carrying in particular. It is well deserved. He is experienced enough to know what is required and he will deliver it, I am confident of that.

Alun-Wyn Jones had an opportunity last week but wasn't forceful enough. He didn't take control of any situation really. It is not surprising, he is only 23, but some players of that nature make their names on Lions tours. I remember Martin Johnson coming out as a replacement in 1993 and you thought he had been there for the whole tour."

WINGING IT:

Ugo Monye's failure to take either of the two try-scoring chances that came his way in the first Test has cost him his place, with Irishman Luke Fitzgerald, 21, taking over on the left wing, and Shane Williams coming onto the bench.

Luke Fitzgerald

JG: "Monye has just been taught a harsh lesson. He got two opportunities that you would expect him to put away and he didn't. He has learnt so much in the last 18 months but I don't like the way he dives before the line on hard grounds, because the ball can bounce out of your grasp. You want to really go beyond the line and be explosive through it.

I think Fitzgerald is going to be an Irish sensation over the next seven or eight years. We can just enjoy watching him play because he will go from strength to strength. He is a great footballer; his footwork, speed and reading of the game are very good, he plays what he sees in front of him and he knows how to react."

AT THE BACK:

Rob Kearney, who replaced the injured Byrne just before half-time in the first Test, gets his first Lions Test start at full-back.

JG: "Kearney carried the ball and kicked well when he came on last week. He did nothing outstanding, but nothing wrong. I saw him play for Ireland against France this year and he came into the line in attack very well, and that he is the kind of performance he has to deliver on Saturday.

With the amount of ball he will be fielding on Saturday, that first kick return has to be a good 50 or 60m to put them under a bit of pressure. The Lions have to weigh up how much kicking they do and how much ball they run back, because if we give them penalties at the breakdown, Ruan Pienaar or Morne Steyn will kick them."

MANAGEMENT CONSULTANCY:

JG: "This is how reputations are made and lost. You have got Warren Gatland and Graham Rowntree there as forwards coaches, and they will have had a say in who goes out onto the field, but ultimately Ian McGeechan picks the side.

When Phil Vickery was clearly in trouble in the scrum last week, the management have to know what is going on. Rowntree is the scrum coach and should have known "The Beast" was getting the better of him.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but why did it take them so long to do something about it? They picked the side on form, but they were just too slow to react."

WHAT ABOUT THE ALTITUDE?

South Africa have won their last nine Tests in Johannesburg (four), Pretoria (two), Bloemfontein (two) and Rustenburg (one). Their last defeat at altitude was in Pretoria in August 2006, a 45-26 thumping by the All Blacks when nine out of Saturday's 22 experienced a disgruntled Loftus crowd booing the Boks with 25 minutes to go.

Lions captain Paul O'Connell says his side are "quite confident of managing it".

"There is definitely a little something there at altitude, and there is no point telling yourself it is all in the mind, but it is not something to be overly worried about," he said. "You just have to dig deep when the burn comes on towards the end.

"We had plenty of action under our belts in training and matches in the first few weeks of the tour, and are very happy with the way we have prepared for it."

SO CAN THE LIONS WIN?

The Lions have lost their last six Tests in Australia (two), New Zealand (three) and now South Africa, and defeat on Saturday would signal a third straight series defeat.

JG: "I am optimistic. I am convinced the Boks will play the same way and I believe we will create as many, if not more, try-scoring opportunities.

South Africa are so comfortable with their tactics, they kick and chase and are only prepared to play in the last 30 yards of the pitch. They leave the other team to do the work, put pressure on them and then capitalise on their mistakes. You can't blame them, but if they opened up a bit they would be a seriously good team, and they are not bad as it is.

We need to sort out defending the rolling maul otherwise we are not going to see enough of the ball. Our scrum will be better and our line-out will have to be better.

But my gut feeling is the Lions are going to win. I said they would win by seven-to-10 points last week but I am going to go the same way this time.

These tours are not easy, and I have spoken to people in the squad who say what a great time they are having. But a Test win would make it a whole lot better."


(PS Remember if you want more regular updates on what's going on in SA, you can follow my Twitter feeds)

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    First comment yay!

    Lets hope JG is right. Lets make it a great last week, and install some pride!

    Dave

  • Comment number 2.

    Roll on Saturday, Lions have a great chance to level the series. all these injuries are a worry though, perhaps too many big-time matches, Heineken Cup, Magniers, 6 Nations, winter Internationals etc, etc.

  • Comment number 3.

    "...they are not bad." Bit of an understatement there :)

  • Comment number 4.

    it will all be about the forwards, the better pack will win. The backs need good ball to use and if we get it, I think we will win. We shred them to pieces last week, they are weak deffensively in the backs, whether thats due to ring-rust we will find out. Roberts and O'Driscol need to make stuff happen.

  • Comment number 5.

    I hope the Lions win but I can't see it - I expect to see a 20 point loss. Why only 2 Enland players in the team - the squad selection has been all wrong from the start with a total Celtic bias and with English players who were either past it or coming off bad injuries (eg Vickery, Shaw, Ellis) whilst Croft and others were left at home,. Seems decisions were made at the last minute based on Cardiff beating a hopeless Gloucester side, a very over rated Munster team and an Irish team that somehow stumbled to a Grand Slam - courtesy of a very silly Danny Care. I blame Gerald Davies as he thinks English players now are like those in the 1970s

  • Comment number 6.

    Twickersrfc

    Interesting post. So could you please list the obvious Quality England players the management purposely left behind?

    Because if i'm honest i'm struggling, Care? Armitage? can't think of any others, can you elaborate?

  • Comment number 7.

    Predictable team selection, no doubt the boks new by last Sunday the team they would face, typical knee jerk reactive response by welsh plan A or nothing management.......if shane williams had started last week and missed those 2 'opportunities' no doubt he would still be playing this week, Monye has done nothing wrong all tour whilst williams has been shocking, was turned over against emerging boks on tues and still makes the bench!!!

    Shows all this 'support' that came out the camp for vickery was nothing but a lie, what about the 'we scrum as eight men' quotes this week?? Matthew Reese has a poor lineout and does very little around the park.....it's amazing how people (especially pundits) spontaneously rate players who haven't started previous games when there's a loss, Duncan Jones has been on the tour from the start and around for a while so why is he a world beater now and not last week???

    I do get the feeling that Stuart Barnes picks the team sometimes, or at least has some kind of mental power over his fellow media representatives/ex-players!

  • Comment number 8.

    As Jeremy Guscott said above, "ultimately Ian McGeechan picks the side". The number of Scots in the squad doesn't suggest to me that he's selecting on the basis of any sort of national bias.

    Ultimately, none of the management team want to come back with a 3-0 whitewash on their records, and they are not going to select anything but what they see as the strongest squad. We may not all agree with their selections, but I don't think there's going to be any bias, club or country, there.

    I suspect Twickersrfc's prediction of a 20 point defeat is pretty accurate though; the Lions have blown their best chance.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'd add Kennedy and Easter to Armitage and Care
    Plus Croft and Payne (instead of Vickery)
    Also think Foden, Tait and Sakey would have done welll

  • Comment number 10.

    Twickersrfc, have you ever seen a game of rugby? Yes, even as an Irishman I will admit that we didn't necessarily win a grand slam by being far and away the best team, but nevertheless I believe that the individual talent in that squad certainly deserved selection to the lions squad. England do not have the players at the minute but I'm sure that they will come in the near future with the depth of players available. I suspect your post was designed simply to wind a few people up.

  • Comment number 11.

