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Lions selection key to success

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Bryn Palmer | 12:27 UK time, Monday, 20 April 2009

So the waiting is nearly over.

On Tuesday at Heathrow Airport, from where the squad will leave in five weeks' time, Ian McGeechan will unveil the 36 players chosen to represent the British & Irish Lions in South Africa.

It is not the first time he has done it, of course. This will be the fourth time in the past 20 years 'Geech' has assumed the responsibility of making some players' days, or careers, and inflicting crushing disappointment on many others.

So it's fair to assume the 61-year-old veteran of six previous tours as player (twice) and coach (four times) has been agonising hard in the last few days and weeks.

If we can be reasonably confident of inking in 20 to 25 of those who will travel, McGeechan is adamant "the final 10 names are invariably what selection is about. We've got to make sure we get the chemistry just right."

If anyone knows the secret of getting that 'chemistry' right, it is McGeechan.

(From left) Rory Underwood, Dean Richards, Rob Andrew, Ieuan Evans and Brian Moore celebrate victory with the 1989 Lions in Australia

He famously led the successful tours of Australia in 1989, and South Africa in 1997, but also the 1993 tour of New Zealand, where some of the midweek 'dirt-trackers' effectively went 'off tour' and the Test series was lost.

He was also an assistant coach of the 2005 Lions, when Sir Clive Woodward's selection of so many Englishmen (21) in a bloated squad of 45 caused resentment among other nations, with a subsequent impact on morale when the one-sided Test series began.

In a previous blog seven weeks ago I suggested England could be looking at their lowest representation in more than 30 years unless something startling happened in the final two rounds of the Six Nations.

Well, from a neutral's point of view, it was pretty startling to see England playing some free-flowing rugby against France and Scotland, some of the best of the tournament.

As a result, the likes of flanker Tom Croft, who I previously touted as a possible back-row bolter, and centre Riki Flutey moved from the possible to the probable category.

Croft is now being talked of as a likely Lions Test starter, let alone a mere tourist. And with Gavin Henson set to be a stand-by option at best after his latest injury, Flutey is likely to be the rapier alternative to Jamie Roberts' bludgeon at inside centre.

But for all the warm glow of those March afternoons at Twickenham, it is worth noting what Martin Johnson, the only man to captain two Lions tours, cites as critical in assessing potential tourists.

"You need men who perform well away from home, not in front of their own crowd, because all your matches are going to be away," he wrote in his autobiography. "You look for character; for guys who are going to keep fighting when things are not going well, when they have niggling injuries, when they are not going to get into the Test team."

The hallmarks of McGeechan's last Lions selection, in 1997, were boldness and imagination.

Ian McGeechan celebrates the 1997 Lions series victory in South Africa with Jeremy Guscott

He picked the then uncapped Will Greenwood, others such as Austin Healey and Neil Back who were only on the fringes of the England team at that point, while the impact of the six players recently returned from rugby league - Scott Gibbs, John Bentley, Alan Tait, Allan Bateman, Scott Quinnell and Dai Young - on the squad was huge.

By contrast, although the 2001 Lions arguably had more world-class talent at their disposal than the 1997 vintage, they lacked the camaraderie instrumental to the success of the previous tour, in part because the original selection, in Johnson's words, "was conservative, pretty unimaginative and motivated by outside factors".

Those factors were primarily Graham Henry's decision to pick 10 of his Wales players - some past their best such as Neil Jenkins and Dai Young, others not necessarily the best available in their positions at the time, such as Robin McBryde - at a time when Wales were struggling.

In a similar fashion, Sir Clive Woodward's decision to pick on reputation rather than form, and take 21 of his 2003 World Cup winners to New Zealand two years later, backfired spectacularly.

If McGeechan does not have the same conflicts of national interest and loyalty, he is still the director of rugby at Wasps, who have plenty of tour candidates, while three of his assistants - Warren Gatland, Shaun Edwards and Rob Howley - head up the Wales coaching team.

So will there be a left-field selection on Tuesday? You sense the romantic in McGeechan would love to take at least one player either uncapped or with little international experience.

On a seven-week tour, there is a case for picking an emerging youngster over a player of proven international experience, as Johnson notes:

"Pick guys who are used to playing Tests for their countries and not all of them are happy to sit on the sidelines and play midweek," he wrote.

Or as three-time Lion Lawrence Dallaglio puts it: "There are good rugby players and there are good tourists and it is no use having a good player who is not a good tourist."

The likes of Munster's 21-year-old centre Keith Earls (two Ireland caps), or Northampton's full-back Ben Foden (one for England) are already in most pundits' 'bolter' possibilities. I'd throw in Cardiff Blues wing Tom James (three replacement outings for Wales) as another, from what I have seen of his recent performances for the Welsh region.

But then McGeechan is not short of options at full-back, where Lee Byrne, Rob Kearney and Delon Armitage have amply pressed their cases, or outside centre, where Brian O'Driscoll and Tom Shanklin are surely on the plane?

Likewise, if we assume Tommy Bowe and Shane Williams - despite suggestions the Welsh wing wizard is no longer a 'definite' - make the trip, then pick a couple more wings from Leigh Halfpenny, Mark Cueto, Luke Fitzgerald, Paul Sackey, Ugo Monye, Chris Paterson...

It is worth pointing out that Armitage, who can also play at wing and centre, also provides a useful goalkicking option, which could be a major bonus in a squad lacking expertise in that area outside of the fly-halves. Reason enough to consider Scotland's Mr Dependable, Paterson?

The choice of a third fly-half, assuming Stephen Jones and Ronan O'Gara are included, will also attract much interest. Should Danny Cipriani even be considered? What about James Hook? Has Toby Flood done enough to sneak in? Or is Nicky Robinson a realistic candidate?

How about back-up locks, assuming Alun Wyn Jones and tour captain Paul O'Connell are nailed on? Donncha O'Callaghan or Ian Gough? Nathan Hines or Simon Shaw? Nick Kennedy? Steve Borthwick?

And what about the back row? Who to leave out? Could it be that Ryan Jones, favourite to captain the Lions a year ago after leading Wales to a Grand Slam, might miss out?

Or has the neck injury that appears to have scuppered the chances of Gloucester's Scottish flanker Alasdair Strokosch spared Jones from that particular ignominy?

Personally I would still take the Wales captain, even if his recent form has not always been convincing of late. The Lions need all the leaders they can get, in midweek as well as the big Saturday matches, if the tour is to be successful. Plus Jones is one of the few who can play in more than one position in the back row, and is a good line-out option.

But then others would advocate the claims of Ireland's Stephen Ferris, or England's Joe Worsley, or James Haskell. That's the beauty of Lions squads. Everybody has strong opinions about who should be in them, and there will be uproar in certain places regardless of who McGeechan goes for.

The one thing all of those chosen will hope is that the old sage is true to his word when he says 'we've got to have an open mind right up to a few days before the first Test' and that 'everyone will have a crack at that Lions spot'.

The evidence of the past two tours suggests that minds were made up either before the plane even took off, or soon after arrival.


  • Comment number 1.

    It's going to be an interesting day - especially if they pick truly based on form rather than reputation. Would be exciting if the likes of Earls and Foden make it through, and even more so if they pick one of Hook or Cipriani to act as playmaker for the midweek team...

    Just hoping the Geech doesn't make the same mistakes that Woodward and Henry did on previous tours. Looking forward to a proper old fashioned tour....

  • Comment number 2.

    Based on this years Six Nations I can see justification for a good mix of all nations, with perhaps the exception of Scotland. Wales, England and Ireland have all got outstanding players and if he chooses correctly the Lions could have an outstanding team.

    I'd also like to point out the mentality of the rugby fan. There is no concerns over bias for when the Lions play, we support the 100% as Brits. Country of origin is irrelvant for they represent us as a whole and it is glorious to see fans putting their full support behind the British and Irish Lions.


  • Comment number 3.