    The Irish , Welsh and English teams are all much the same standard at the monment so I find it hard to understand why the bias against English players such as Armitage, Easter, Kennedy and Care

    Look forward to seeing Ireland trying to defend the Grand Slam!

  • Comment number 12.

    easter? seriously? maybe kennedy and armitage (and maybe even care at a stretch, more so than blair anyway). i guarantee if you asked nick easter himself he would say he didn't deserve to be on the lions tour. we have so much strength in the back row; croft, williams, wallace, heaslip, ferris, worsley, powell, even dennis leamy who isn't even on tour and isn't in the starting ireland team anymore could better your mr easter.

  • Comment number 13.

    wiilgilly1990

    Croft is only touring thanks to a citing and Shaw may only be in the team because Hines is banned - without the citings we would have no England players deemed good enough to play for the Lions - looks odd to me

    By the way I think Nick Easter would think himself good enough

  • Comment number 14.

    twickersrfc
    what form are you picking on,not 6 nations or h cup id say.easter,kennedy both had poor enough 6 nations.Tait can hardly get on the english team.Would you bring Sackey as a poorer monye?.Armitage shows bits of class but didnt do enough to get himself on the plane.i would of brought care only because ellis and blair have been very poor, form isnt bias

  • Comment number 15.

    snackbox86

    Armitage -not good enough to get on the plane as he didn't show enough - what garbage

    Check out some of the other inspired selections

  • Comment number 16.

    twickersrfc, Armitage is not with the squad, as despite being a pretty good player, hes nowhere near Byrne and Kearney in terms of skill or form at the moment, or at all over the last few months/year.

    Sackey has been injured a lot recently, would surely of had a shout if his form had been anywhere near to previous outings.

    Unforunately, Easter has been poor recently, Care perhaps should have had the call over Blair, but Tait is miles off the pace, and im struggling to think of anyone else that would have even been in the minds of the coaches picking the team.

    As much as it pains the English to see, they just arnt performing per position as the Welsh and Irish, to say that McGeechan is biased against English players is ridiculous as hes been working with wasps for years..

    As for the players curently in, Vickery deserved to be dropped after that display, and no-one can afford to miss opportunities like Monye did, would be unfair to not give Fitz and maybe even Shane W a chance after that.

    Although im assuming that your here to wind people up, never mind eh?

  • Comment number 17.

    twickersrfc does have a point though... ireland, wales and england are clearly 'all much the same standard at the moment', remember how well england played at the start of the 6 nations this year. they certainly caused a lot of stir, indeed i remember a blog came out at the time - i can refer it to you below - 'english lions on the wane'. many of your fellow country folk seemed to be in tears at times as a result of england's performances, its therefore quite natural to assume england would have more players in the lions squad... easter was useless to england squad, all he did was stick his rear end out when he ran and made about 3 extra feet... hey why don't go the whole way and throw in big steve bothwich as well, he's sure to be an excellent addition to the squad right?

    i agree armitage was highly unfortunate to miss out on a place, having said all this though... the team selection has been made, tis too late now get over it and stop complaining. look on the bright side, if the tour goes south (i.e we lose) you'll have a nice excuse to blame it on!

  • Comment number 18.

    I think Armitage at a push is the only one not on tour who is good enough but as for the rest of them... no. Care may look like a better bet now but not before the tour. Croft should probably have made the original squad but competition was tight in the back row as we have some very good players there. As for the rest of your selections I don't think you have any real basis for them. Are you Clive Woodward by any chance? He liked a lot of English lions too.

  • Comment number 19.

    So the lions lose one game and suddenly everyone doesn't seem to get along as well as before? There's a lot of bad blood amongst the fans suddenly and I can't see that helping the lions plight! If a combination of Ireland, Wales and Scotland played England the came would be little differant than if each played england individually. One test standard rugby player, no matter who they are, are not going to be miles better than their counterpart in every department. Hopefully we all get along better come saturday at two o'clock...

  • Comment number 20.

    I certainly agree with Jeremy Guscott's observation that the Lions' "brains" moved very slowly in rectifying the problem in the front row which scuttled the Lions in the first test. The Lions got their game together last week when they'd sorted out the personnel in the front row. However, the changes in the front row brought the advantage of fresh legs: this week we'll see whether the players in question are substantially better front-rowers. I for one am no longer clear about whether I think so or hope so, but if they are there will certainly be room for quiet optimism.

    I'd certainly appreciate a view from you, Bryn Palmer, in answer to an extension of your own question: do you think that the front row will be sufficiently improved for the Lions to square the series?

  • Comment number 21.

    So we bring in Shaw for experience, fair enough, so what's happened with the Fitzgerald selection then - when you know who has 50 odd more caps. It's a huge game for the young man I hope it comes off. We know SW done nothing but that's mainly because he's had nothing to do.

    Bit tough on Alun Wyn - dropped because he wasn't forceful enough.The same could be said of Wallace and Heaslip but they have been given another chance, rightly so. I am not that optimistic the old man will make a difference and he's been picked more in hope than in anything else. At least AWJ is on the bench.

    Perhaps the Lions 1st test performance wasn't that bad, on any other day we might have been gloating over six tries and maybe a few less penalties against us. What a scoreline that would have been.

    Nevertheless I will be fully behind the Boys on Saturday.

  • Comment number 22.

    twickersrfc, England had 4 starting players last week, considering the 4 nations are about equal(in your opinion) and over a quarter of the starting 15 were English, that sounds about fair.

    Unfortunatly for England, more so for the players involved, 3 of them 4 players weren't good enough to keep their place. Of those three, Mears may have been unlucky but Moyne and Vickery have only themselves to blame.

    I disagree that the only reason Croft is there is because of the citing, Ferris' injury also contributed. Nothing to say Croft wouldn't have overtaken Ferris in the pecking order but the lad started with a stormer.

    All said and done, Croft has taken his chance well and I'm delighted to see him playing. Shaw, the same, I expect him to have a very strong 60 minutes and have the Boks well softened for Jones.

    Of the other chosen starters, I have very little argument. Byrne is a loss in attack but Kearney should hold up his end in defence. Bowe and Fitz will need big games.

  • Comment number 23.

    I must say I disagree with the notion that Easter should be on this tour. Yes, he has experience, but put him next to the likes of Heaslip, Croft, Ferris and he looks like a lumbering 1990s English forward. He is a rumbler, not a dynamic back-row forward. The game has moved on from players like him. Look at Pierre Spies, a vision of the future of the back row forward: big, fast, agile.

    I think Hines would have played had he not been banned, but I like the bulk and grit Shaw adds, as well as his awesome handling ability - apart from John Eales has anyone ever seen a 2nd row with better hands? I think the scrum will be much better this week, Jones will handle the Beast, as he did in the 2nd half last week. I thought M Williams would start, but he's good to have on to tighten things up in the 2nd half.

    I'm concerned that Karney doesn't offer a huge amount other than solidity, but he certainly offers that. Byrne is a big loss. It's a shame for Monye, as I've always said that there's no substitute for real pace, but he didn't use it last week, and deserves to be dropped - he should have scored the second time, if not the first, hopefully Fitz. will finish off those chances.

    I'm going for a narrow Lions win, against my better judgement!

  • Comment number 24.

    It's great to see the optimism still going strong. Particularly enjoyed "on any other day we might have been gloating over six tries" in #21.

    I'm sure many on here will (understandably) lose interest in rugby next week, but it's been an enjoyable tour and interesting to read your comments. The Wales v Ireland arguments in particular were somewhat unexpected, I suppose I naively assume that everyone would be slagging off the Boks (or possibly England)!

  • Comment number 25.

    twickersrfc - Don't you think it's good to see that the Tour has regained some credibility to what the farce of 2005 brought us? I certainly do. Being an English supporter I was genuinely embarassed by Sir Clive's selections and general management of the tour. Many Lions Test players were picked on poor form and reputation only. The appointment of Campbell as press guru was a disgrace to rugby and the notion of a touring rugby team. Much credibility has been restored this time round, even if we do lose three-nil.

    This year, although I thought Armitage was unlucky, he isn't as good (yet) as Kearney or Byrne. Croft should have been in from the start and the Gods obviously saw the injustice and interveened! The one player that I thought unluckiest not to be selected was Josh Lewesy who offers so much behind the scrum in so many positions. Earls could be that soon but isn't at Lewsey's level jusy yet. There were no other English players who I thought justified their selction, Easter chief amongst them. And as for the Celts, I believe they've done the B&I Lions proud so far. Geech is a top quality coach and has proved that over a number of years. Let's get behind the boys and hope for a win!

  • Comment number 26.

    dream on boy's, the boks will run it
    up

  • Comment number 27.

    Top post fasso2522.

  • Comment number 28.

    Anti-English bias is a joke. The previous Lions tour was dominated by England primarily as a thank you from Clive Woodward for winning the world cup and where did that get them? Danny Care as a scrum half? He should be behind Cusiter, Lawson, Peel, Cooper, Stringer, and Blair and Phillips, but ahead of Ellis. This lions squad is dominated by Ireland and Wales which is largely justified by results over the last couple of years.

    There is as good an argument for a number of Scots as the English listed here. For example, cases could be made for Alistair Strokosch, John Barclay, Simon Taylor, Thom Evans and Chris Patterson. I am not saying they should have toured just to point out there are arguments for a number of players that did not go and not only English ones. There were no Scots in last week's 22 so does this make it anti-Scottish? Certainly, the biggest mistake was not having Murray as the tight-head prop and playing Vickery. This can hardly be considered anti-English. Murray has been the best tight-head in the 6 nations for two seasons, and got injured playing the midweek game before the test when he should have been rested for the test.

    We can all disagree about the selection and I do not agree about a number of them, but to argue for an anti-English conspiracy is far-fetched and lacking convincing argument.

  • Comment number 29.

    Twickersrfc

    I agree with fasso2522.

    Also, Croft has done well but I suspect he would not of started had a fit Ferris been available.

    I thought Kearny played better than Lee Byrne when he came on on Saturday. Byrnes kicking was generally poor for the few minutes he played and kept putting the lions under pressure.

  • Comment number 30.

    Barring injury and complete loss of form one assumes that McGeechan being a shrewd,expereienced coach had a clear picture of his Test team even before he left for South Africa.Now he makes 5 changes for the Second Test!!!
    The opposition were well known to him as they contain 14 of the 2007 World Cup winning squad.
    I have written that with two of the three Tests on the highveld and only one at coast level the advantage is with the Springboks.
    The Lions have now lost the 'advantageous' match.
    The last match of any significance at Loftus was the Super 14 Final where the Blue Bulls annihilated the opposition.It is a matter for conjecture but I think the Blue Bulls would give the Lions an extremely tough match and seven are in the Boks Test squad.
    The Lions management have now selected players to cover the supposed weak areas in the set pieces.
    The Bok management will also have learnt a lot from last weeks Test and will be unlikely to leave their exposed areas uncovered.
    By 5.00pm (local time )on Saturday I feel that the series will be won.

  • Comment number 31.

    Not so sure about the changes for Saturday. Adam Jones was a must and will shore up the scrum. Outside of that I think Rees at Hooker, Shaw at lock and Fitz on the wing all look suspect. fail to see why Shane Williams is not playing. Although he has done little on tour, he has not had much opportunity. (In the amount of quality ball he recieved, not game time)and h has done little actually wrong. He is world class, full stop!

    I actually think the whole strategy of picking on form has been taken to far. Looking a the back row last week, surely no one can disagree that Ryan Jones should have been on tour from he start, not off banging his head in the States. I also think Armatage, Peel, Cusiter and Ian Gough should have been included from the start.

  • Comment number 32.

    Twickersrfc!

    Nick Easter???? He shouldn't be in the England team let alone the lions!!

    I think the balance of English players is right to be honest. Nobody else deserves a place in the team I'm afriad. AWJ, POC, DOC are probably better than Kennedy, Foden and Tait can't get in the England team.

    If fit, Sackey will probably have toured but he probably won't have played much in the tests.

    Just face it, at the moment we are not good enough although there are signs that, with some brave selections over the next few years, that we'll have more players in the next Lions squad.

    Anyway, for this tour I just want the best 15 players from the four contries to play, and that doesn't inlcude many of our guys

  • Comment number 33.

    "one assumes that McGeechan being a shrewd,expereienced coach had a clear picture of his Test team even before he left for South Africa."

    Clive Woodward had that idea, and it didn't work. I for one am glad that tour management have reacted to the 1st game and changed the bits that weren't working. Whether it will be enough we'll find out tomorrow!

  • Comment number 34.

    Who am I to comment on the selction of the likes of McGeechan, Gatland etc. but I do think that Paul O'Connell is not the smae player he has been (maybe it's the burden of Lions Captaincy) but he isn't worth his place in the starting line up and also his lack of form (he's a lead from the front player that everyone takes their cue from) is possibly stifling the Lions.

    It may well be a slap in the mouth but I think BOD should have been made captain (he does cope with it and he is playing beautifully) and O'Connell given the chance to find form. That would have meant his being dropped.

    Let's hope that Paul O'Connell proves me wrong.

  • Comment number 35.

    @ Twickersrfc. Maybe those guys are good but the players who came along are better. They just happen not to be english. Look at your last 2 six nationsperformances and you should see why they don't make it. Who is armitage better than?

  • Comment number 36.


    the tribal breakdown between lions fans along country-of-origin lines is sad to witness. whatever happened to 'united we stand?'

    JG: "I am optimistic. I am convinced the Boks will play the same way"

    you are optimistic JG, but also naïve. i think we've been so worried about our own problems and deficiencies that we forget that the world champion team have:
    * huge scope for improvement after a shoddy second half display last week for which they'll have been shellacked by their coach
    * still a huge incentive to 'get the job done' and reverse the 97 series loss which they watched as kids
    * a new member of the team, burger, with specific instructions to stop our centres making the breaks they did last week
    * extra match hardness after being a little under-cooked last week

    i fear that the springboks are capable of upping their overall performance by 15-20 per cent this weekend, and that such an improvement will be enough for them to win by 6-10 points...

  • Comment number 37.

    The Lions are an entity in themsleves and squabbles about whose country is represented more than others, whilst being unavoidably predictable, are largely irrelevent. The form of the last two seasons 6N have been well represented in the squad selection and I dont think any country has any cause for complaint.
    In my opinion, the team for Saturday does seem to have a better balance (up front) to play the Boks, but thats just the problem for me - we are now chasing the series and adjusting to our opposition. This is good management and I am not critising Geech and the team around him but it seems that we are now going to be the plucky underdog rather than the all powerful conquerers we all hoped for and were encouraged by Sky to believe we were.
    I have mixed feelings about our prospects. Last weeks game (which I watched live and only once so have not analysed!) has left me thinking the Boks were awesome up front and scored from a 50yd rolling maul, seemingly at will (the look of panic on POC's face at the end of the 1sthalf said it all for me). The scrum has been concentrated on but the whole of the pack were made to look a distant 2nd best.
    ...But then miketbach is absolutely right - on any other day we could have run in 6 tries. The Lions showed some great invention and will score points on Saturday, of that there is no doubt. How many though?
    Their forwards v. our backs. Unusual feeling for an English supporter!