    My lions:

    1. Gethin Jenkins (best player in the world)
    2. Jerry Flannery (not alot of choice)
    3. Adam Jones (streets above the other options)
    4. A-W Jones (nailed on)
    5. O'Connell (nailed on)
    6. Wallace (Brilliant 6N)
    7. Williams (still got it)
    8. Heaslip (best 8 by a mile in 6N)

    9. Peel (still the best 9 in Britain)
    10. Jones (much more reliable than O'Gara)
    11. Kearney (unlucky not to be 15, but better option than Shane at 11)
    12. Flutey (got better and better in 6N)
    13. BOD (still a legend)
    14. Bowe (what a 6N)
    15. Byrne (average in 6N but still very solid, if we had two wings Kearney would be 15)

    16. Murray (need TH cover, Gethin can last 80)
    17. Ford (2nd best of a shocking bunch)
    18. DOC (unlucky but AWJ shades him)
    19. R. Jones (covers 6 and 8 and Wallace can cover 7 from the pitch)
    20. Phillips (what an impact player to have on the bench)
    21. O’Gara (not a lot else around)
    22. Shanklin (covers 11-14 with the two wingers ive picked covering full back)

    Plus 13 others! ;-)

  • Comment number 4.

    Lions Squad:
    1. G. Jenkins & P. Vickery (versatility)
    2. R. Ford, M. Rees & L.Mears
    3. E. Murray, A.Jones
    4. P. O'Connell & N. Kennedy
    5. A. W. Jones & S. Shaw
    6. T. Croft & S. Ferris
    7. M. Williams, D. Wollace & J. Worsley
    8. J. Heaslip, A. Powell
    9. M. Phillips, D. Peel & M. Blair
    10. S. Jones, T. Flood & R. O'Gara
    11. S. Williams, U. Monye
    12. J. Roberts, R. Flutey
    13. B. O'Driscall, T. Shanklin
    14. T. Bowe, J. Lewsey
    15. L. Byrne, D. Armitage & M. Tait

    Haven't got too many left field choices here - I'm sure there will be a few more in the squad than this. Have probably got too many englishmen in as well.

    There might be a few contentious choices in here. Have put Shaw in because I think you need someone with beef - just as an option - on the tour - don't think he's in great form though. I really think Croft will be good on the hard pitches of S. Africa with his pace. I thought Kennedy had an extremely good six nations - when he got a chance. Don't think we have a stand-out fly-hlaf so wouldn't be surprised if others were looked at. Have chosen Monye as 2nd 11. as he has silly pace but offers soemthing different to S.Willians as he's half a foot taller..I also think Leswey and Tait should be on the tour. Lewsey for his versatility and Tait because he offers a different kind of attack - he is illusive.

  • Comment number 5.


    Sadly although we'd love to believe this is the case, lack of bias is only evident the moment a game kicks off.

    You surely remember the uproar from most welsh fans when Clive Woodward picked a predominantly English Lions selection despite the Welsh Grand Slam that year?

  • Comment number 6.

    Totally agree with you Bryn that Cardiff Blues Tom James deserves to be considered, he is strong, fast and very direct. On current form i'd probably pick him ahead of Shane Williams who can't seem to catch even a cold at the moment. I think if the rumours are true that O'Connell is captain, this will be great news for O'Driscoll as he will be able to concentrate on his own game and not worry about other duties required when being captain. There will be some sleepless nights tonight for a large number of players!!!!!

  • Comment number 7.

    Players who respect the tradition, humble and hungry - that's what the squad needs. Players who undestand that in this is a one off chance to create a piece of history. Players who are comfortable to be part of the collective. No egos no superstars.

  • Comment number 8.

    With POC for Captain, and a fair few other Irishmen also touring if we are to believe the blogs, will Declan Kidney be invited along as well? Seems to me he has a considerable claim to a seat on the plane and could be rather useful.

    And which of the Experimental Laws will they play under?

  • Comment number 9.

    10mangame: No Haskell then ;)

    IMO, we have some good options in every position - there are at least two players fighting for every place. Would have liked to see Matt Stevens, but he only has himself to blame...

    The front row is practically nailed on - Jenkins, Flannery, Murray.

    I would not pick wither Ford or Rees at hooker as they are both wobbly throwers - we need to limit SAs chance to nick lineout balls - they may nick a couple, but I would be worried that with Ford or, especially, Rees throwing, they could utterly dominate and it would be game over...

    2nd row looked nailed on, but AWJ hasn't been in good form. In fact, none of the Hairsprays Welsh contingent have been - could this limit their selection? There should be more players from Cardiff than Ospreys.

    There also looks to be 6 contenders for the back row - the Irish 3, Williams, Croft and Easter. Bryn talks of the leadership of Jones being neccessary, well Easter can provide that, and is on better form.