  • Comment number 38.

    As an Englishman, I can't see a huge amount of bias against English players, or any other nation for that matter. Agree that cases could be made for Lewsey and Armitage, but sadly not a lot of others. Likewise, cases can be made for inclusion or exclusion right across the field - the perecption in some one eyed fans is that there is always a conspiracy theory as to why one player gets a better run of the draw than another - Murray picked for the Souther Kings game, Shane not picked in the 1st test, etc etc. With a Wasps/Welsh axis in the coaching staff, you would think that the Welsh team would have the pick of the Lions test team, but tomorrow we will have a record Irish contingent. From where I am sitting, the changes made for the 2nd test are ones that everyone agrees at some level to. The Scrum last week was rubbish, so heads had to roll (although I am still a big fan of Phil Vickery and Lee Mears), Ugo's finishing was not up to scratch, so he has paid the price for his failure. It just happens that all these 3 players were English - surely no more than a coincidence. I for one would have dropped Jamie Heaslip and brought in Andy Powell, but thankfully for a lot of you, I am not on the coaching staff.... Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I have never been anything but impressed with the pragmatism and impartiality fo Ian McGeechan and Shaun Edwards etc. Don't forget, the will to win in these guys is far higher than some petty nationalism.

    On a positive note I think the Lions have an extremely good chance on Saturday to level the series. It won't be easy, but the key is how it will go into the last quarter. Although the Lions have to make a lot of the plays, the Springboks will have to vary their game plan from last week. If they rely on their kicking game, penalties from scrums and rolling mauls, then they are likely to lose as the Lions won't make the same mistakes as last Saturday (we hope...). That said, should the Bok backs actually start playing with the ball in hand behind a pack that is going forward, it could be a long afternoon.

    Come on the British and Irish Lions

  • Comment number 39.

    Oh please! What's it with u Brits? Always talking your team up before they get completely mugged. Expect nothing less than a Springbok win this weekend. The pack difference is 8kg, so what! I still expect the boks to dominate the scrum, the breakdown and continue to maul the lions back into their own 22. Line outs are springboks too, i expect the lions backs to have a good go at the bok defense. The boks tackling will be imense as always. These northern hemisphere teams just can't compete!
    After englands accidental world cup win, a N/H team would probably win the world cup in another 30 years!

    Go BOKKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 40.

    ChelseaSaffer - 'Accidental' World cup win? Not sure how accidental that win was. I seem to remember the England team in 2003 being the best in the world for some time. Didn't they put 50 points on the South Africa team at the team and beat NZ and Australia away all in the same year. Obviously don't let the facts get in the way of a good post.....

    Now if we're talking accidental wins - what about the World Cup in 1995 - South African win in 1995 - wasn't there a dubious lasagne fed to the All Blacks team to engineer that triumph? Or maybe the last World Cup when you had to be helped out by a dodgy television replay?

  • Comment number 41.

    The Irish deserve to have 7 players on saturday,and they didnt "Stumble" to a grand slam , they fully deserved it, The IRFU have every trophy for 2009 in the cabinet,and thats not luck!!!!

  • Comment number 42.

    95 world cup was won by a piece of individual brilliance by stransky,
    last world cup was won by defending well.

    u can say what u wanna edgroves, NH team won't win the world cup again, maybe in about 3 decades time.

  • Comment number 43.

    I read a statistic that the Ruan Piennar only passed the ball 3 times all match! thats ridiculous in test match rugby. its blatantly evident from there that the Lions lost the game by not returning the kicks well. Whether they be running or kicking, they were awful at the return. You'd have thought that with Lee Byrne and Kearney, two of the best returners in world rugby, they'd have coped better. some blame must go to both wings cos they're job is just as important in that area. Please, please, please Lions - kick the ball back this week. long and hard.

  • Comment number 44.

    ChelseaSaffer...strange comment saying NH won't win a world cup for 3 decades! Those competing in those world cups haven't even been born yet! I also think a NH team will win one of the next two / three...next one is tough in NZ

    Adding to some of the comments above, I think Mears is unlucky to be dropped completely after one poorish game (caused mainly by Vickery) having been the best hooker by miles on tour. Plus even if you drop him he should go to the bench.

    Note I am English...

    Monye should not have even been on the tour in the first place but has done well out there....Sackey should have been playing...

    I don't agree with any other English men on tour - maybe Care. Flutey is unlucky as the centres are the best players in the side - he'd get in nearly every other world side...

    All in all English rugby is on th eway back but not ther yet so the balance is probably right. I'm not convinced by shaw as he is hot and cold - hopefully he is hot on Sat but at altitude I think the big boys will struggle...just my opinion...

    I'm a big fan of Martin Williams...think he's as good as McCaw...and should be playing

  • Comment number 45.

    ChelseaSaffa; the 2003 England side were better than the 2007 Boks. The difference is that the 2003 England side were the finished article, the 2007 Boks side still had/have some development, if the coach permits it. But that is history.

    The Boks will need to play better on Saturday to win. The Lions will not make the same mistakes and will rectify their shortcomings. They know what they need to do. The Boks will probably be favorites and rightly so, but the losing side knows what the need to do more than a winning side.

  • Comment number 46.

    ChelseaSaffer -

    Did you get your name from the Chelsea "football" fans who have appeared since 2001 ?

    Get a grip. 8kg is a lot, considering we have a better pack line up now. I expect the scrums to be contested evenly, the Lions disciple to be much tighter. When we get quick ball, I expect BO'D Roberts to terrorise your backline like last week.

    5-10 point win and a decider next week.

  • Comment number 47.

    22. barry_maigheo

    Good point. 4 out of 15 is technically 0.5 more than a quarter, so England are contributing a fair amount. The reason Wales/Ireland players are getting more onteh pitch is down to lack of supply from Scotland (mainly through injury or unfortunate drop in form on tour, though excellent previously - e.g. Blair).
    The 'flair' places (back row & 3/4 line) are dominated by the Celts - fact.
    Sackey was injured by the way. I saw him in a greasy spoon (an up-market one I hasten to add) shortly before the tour and his leg was in one of those plaster/brace thingies. He's good at chasing balls to the line... I think Cueto would've been a better pick.
    Delon is unfortunate to be playing at the same time as in form Byrne & Kearney, but he will have his day and will be awesome. I do se more England players next time around.

  • Comment number 48.

    TwickersRFC, I suspect your 'Quins / Richmond shirt is being freshly starched before you visit the Sun Inn to watch the game . . .
    Armitage is no doubt a good full back and will deservedly get a good few caps. But Byrne and Kearney are better hence they got picked by a management team that know a thing or two about the game, whether the Lions win the series or not.

  • Comment number 49.

    As much as i have enjoyed reading the blogs over the last week, getting angry at some and agreeing with others. the team is picked now. I think most people are happy so lets concentrate on the boks fans who are involved here.

    Boks fans are the most arrogant people in the world! I didnt think it was possible but they have bigger heads than the english after 2003!!!

    Chelseasaffer, the SA team got very lucky in the WC everyone knows it and will get shown up heavily in the tri nations me thinks. Last week was a very poor performance by the lions and what gives me hope was SA lack of clinical finishimng of a match. After the opening 50 minute performance the lions had last week, the "world champions" should have looked to be winning by 30+ points. the substitutions is no excuse as if the replacements are not good enough they shouldnt be on the 22. Is your squad so untalented?? we made subs as well you know its part of the game.

    Boks are over rated and i hope we can prove it before the aussies and kiwis do.