    I wouldn't let Phillips near the team, and it would be interesting to see Hook at 10 and Paterson 15 midweek...

    Anyway, heres looking forward to a good squad announcemnet, just please no Haskell

  • Comment number 10.

    Hesperian, I hope there isn't any bias. I don't think they will considering their choice of captain as few can deny he deserved it. I was concerned with the bias being for Wasps and Wales players due to the coaches experience with them. However with Munster and Cardiff doing superb recently and many English players sticking their heads up for attention in the 6N I think there's a good case for a relatively good balance of the 3 nations (can't see any Scotland players making the tests) as Scotland only have a few stand-out players.

  • Comment number 11.

    my lions team

    1. gethin jenkins (best rugby in his career, strong in the scrum and great around the field)
    2. jerry flannery (best allround hooker available)
    3. euan murray (great in the scrums)
    4. paul o'connel (rock solid)
    5. alun wyn jones (is strng in scrums and lineout and his and o'connels partnership will be an intersting battle with bakis bother and victor matfield)
    6. tom croft (his speed and linout ability will be needed)
    7. martyn williams (best openside in europe)
    8. jamie heaslip (solid 6 nations)
    9. Mike philips (his size and strength will be vita agaisnt boks defence)
    10. nicky robinson (can control the game and his playing great rugby)
    11. rob kearney (his speed and power and ability to play well at 15 to will cause boks problems)/ shane williams (has out played habanna on there every meeting and can change the game at his best)
    12. jamie roberts (his power and srong runing lines will break boks defence and create some great ball)
    13. brian o'driscoll (will ifluence the game and a not capin will be able to concentrate on his rugby)
    14. tommy bowe (great 6 nations and will cause boks problems)
    15. lee byrne (although no a great 6 nations, is solid under the high ball, will give great attacking options and who knows how fa he will be able to boot the ball in altitude!)
    16. andy sheridan (back at his bet and his strength will be a great impact to a tierd spingbok scrum)
    17. ross ford (bring good strength to the front row)
    18. ryan jones (can cover 4,5,6 and 8 with heaslip covering the 7)
    19. dwane peel (probably the best distributer and can create and see lots of gaps in defence, only not starting because of philips physical size)
    20. james hook (can create great breaks with his amasing step and hand off and a good kicker)
    21. gavin heson(-if fit- can come on ad change the game)/ ricky flutey (had a great 6 nations and is getting better each game he plays)
    22. ben foden (his speed and his abitlity to get through holes in the defence could do lions a lot of good)/ leigh halfpenny (playing great rugby, is very quick and deceptivly strong and provides a reliable kicking source) - will be great experience and will improve both players hugely

    unlucky to miss out on test squad but will make mid week
    keith earls (will bring youthfull confidence and can create lots of oppotunities)
    joe worseley (great six nations and will tackle hard until the end of the earth)
    mike blair (great scrum half but never had a good anough scrum to show what he can really do)
    tom james (geat finisher and one to look out for in the future)
    tom evean (great speed and good finisher)
    luke fitzgerald (great young player)
    nick kennedy (good secound row and great in the lineout, unlucky in the 6 nations as was only kept out the starting team as borthwick was captin)
    doncha o'challaghan (only left out starting team as alwj and po'c are so solid)

    i have great hopes for this years lions and lets hope McGeechan can pick the right players

  • Comment number 12.

    Right a Lions 35 man squad, here goes nothing.

    1. Gethin Jenkins, Andrew Sheridan
    2. Ross Ford, Jerry Flannery, Rory Best
    3. Euan Murray, Adam Jones.
    4. Paul O'Connell, Nick Kennedy
    5. Alun Wyn Jones, Donncha O'Callaghan
    6. Tom Croft, Ryan Jones
    7. Martyn Williams, David Wallace
    8. Jamie Heaslip, Andy Powell
    9. Mike Blair, Mike Phillips, Dwayne Peel
    10. Ronan O'Gara, Stephen Jones, James Hook
    11. Shane Williams, Leigh Halfpenny
    12. Jamie Roberts, Riki Flutey
    13. Brian O'Driscoll, Tom Shanklin
    14. Tommy Bowe, Mark Cueto
    15. Lee Byrne, Rob Kearney

    John Hayes, Lee Mears, Jason White, Steffon Armitage, Tomos O'Leary, Toby Flood, Josh Lewsey, Thom Evans, Chris Paterson and Delon Armitage all have come close and would be on my stand by list.