    I was in lansdowne rd in 06 when we stuffed you and i look forward to the lions doing it tomorrow.

    I predict improvement by both teams and pray for a lions win!

  • Comment number 50.

    ChelseaSaffer - 95 World Cup won by a brilliant piece of individual skill by Stransky, or the Chef at the Sandton hotel.....

  • Comment number 51.

    Is it just me or is all the talk of national bias or not, the management team, whether lewsey and care should have toured (??!!!!) missing the sadly obvious point that the Boks are simply just harder and more determined up front. I know it is pointless and boring, but where are the Johnsons, Backs, Dallaglios, Woods, Quinnells of not that long ago? I cant imagine this would have been such a "nice" tour if they had been on the park. The fact that BOD and Roberts have been able to impress is staggering..just imagine what they could do with good ball. Everything rests on whether the new pack can drive the Boks off the ball and whether M Williams is released from the bench after the minimum possible time to do what no-one else seems to be able to do...win turn over ball.

  • Comment number 52.

    Can everyone please move on from twickersrfu.

    He or she is a WUM, end-of, the best cure for them is to ignore them and not respond to the comments made.

    Think the balance of the team is just about right. Pity Euan Murray got injured as I think he would have played and Hines was a bit silly, but you get that with him.

    Vickery was very poor and could easily have been replaced after 20 mins, Monye had two guilt edge chances and took neither, at this level that is inexcusable. SW has done nowhere near enough to get at the test team (please remember that there was debate about whether he would make it at all) which Fitz as the only real option.

    Did not think Lee Mears was up to much and Rees had a good game when he came on, prob worth a start but the harshest change out of the 4 enforced. Byrne will be a miss for the lions, was never really given a chance with the ball last week and it kind of feels like it would come.

    Not overly convinces about the hacks focus on the weight of the pack seemingly being more important than anything else. More weight on its own will change nothing, the scrum simply has to be better. Also not sure about whether it will be that much better. Yes the lions scrum was better when Jones came on last week, but this was also when the boks were 26 7 up and were taking off their best players. They will not do that again quickly and anyone looking for a quick fix will likely be disappointed. The line out also has to be a lot better.

    Slightly surprised that no-one has mentioned (on this article that I could see anyway) OConnells position. Yes he is the captain, but as England have shown to their cost, you should not pick a captain and then the team, but a team then the captain. I am not sure there should be a tour captain, why not pick on each match, with the players selected. Would also make it easier to drop a player who is not performing. Would be happier with Jones and Shaw in the line-out, but guess this is very unlikely to happen.

  • Comment number 53.

    Is everyone out there happy with the half-back pairing of Phillips and Jones? Last weekend, Stevie seemed to have little penetrative power either from the boot or in hand. And Mikey was sending out hospital passes like he had shares in the ambulance service.

  • Comment number 54.

    Some good changes, some very silly ones.

    Monye/Williams/Fitzgerald - OK Monye had a bad game, but he had done enough on tour and would not be making those mistakes again. He can't erase the errors int ehf rist test but he would have been completely fired up to make up for them this time around, instead he had basically been castigated by the management. Fitzgerald will be a very good player, but right now he offers nothing more than filling a gap. Monye should have played and Williams on the bench if only to make the Boks mindful of him.

    Vickery/Jones - Had to happen. Vickery offers nothing outside the scrum that Jones can not top and asgaint the Boks he offers nothign in teh scrum either.

    Mears/Rees - I can see why they made the choice, an all-welsh front row should know each other inside out and play better together, but Reescan have real shockers in the lineout, I would have kept Mears in.

    Jones/Shaw - Really can't understand this one, Shaw is a good player but is past his best, the Boks could rip him apart. Unless they plan on having him make a quick 30 minute impact, give everything in a short period before coming off and hope that works, then I dont see the point.

    So there you have it, other than Vickery and the unfortunate Byrne I would have kept the same starting VX, bring in Jones and Kearney with Shane Williams coming onto the bench.

  • Comment number 55.

    Why is everyone blaming vickery for the scrum. i think the tiny hooker next to him was to blame by offering no support. He had the Beast and a good portion of their hooker to cope with.
    Glad to see adam jones getting a chance though. He's been one of wales' outstanding players for the last couple of seasons. Not happy with Rees, Wales have been hamstrung for years by a dodgy lineout, we havent had a decent thrower for yonks, Rees included.

  • Comment number 56.

    There's far too much talk about national bias. Does anyone REALLY think that it's even a factor in the Coaches decisions? Geech, Gatland, Edwards et al are far too professional for that.

    As for the team selection. Mears proved everyone who said he'd be too small right, we really miss Flannery. Whether legal or not, Vickery was done jones and sheridan on the bench is a good call. Hines may well have played by Shaw still provides the muscle that AWJ didnt quite deliver on. Think Monye is unlucky, but he simply didnt get the job done, dont think we lose a lot with Fitz. Williams is a strange selection, would back Monye on the bench.

    The most confusing thing for me still is the decisions not to call up replacements for injuries. Although Armitage was firmly behind Byrne and Kearney, when Shanklin went down someone to cover 13 and 15 would have been useful?? Still concerned about what happens is either centre is injured??

  • Comment number 57.

    I'm as English as they come, I think Monye was unlucky to not be on the bench at the very least, I also don't understand why Worsely isn't on the bench or Flutey, O'Connell isn't even a bench player and is very lucky and should have took more of the blame for the scrum last week than hanging Vickery out to dry. The Irish and Welsh have never won games on the world stage when it really matters and that is what worries me the most, but....

    Come on, this is the Lions, We are all together, you only have to read the comments from the SA's on here, see there team last week and the crowd, to realise there is not a cockier more arrogant (something England are always wrongly claimed to be) and rude nation in the world, lets put differences aside, get behind the Lions and shut these boks up.

  • Comment number 58.

    the fact is o'connell is in the team and he shouldn't be what a waste of time he is lucky he is irish because that is the only reason he is in the team and also the same can be said for a few others. if hines was not banned he would have taken place o'connell as he is what the lions want in their pack a scrummager and an aggerssive person around the pitch. Andy powell should be in the starting team as he was seen around the pitch unlike heaslip. and martin williams should be in for wallace. and by the way squeakybumtime ADAM JONES is in the team as he is willing to scrummage unlike mr vickery. the same can be said of matthew rees as a hooker as he will hold the scrum together and get around the pitch and do what he is meant to for 60 mins and they will bring on mears as an impact player which is what he is

  • Comment number 59.

    I got to applaud the brave decision to replace Wynn-Jones with Shaw.

    The Boks normally start every game at 1000mph, get the nudge, get in front and then resort to the kicking game. The lions are trying to counter the Boks coming out of the blocks quickly by shoring things up in the tight 5, replacing agility with brawn and experience.

    Still think the Boks will too too good for the Lions as the end of the tour plane starts to loom large in the background.

  • Comment number 60.

    alas as someone pointed out earlier tomorrows game is likely to be our backs against their forwards. 9 times out of ten the fat ugly guys win these contests. i have everything crossed tomorrow will be the 10th time but i fear a boks win by 10 - 15 pts

  • Comment number 61.

    Re. Springbok quality
    - The Boks have been the best team in the world for three years.
    - However, they are nowhere near being a truly great team - I doubt they would make anyone's Top 10 over the last 50 years.
    - Despite being the best since 2007, they lost the No. 1 spot to the ABs (the weakest ABs for decades!) during the 2008 Tri-Nations because the new coach messed too much with a winning formula.
    - However, being the best right now doesn't mean others aren't close, or can cause an upset on the day.
    - The Lions, for example, certainly can win, but probably won't.

    Re. Test No 2 at Loftus
    - As a Bok supporter, I want them to win, and win well.
    - As a realist, I want them to play to their strengths and don't make any silly mistakes, like substituting the winning formula with 25mins to go.
    - As a rugby fan, I want this to be a good, close match with the Lions emerging with enough honour to keep the British and global rugby public interested in Lions rugby for at least another few decades.

    Re. The Anglo-Celtic wars
    - World War 3 will be fought on Hadrian's Wall.
    - Only joking.
    - Chaps, while your vulgar nationalism is amusing, isn't it a bit misplaced in the context of a Lions tour?

  • Comment number 62.

    Dear MMsRedArmy,

    Please see No.34.

    Thanks

  • Comment number 63.

    I do think selection was a little naive - the ephasis on Cardiff Blues and Wasps, together with some strange decisions, picking Halfpenny and then taking him anyway once injured, and then sending him home. The whole Ryan Jones fiasco.

    The likes of Earls and Halfpenny playing their first senior seasons were never up to Boks level - but the likes of Armitage (both) would have been welcome additions.

    But there is no point chirping about that now - this will hopefully be the last time McGeechan has primary control of a Lions tour and hopefully the last time there is such bias in the coaching camp.

    McGeechan has been an awesome Lion - but Rugby has moved on quicker than he has - last seasons Wasps were woeful.

    The management bias divides fans and opinions, and I can't think why so many Wasps players were included (or on the standby list - including Cipriani - who were it not for injury would have been out there instead of hook).

    I said all along Jake White was the man to lead the Lions - a missed opportunity.

    The Lions is strictly set in the amateur days, and the likes of McGeechan and Davies are old school - there needs to be more of a balance next time.

    As for the game, the heart once again says yes - the head says no. I have not seen enough on this tour, or in the last game that we have the players, or the gameplan - more importantly right from day one selection (no Croft) I have little faith in the management (why Vickery staying on the field so long!) to make the right decisions.

    I hope my heart rules!!!

    Come on the Lions.

  • Comment number 64.

    TINOFLYER

    Both Armitages welcome selections ?. Delon maybe, but Steffan Armitage was useless for England when they played Italy in the 6nations. It was probably the worst debut i have ever seen, he looked slow and clueless. If you look that bad against the Azzuri then God help him against the boks.

    So i don't think he would have been a welcome selection

  • Comment number 65.

    re: post 11 twickersrfc

    in the above named post, it is stated that the irish, welsh and english teams are of the same standard at the moment...??? i dont think so, ireland, wales and france= top tier six nations rugby
    england, scotland and italy= bottom tier of six nations

    the lions squad was obviously selected on six nations and heinekin cup rugby and these competions were dominated by irish teams and welsh teams, therefore a predominately irish and welsh first 15 last saturday and this saturday....

    as for the game on saturday, if stephen jones isnt working we need to see o gara at some stage, although i think the backline is perfect at the moment, apart from the major loss of byrne....
    the backrow is ok but should there be a place for martyn williams...?
    second row, would have liked to have seen o callaghan at least on the bench but shaw is worth his place...
    the front row that finished the last test had to start this one after the humiliation mears and vickery were subjected to at the hands of the beast....

    for the most part this blog is good and accurate but im sick of reading the anti irish posts by english supporters, we are here for a reason becuase we took home all the major rugby trophys this year, grand slam, triple crown, heinekin cup and magners league................FACT

  • Comment number 66.

    I say results speak speak volumes, come next week you'd expect to find me right here gloating about a springbok win. I won't be rubbing in your faces, no not me. But i'll tell u it now,I TOLD YOU SO!
    The bulk of the team is made up of Bulls players, so they'll be playing in front of there home fans, losing is not an option at Loftus.
    So let's stop all the babbling about who's gonna win. Saturday afternoon when the final whistle blows, we'll see.

    I'LL BE RITE HERE WAITING FOR YOUR COMMENTS!!!!

    BOKKE!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 67.

    I think there is a case that selection for the tour is not purely based on talent and form. I can't be, never has and never will. Coaches like to pick players they know, have worked with before and who have come good on big occasions.

    ireland won the grandslam, munster and leinster got to h cup semi finals, therefore, there should be a large irish number on tour.

    wales won the grandslam last year, were favourites to win this year. Also a lot of the coaches are welsh, so a large number of welsh on tour. As for england, they came second in six nations, just, and i just dont think many of the players deserved to go. Vickery and shaw are thee becasue of the wasps connection. Croft should have always gone and delon armitage should have also gone, probably ahead of keith earls.

    Overall, i think the squad was largely right with a few exceptions where the caoches had picked players they knew rather than on form

  • Comment number 68.

    The one person who can make a difference for the Lions is a certain Monsieur Christophe Berdos.

    Saffers love to hate refs, who often do not appreciate the only true way to play rugby.
    What bets the cry on Saturday night will be: "Die ref het ons gerob!"(the ref has robbed us)?
    I think there is a chance for the Lions - it will be a close one!

    Ha - getting excited now.

  • Comment number 69.

    The English versus Celts debate is pathetic - there are a number of players who had strong cases for inclusion but wouldn't have made any difference to the outcome of the tour, just point scoring between the people on this blog. e.g. What difference would Armitage have made? perhaps kearney and byrne would be fresher for the test matches. the biggest decision on this tour was the inclusion of murray in the midweek game instead of vickery - still cannot get my head round it.

    best bet looks to be south africa to win by less than 12.5 (2/1 on betfair). spread seems to be south africa to win by around 8-9 points.

  • Comment number 70.

    TwickersRFC

    Don't do it mate, you're embarrassing everyone. I'm a loyal Englishman but even I know that there simply haven't been enough performances by English players in the past two years to warrant much of a representation in the Lions. To suggest that every problem in the team can be solved by picking one of your own nationals makes you sound frankly....Welsh.

    But cheer up because despite the constant mean-spirited jibes from Celts and SH sports supremacists, and the patently unbalanced refereeing of England teams of late I think that next season will be a good one for England (and we have never been beaten in the 15 man game by Western Samoa;-)). There are plenty of excellent new players who will mature nicely into the next RWC just as the current bunch of counter-cyclical worldbeaters are finding it a bit harder than before.

    At the moment though, lets enjoy the fantastic skills of the Lions players and hope and pray that they can really come good in the Afrikaan backyard. The Boks and their supporters have a very special level of errr extreme self-confidence that can grate for anyone with a sense of objectivity. Beating them is always a very, very special experience!

    GO LIONS!!!!!

  • Comment number 71.

    I too think Armitage was unlucky not to be selected but then again you can only take 35 on tour. Byrne & Kearney were better picks and Hook can provide cover at fullback if need be.

    Croft aside I have to say I have been disappointed by the Lions back row. there is very little dynamism and not enough impact with ball in hand or in defence. Time and again we have been done over at the breakdown by poor teams. The selection of Worsely was very one dimensional - the man can barely pass water for goodness sake. As for Easter - please spare me. He's ok for England because there's nobody else but he's not Lions class. A trick was missed however in not selecting Ryan Jones but due to his injury picked up with Wales, couldnt play for the Lions.

    Finally, in relation to the Anglo-Celtic bias - because it's the lions I don't care how many english/scots/welsh/irish are in the team because it's all one team. If you look back through the years there will be a dominance from individual countries in terms of selections because those countries were the dominant forces in the Northern hemisphere at the time. The reason that there are no Scots in the team - there's nobody good enough. The reason Ireland has so many players (and Wales) is because they have been the dominant teams in the last 4 years in the 6 nations.