  • Comment number 13.

    Stanley, #12.

    That's only 33 players in your 35 man squad!!

  • Comment number 14.


    I know you only chose 33, but if you are considering S Armitage to tour then i'd leave it at 33!!

  • Comment number 15.

    I think both croft and ryan jones have very strong cases as the lions lion out is going to need a tail jumping back row to give us an outlet if (possible when but i'm an optomist) matfield and botha start sorting us out at 2 and 4

  • Comment number 16.

    Well spotted. Steffon's been on good club form recently so thats why he's there. If 2 more were added then Lewsey and Paterson would go.

  • Comment number 17.

    My 36 would be as follows
    Props 5 G.Jenkins, A.Sheridan, E.Murray, A.Jones, P.Vickery

    Hookers 3, R.Best J.Flannery, R.Ford

    2nd Row 4 P.OConnell, A.W.Jones, N.Hines, N.Kennedy

    Back Row 7 S.Ferris, D.Wallace, J.Heaslip, M.Williams, R.Jones, T.Croft, J.Worsley

    Scrum Halves 3 M.Phillips, M.Blair, H.Ellis

    OH 3 S.Jones, R.OGara, J.Hook

    Centres 4 B.ODriscoll, T.Shanklin, J.Roberts, R.Flutey

    Wingers 4 T.Bowe, S.Williams, L.Halfpenny, M.Cueto

    Full Backs & Utilities L.Byrne, R.Kearney, D.Armitage

  • Comment number 18.

    1. G Jenkins / J Hayes
    2. L Mears / G Williams / R Ford
    3. A Jones / E Murray / P Vickery
    4. P O'Connell (c) / I Gough / N Hines
    5. A Wyn-Jones / D O'Callaghan
    6. R Jones (vc) / D Wallace (all backrowers picked flexible dont worry)
    7. M Williams / S Ferris / J Haskell
    8. J Heaslip / T Croft

    9. M Phillips / D Peel / H Ellis
    10. S Jones / R O'Gara / J Hook
    11. S Williams / T Evans
    12. R Flutey / J Roberts / *G D'Arcy (*unless G Henson fit)
    13. B O'Driscoll (vc) / T Shanklin
    14. T Bowe / L Halfpenny
    15. L Byrne / R Kearney / D Armitage

    thats 38. i havent counted the representation until now so i make it:
    Wales - 16
    England - 7
    Ireland - 11
    Scotland - 3

  • Comment number 19.

    1. Gethin Jenkins (definate)
    2. Flannery
    3. Euan Murray
    4. Paul O'Connell
    5. Alan Wyn Jones
    6. Wallace
    7. M. Willams
    8. Heaslip
    9. M. Phillips
    10. S. Jones
    11. S. Williams
    12. Roberts
    13. O'Driscoll
    14. Tommy Bowe
    15. Lee Byrne

    Other squad members: Kearney, Halfpenny, Shanklin, Flutey, O'Gara, Hook, Blair, Powell, Haskell, Croft, Gough, Kennedy, A. Jones, Ford/Mears, Sheridan, R. Jones, Armitage, Peel, Henson (though a huge doubt), Worsely, Sackey

  • Comment number 20.

    standby list of: A Sheridan, J Flannery, S Borthwick, J Thomas, G Cooper, N Robinson, M Evans, C Paterson, M Cueto.

  • Comment number 21.

    Stomalomalus - I concur on Haskell.

    I think there will be surprises and some upset, comments by Sean Edwards give this away.

    This is based on what I think they will decide - not what I would like!
    I am fairly sure they will not take Ryan Jones.
    I will not be surprised if they do take Mike Tindall but do not take Shane Williams
    I am pretty sure they do not rate the England selection, but know that there is a depth of talent in England, so expect a bolter or 2 from England.

    Based on 1997 how about a front row of Horan, Mears and Dickenson, 2nd of POC and Kennedy, back row Wallace, Williams and Heaslip.

    Personally (and as a non Welshman) I am delighted to see Shanklin on so many lists. I think he is pure class and has been for years. I think he is the main reason BOD was a non starter as captain, as he is going to press for the 13 shirt very hard.