  • Comment number 72.

    Re. the points on national bias when it came to Lions selection, us Englishmen and fans have to face the fact that, the French game apart, we just weren't good enough in the 6 nations. As such the majority our our lads weren't as good as their Irish, Welsh and Scottish counterparts, who all deserved selection. I believe that the only England player unlucky to miss out was Armitage (Croft deservedly made the tour in the end). Personally I think Vickery shouldn't have been selected in the first place, but he was so you accept that.

    An interesting point with regard to the forwards is an article I read (in Rugby World magazine I think a couple of months before the tour party was announced) where Gareth Edwards raised concerns that the absence of a world class bunch of English forwards (and pack) would make the tourists weaker.

  • Comment number 73.

    Chelsea saffer, I have no doubt that the line out and scrum will be firing on all cylinders tomorrow. I hope they have spent a lot of time getting the maul defence going cos if we sort those three things out the boks will be done.

    I may be getting excited but lions by 15-20 points

  • Comment number 74.

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

  • Comment number 75.

    The number of English in the team and squad is about right (maybe even a little generous). Delon Armitage is good but not as good as Kearney or Byrne. Care is a liability not just because of his hot-headedness but because he is too individualistic, too difficult for his team mates to read and thus tends to get isolated. Blair should be ahead of him because a Lions squads needs a scrum half with experience behind packs that are going backwards.

    Whoever put forward Easter as being unfortunate not to be in SA is having a laugh. He isn't even the best 8 at Harlequins.

  • Comment number 76.

    Anglophone makes a jibe at:
    "...SH sports supremacists..."
    Brilliant phrase, Anglophone, just brilliant. And so multi-layered, just like your alias....

  • Comment number 77.

    I see the match tomorrow is in Gauteng. looks like another advantage to the 'Boks. as if they needed it of course. given their absoute domination in every sector. Im really hoping for a cricket score in the Bok favour tomorrow. that way sky TV will be the only spectators for the final test. apparently there are lots of tickets for tomorrows match. given the wipe-out on Saturday last the fans are not really interested.they see victory as a foregone conclusion. and of course they are correct

  • Comment number 78.

    I think this Tour has been an absolute disgrace!!!! If anyone thinks Geeks is picking the team then they are wrong. The Welsh coaching team are doing that and most of the team was picked before leaving these shores. This is not a British & Irish Lions tour but a Welsh and Irish development tour!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! P.S The rugby that has been played has been pathetic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 79.

    u betcha they can!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    South Africa only scraped in the lions have the talent and I think the belief!!
    kiwi

  • Comment number 80.

    Saw there have been a few comments about biased choices in the selection of the team. Thought I would add my points as an Englishman:

    I think the team is a good one and is perhaps the best of Britain and Ireland. My only critism, and it is a big one, is the inclusion of Jones and fly half. I could do a better job than him, hell Gordon Brown would be better! The guy cannot kick conversions. He is shockingly bad. Against Southern Hemisphere opposition, we ned someone who can convert penalties and conversions and maybe even get a few cheeky drop goals. Jones should not be playing. I really wish Hook was there or even at a stretch, O Gara. Chris Pattison should be on the tour for this very reason.

    However, McGeeg's is a brilliant coach and knows what he is doing. So in him I trust. The only Englishman I am gutted is not there is Armitage as he has been brilliant. But Kearney and Bryne just edged him out.

    C'mon the Lions! And congrats to Wales and Ireland for the massive numbers of their contrymen in the starting 15.

  • Comment number 81.

    excellentmeteor,
    You say that Vickery received no support from Mears and had both the Beast and the SA hooker to cope with.Probably correct.

    BUT it is the job of the prop to support the hooker NOT the other way around! As a tight head myself, I can tell you that the primary role is to look after your hooker and then, if possible to have a go at the loosehead and / or hooker, none of which Vickery did!

  • Comment number 82.

    morphey00

    The Boks fans are the most arrogant - are you kidding me, not even going to start that argument!

    1. The Boks are over rated - cant really be as we are still the 2nd best side in the world. Say what you like if we beat the Lions tomorrow we are:

    WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS
    7'S WORLD CHAMPIONS
    SUPER 14 CHAMPIONS
    LIONS TROPHY CHAMPIONS

    Can hardly say we are OVER RATED.

    2. You are allowed to loose a game every now and again!

    3. Give credit when due!

    4. Good luck this weekend - may the best team win!

  • Comment number 83.

    Can 4 nations unite on a rugby pitch with a common goal ? Yes although sucess is dependant on many things.
    Can 4 nations fans unite in putting national bias aside ? clearly not.

    Jealsousy and bitterness seems rife.

    I am pleased to see though that some people are willing to admit that the best team does not always win. This is a positive on a few counts as it means that on Saturday the Lions DO have a chance however small.

    When going to a Lions game would you wera a Lions shirt or your national shirt ????

  • Comment number 84.

    @Chelsea saffer, #66 "the bulk of the team is made up of Bulls players"?
    Really? 5 out of 15 isn't it (Botha, du Preez, Habana, Matfield, Spies) or 8 out of 22 (+Ralepelle, Rossouw, M Steyn). More Chelsea than Bokke, I guess...
    Afraid your guys will still win though IMO.

  • Comment number 85.

    paddyrugby writes:
    "ireland, wales and france= top tier six nations rugby
    england, scotland and italy= bottom tier of six nations"

    That's inaccurate. England did ok in the 6N, and were unlucky to lose against Ireland, who were lucky to beat a nervous Welsh team. All in all not much to choose between England, Ireland, Wales and France (nice to see Ireland win it all, though - it was a long wait).

    I thought this season saw the turn-around for England - it came right after the Angry Face Episode - great TV btw.

  • Comment number 86.

    re post 65 paddyrugby
    'ireland, wales and france= top tier six nations rugby
    england, scotland and italy= bottom tier of six nations'

    admittedly we're not the side we were in the early part of this decade, but that's still a strange way to describe the team that finished 2nd in this years competition, and only lost by 1 point at croke park to the grand slam winners.

    twickersrfc is obviously extracting the urine / on a different planet so don't get so riled by him, but while I agree Ireland and Wales are better at the moment we are not too far behind.

    Now that my patriotic side is satisfied, looking forward to another hugely entertaining contest on saturday, the lions need a massive performance to pull it off but regardless of the result they have played some great rugby and proved that the lions can exist in the professional era. lions to edge it by 2 points!

  • Comment number 87.

    Im English and am proud to be so. Whereas I am British and also proud to be so. With regards to the lions i want a side that is capable of being successful, therefore the best team has to be picked. To my mind after the first test the only english player that deserves to be in the starting 15 tomorrow is tom croft. how he wasn't picked for the touring squad originally shocked me at the time and since his arrival has justified my opinion. quite simply we were the better rugby playing side last saturday, the boks kicked continuously and to there credit did so well. i believe the rugby we played that day was the way rugby should be played expansive and enjoyable to watch. the centres have formed an exciting partnership that gets over the gain lane, with seemingly every wave of attack. what was poor was obviously the scrum which was sorted with the replacement of vickery and the fact that in 5 countries there is not a decent fly-half. jones' kicking was shocking both at goal and territory-wise whereas there number ten was superb. is it just me of does jones need dropping for hook? another omission from the staring party that suprised me. a fit wilkinson would walk into that position and i believe in tandem with phillips, roberts, bod would of provided the best 9, 10, 12, 13 partnership in world rugby. such a shame that byrne is now injured and halfpenny was unable to have an influence on this tour......... imagine that backline.