  • Comment number 22.

    1. Gethin Jenkins, Andrew Sheridan
    2. Lee Mears, Ross Ford, Jerry Flannery
    3. Euan Murray, Adam Jones.
    4. Paul O'Connell, Nick Kennedy
    5. Alun Wyn Jones, Donncha O'Callaghan
    6. Tom Croft, Ryan Jones
    7. Martyn Williams, David Wallace
    8. Jamie Heaslip, Joe Worsley
    9. Mike Blair, Mike Phillips, Harry Ellis
    10. Stephen Jones, Ronan O'Gara, Toby Flood
    11. Ugo Monye, Shane Williams
    12. Riki Flutey, Jamie Roberts
    13. Brian O'Driscoll, Tom Shanklin
    14. Tommy Bowe, Mark Cueto,
    15. Delon Armitage, Lee Byrne, Rob Kearney

    Come on lets not Welsh bias the squad and be fair. Don't think Hook will go, pretty poor form of late. I honestly think he'll pick Cipriani as third choice. Don't necessarily agree but at least he's something different, but more likely to be resigned to the midweek side. Back 3 is very much a tough call. I've gone with Armitage, Bowe and Monye but could be any combination with Byrne or Kearney. Think Shane Williams has a bit to prove, gone quiet lately and may fall behind some of the more powerful runners required against the saffas.

    Back row, Williams and Heaslip pretty much nailed on. 6 could go anywhere.

    Hooker, I think Mears' open play and throwing will get him the starting spot.

    Props and second row, prob the only shoe-in starting combos in the team.

    Think there may be the odd surprise tomorrow!

  • Comment number 23.

    leigh halfpenny and gareth williams should go

  • Comment number 24.

    Good squad - actually one of the best I've seen.

    I would leave out Worlsey & Flood, and possibly Ryan Jones, but need a power option for the back row Powell or Easter.
    Agree on Mears - based on the last 6 weeks he would start if the test was next week.
    Half back - really is a problem - Charlie Hodgson? Better than ROG is most areas - discuss.

  • Comment number 25.

    I submitted my first Lions Squad after the second round of 6 Nations matches and in the light of what happened in subsequent matches, my squad needs to be revised!

    1) Gethin Jenkins Andrew Sheridan
    2) Jerry Flannery Lee Mears Matthew Rees
    3) Euan Murray Adam Jones
    4) Paul O'Connell Simon Shaw
    5) Alun Wyn Jones Donncha O'Callaghan
    6) Ryan Jones Joe Worsley
    7) Martyn Williams David Wallace
    8) Jamie Heaslip Andy Powell
    9) Mike Phillips Tomos O'Leary Dwayne Peel
    10) Stephen Jones Ronan O'Gara James Hook
    11) Shane Williams Thom Evans
    12) Rickey Flutey Jamie Roberts
    13) Barry O'Driscoll Tom Shanklin
    14) Tommy Bowe Leigh Halfpenny
    15) Lee Byrne Rob Kearney

    33 above, plus Phil Vickery Tom Croft Tom James

    Test team:

    1) Gethin Jenkins (awesome - does everything except place kick!)
    2) Jerry Flannery ( accurate throw, good round the pitch)
    3) Euan Murray (The only Scottish cert)
    4) Paul O'Connell (Strong, rallies troops, great line-out artist)
    5) Alun Wyn Jones (see Gethin Jenkins comment)
    6) Joe Worsley ( as Dallaglio said: 'a tree cutter')
    7) Martyn Williams (on fire at the moment)
    8) Jamie Heaslip (massive 6 Nations)
    9) Mike Phillips ( line-breaker, strong, 9th forward)
    10) Stephen Jones (calm, directs, kicks and distributes well, strong)
    11) Shane Williams (loves Bryan Habana - remember last year?)
    12) Jamie Roberts (strong and can also provide back cover)
    13) Barry O'Driscoll (back to his awesome best this season)
    14) Tommy Bowe (on form this season)
    15) Lee Byrne (still the best 15 in the world)

    Bench: Andrew Sheridan
    Lee Mears
    Donncha O'Callaghan
    Andy Powell
    Dwayne Peel
    James Hook
    Rob Kearney

    I think this 22 would give the Boks a good game..

  • Comment number 26.