  • Comment number 88.

    goyagoodthing

    Please do start that argument, who is more arrogant than the boks? aussies maybe but i think you clinch it.

    WC champions yes, as i said before lucky IMO. Beating a poor english side twice (admittedly a very spirited one that rose to the occasion in the semi) beating a tired and half dead argentinian team in the semi as well as scraping past fiji in the quarters is hardly a tough way to do it. everyone else did the hard work and you got lucky.

    sevens is a different sport.

    The Blue Bulls were pretty awesome this year so i cant argue with that. but i think they are no better than the best NH clubs, munster, leicester, toulouse, stade, leinster(with rocky!)

    Lions trophy champions??? you cant make things up come on!!

    last major competition the boks played in i believe was last year when they came last in the tri nations no??

    And yes i will give credit when its due to the boks. but they havent warranted credit yet IMO.

    again lions by 15-20

  • Comment number 89.

    Oh dear boys. Not this again.

    Talk of a bias against the English? I'm English and I'm afraid I must disagree. Not anti-Englishness at all in my book. If anything I'm surprised so many English lads have featured, credit to them.

    The big decision revolved around world class Martyn Williams. Not sure we won't regret it...

    Come on Lions!

  • Comment number 90.

    Not sure why my last comment was referred to the moderators...

    Anyway to reiterate my point - Morphey00 I like your ambition but if there is to be a Lions win its only going to be by 5pts.

    Ernielove - your overconfidence may be your downfall! Watch this video and learn a valuable lesson: [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 91.

    Wileszie

    What are you on about? Is your real name Richard Head?

    Martyn678

    Good comments there. I believe that if the home four nations were able to field their best 15 i think all nations are capable of beating each other, perhaps Scotland may struggle a little at mo, but they still have some very talented players. The only difference i believe is that Ireland and Wales have greater strength in depth at the moment( and i emphasise at the moment). I'm sure however that England will come back as a very strong nation (probably in time for next WC), i hope so as it will make for a stronger Lions team in the future.

    I do believe us Northern Hemisphere teams are catching the SH sides but it's the pschological battle of beating them we find harder to overcome than the rugby imo.

  • Comment number 92.

    Few excellent comments in there folks!

    Just cant wait for the game now, JG makes a few good points, we prob need to kick back to them as much as they will kick to us, we got caught on a few occasions trying to run the ball back, maybe worked against the regional sides but not against the boks.

    Also Burger returning is massive for them, could eitehr be star man, or rushed back to early - hopefully the latter. But if we are within touching distance after 25 mins, i think we ll beat them. Need Steve Jones to get his goals and drop our penalty count.

    Scrums clearly important - i had always classed Sheridan as a prop who can "only scrummage" - i think he could have a major role to play on saturday, boks seem to fear him more than we rate him . Also struggling with Shane Williams inclusion. I don t want to bring this up - so will just say (NZ-2005) we picked established players who were off form and pain the price - i think Williams is in this bracket?

    Sorry to interupt this UK arguement about who is the rugby best nation etc - at the end of th day, we want a win to set up the series, just want the 22 involved to play to their max potential and get a win!

    LIONS!! LIONS!!! LIONS!!! LIONS!!!

  • Comment number 93.

    morphey00

    1. Yes but you can only play whos put in front of you, not SA'S fault NZ couldnt beat France and Aus couldnt beat England!

    2. I think the NH VS SH debate will solve your question on if the Bulls would do well or better than a munster, leicester, toulouse, stade, leinster.

    3. Yes seven's is different - same ball but 7 players!

    4. Not sure if you remembered but our coach decided to try a new plan and it back fired, also pulled half his team for a 2 games but we did beat AUS in the last one 53-8.....not all doom and gloom.

    5. Looks like you quick to point out that we came last in the TRI-NATIONS but not so quick to say what weve done well!

    6. 38-20

  • Comment number 94.

    I do not think the Lions will beat South Africa this week-end.

    I think most supporters are reading too much into the second half performance last week!

    The Lions pack suffer from the same problem that England do - poor combinations in the second and back rows.

    The captain should be an automatic choice in the team. BOD should have been made captain particularly after his inspirational performances in the 6 nations.

    Tom Croft great player thought he is, combines better with the backs then his own back row because he is just too quick for his pack.

    You need a marauding back row working together as a pack hunting down and delivering quick ball.

    Stephen Ferris has been a real loss to the Lions!




  • Comment number 95.

    To the earlier comments about English players in the squad it is too early to start analysing this issue. However...the way we played in the first half of the first test was very much like watching England play in the last 6 nations...giving pointless penalties away.

    My hopes for tomorrow's game are that
    1. The Lions win
    2. If RSA win then they at least try and play some attacking rugby
    3. At least some of the 50-50 refereeing decisions go our way.
    4. I get to the pub early enough to get a seat.

  • Comment number 96.

    @Tim Sims, so 8 out of 20-still a large number. Sharks have 8 as well.
    The bulls & sharks make up the bulk of the squad. u don't have a point when referring to chelsea too. some people! You're right about the boks winning tho,impressed by your attitude.

  • Comment number 97.

    What the Lions is about

    Last saturday i sat in the pub watching the game with a good mate of mine who is a massive Chelsea fan, i'm a Man U one. He's a very passionate England supporter, I'm a passionate Welsh. After a few pints he put his arm around me (this won't get mucky)and said that this was the first time the both of us had sat down and supported the same team which after a few Guinnesses was a real good feeling.

    I think we forget this should be a celebration of our fantastic individual nations joining together instead of being against each other.

    Lets support the Mighty Lions !!!!!!!

  • Comment number 98.

    i think ROG gets alot of stick, im probably a bit biased towards him but he is a proven big game player, he has a brilliant boot, from the hand and the placed ball, ive read alot of posts saying he kicks too much but when you can pin a team in their own 22 like he can i think that warrants it, he throws a savage flat ball on the game line also....
    if however he gets a chance he knows who he has outside him in BOD, roberts, bowe, fitzy and kearney.... if jones misses a few kicks for goal on sat, ROG has to come on....

    if the pack performs tomorrow, especially in the scrum although the lineout could be better, we have a great chance with the quality we posess in the middle of the field...

  • Comment number 99.

    twickers rfc is obviously either a wind up merchant or deluded.

    There is no anti English bias. Between Wales & Ire, they won 3 grand slams in the last 5 years. Durning which I think (haven't checked) England came 4th for 3 or 4 years and 2nd last year (but we must all agree were not the 2nd best team of the tournament)

    And Josh Lewsey retired from International rugby. That in my view rules him out of the Lions

  • Comment number 100.

    Whatever happened to the boks in the second half its likely to happen again - whether our scrum was better served by Adam Jones and Rees than Vickery and Mears or because the beast and a few others were substituted off for other players who are not up to scratch, the same will likely happen, if it was down to Jones and Rees - then good there on from the start, if its down to poor SA forward replacements, then they will still have to come on in the second half unless SA are planning on playing theyre tight 5 for 80 mins which i think would be a pretty huge mistake.

    If the lions can hold the scrum (just hold - not dominate), hold discipline and avoid the rolling mauls disaters of last weekend, then the saffers will have to use theyre backs a LOT more to try and score points (no free penalties every scrum), if the lions are level or within 5-7 points at 60 mins, then i think they might nick it. BUT if the SA backs play like they can, SA could be 20 points up by half time.

    My concrn is what happens should Bod or Roberts get injured... the lack of good cover is a little worrying - i guess either Bowe will come into centre or O'gara to 10 with jones at 12... neither is ideal at this level, surely having a player who is decent at centre on the bench would be a good step forward.

 

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