    In response to Bencedars comment 23

    I agree with Gareth Williams and Halfpenny, both were outstanding on saturday. Why has G Williams been overlooked all season for Wales, he's easily the best hooker in Wales,a position where we've always struggled, he was everywhere on saturday against Gloucester. I think Halfpenny played himself in on saturday, although i worry about his size against the mighty boks. Tom James, Cardiffs left wing could be a surprise call up(hopefully!!)

  • Comment number 27.

    I really hope that this Lions Tour can rebuild the strength of what it means to be a Lion. Sir Clive did well over a long spell as England supremo but the way the NZ tour was handled and conducted was a blow. I have to be honest that Lions have not been the same since rugby went professional. I do believe that this commitee has selected the right brand of people in both management and coaching. I hope that all 4 nations supporters get behind the team and this bias towards individual nation's picks does not haunt us the way it did in Aus and NZ. Looking back at the Aus tour with the quality of players at Henry's disposal we should have won 3-0.
    I can't wait for the series to begin - all leave is booked.
    ps I think Stephen Ferris could have the impact that J. Davidson had in 97.

  • Comment number 28.

    The debates are great. Those called Jenksta or MunsterMan have their selections dominated by the Welsh or Irish. Its the same across the board. None of these selections are without at least a pinch of bias. A number of selections have been based on past form, Ryan Jones, or a decent game at the weekend, Tom James.

    The truth is there needs to be a hefty mix of players, from warhorses such as Worsley to outside bets like Foden.

    A number of those being touted have repeatedly been shown up by the Boks, do you risk an unknown, or give those who have failed before one more chance?

    I like some good outside bets, Stefon Armitage has been amazing all season, and would love the hard grounds. Keith Earls has been progressing nicely, and Tom James could be in with a shout if he takes off his scrum cap.

    I for one am very excited by the selection tomorrow. I just hope that the selectors can be unbiased. With a high Welsh and Wasps impact, I hope I am not disapointed.

    Cipriani has done nothing all season, and will be picked on potential. Nicky Robinson had a good Heineken Cup and EDF, but Cardiff are in the lower half of the magners and he cannot usurp Hook or Jones from the Welsh team.

    The tour starts tomorrow and so will the arguing. Brilliant.

  • Comment number 29.

    I love selection based on form, but I think the general consensus has swung towards the idea that form is the be all an end all. Form, by it's very nature is temporary. In some cases very temporary. Take people like Williams and Wyn Jones. They were both shoe-ins just WEEKS ago, and now people are talking about leaving one or the other behind. Your form is only as good as your last match and good form today isn't going to count for squit if we get to SA and find come the first test that someone we picked on form had a very short vein of it.

    What I'm saying is that while in the past we've been far too obsessed with reputation over form, I think there is a danger of swinging too far the other way and picking players whose form today looks awesome but may turn out to be average players on a short term high. For me, some players class should overwhelm the short term form of another.

    I used to be a critic of Shane Williams' for years, but he has developed into an awesome attacking threat when he's on form. His form might not be tip top at the moment, but I'd back him to finish if given the opportunity in a Lions test. Class is permanent might be an old maxim, but it's true.

    Likewise, I see Euan Murray as a constant selection and I can't see why. There seem to be a few players round the squad who seem to be very 'Emperor's New Clothes' and who people picking in front of established class. A Lions test motivates a player to considerable heights, and I reckon class players put in that environment will reward with performances.

    I'm not advocating class over form, but simply a balance being struck. Tomas O'Leary was indecisive and lacked control in the GS game. Phillips, Peel and Ellis should be far ahead of him. Some people are questioning Martyn Williams' starting spot and seem to question his class. Here's a guy who has produced the big game performances time and again, is one of the ultimate NH opensides, produces a sublime performance for the Blues on the weekend and is still questioned. Even if his form wasn't perfect, his class warrants selection. It'd be like the AB's leaving McCaw behind after a couple of mediocre games.

    If we're going to take the less proven players we've gotta be damn sure of their class. For that reason I have no issue with names like Halfpenny, Foden and Croft while names like Ford and Powell concern me.

    The most barmy selection I've seen so far? Planet Rugby putting S.Borthwick in their Red-Hot 'Pack Your Bags' category for 2nd row alongside Wyn Jones and POC. What the.... and I'm English!

  • Comment number 30.

    RE: 26

    i guess the management always thought he was too small for a hooker!
    he hit every lineout jumper that by god moved. i would probably put nick robinson on first reserve as well just behind the tourist trio of jones, hook and o'gara. if an english 10 goes it had better be flood if at all. i will scream bloody murder if cipriani or wilkinson goes.

  • Comment number 31.

    Nicky Robinson shouldn't go, he's been inconsistant for the Blues all season, hence why he's going to Gloucester in the summer. Tom James game would be suited to the tour,in a position where we are struggling in depth. Steffan armitage may be good at club level but he was awful against Italy and i just can't forget that. I think Flutey will be hard done by if he doesn't go, as will Delon Armitage,Lee Mears,Harry Ellis and Joe Worseley, but in my opinion these were the only stand out players for England in the 6n who deserve to get on the plane.

  • Comment number 32.

    Praetorian Guard RE:29

    very refreshing. like your take on it. i for one would like to see halfpenny go. you can't make comparisons between gloucester and the boks, of course you can't. but you can account for a lot of those blues players, most notably halfpenny, martyn williams and nick robinson still being able to pull the strings and put 50 on one of the very top sides in Europe. i was also impressed with gareth williams and tom james but the latter will surely not go and gareth williams will be just as unlucky as he has been over wales selection throughout his entire career.

    Agreed, Williams and Wyn-Jones must go. The Ospreys players have really not done the business as a squad the last few weeks but the lions is a wholly different environment and they are two of the best equipped players we have. would like to see croft on the plane actually, huge physical presence and if you mix that with someone like martyn williams in the back row you will have many more strings to your bow. borthwick...please! lol captain o'connell, alun the great, o'callaghan the donk, hines and gough are brighter in the picture than him!

  • Comment number 33.



    i think i had it at 16 welsh players which i suppose is generous, especially since i am welsh! i dont pick them because of a waft of patriotism, but because i think that they are quality players, and much better than they showed in the 6N. ok i kinda agree about robinson, he shouldn't go in the original squad, but should injuries hit one of the 3 fly halfs then i would probably prefer him to cipriani or wilkinson! no doubt, i would take mears, ellis, croft, armitage and most importantly flutey, especially considering the likelihood that henson will not be fit. just as long as they dont take sackey! cueto would certainly be a better choice. i still believe tom james and the evans' are just a little bit green. halfpenny on the other hand, ive only ever seen him make a couple of mistakes. he is strong for his size, has electrifying pace, a great eye for the game and incredible vision and awareness which is one of the most important facets of our game should we have a chance of beating the boks.

  • Comment number 34.

    A few things need to be taken into consideration when picking the squad, familiarity, mental toughness, versatility and leadership. I think the squad will look something like this, starting test 22 in brackets,

    Gethin Jenkins (1), Andrew Sheridan, Ross Ford (17), Jerry Flannery (2), Dylan Hartley, Phil Vickery (16), Euan Murray (3), Paul O'Connell (4 & capt), Simon Shaw, Nathan Hines (5), Alyn Wyn Jones (18), Tom Croft, James Haskell (8), Jamie Heaslip, David Wallace (6), Martyn Williams (7), Ryan Jones, Andy Powell (19), Mike Phillips (9), Tomos O'Leary (20), Dwayne Peel, Steven Jones (10), Ronan O'Gara (21), James Hook, Ricky Flutey (12), Jamie Roberts (22), Brian O'Driscoll (13), Tom Shanklin, Tommy Bowe, Tom Evans, Shane Williams (11), Leigh Halfpenny, Lee Byrne (15), Robert Kearny (14), Delon Armitage, Gavin Henson.

    Plenty of versatile boys there, Alyn Wyn can play blindside and Croft vise versa with the rest of the back row covering more than one position other that Martyn Williams, Gethin Jenkins can play tighthead, Kearny & Armitage can shift about a bit as can Jamie Roberts. Having this luxury means you can carry Henson in the squad, and use him towards the end of the tour if required.

  • Comment number 35.

    Test Side

    1. Gethin Jenkins - most consistant and threatening prop, he has everything
    2. Jerry Flannery - Lee Mears would be hear but he is too small and against monstorous opposition and would struggle, what a great player though
    3. Ewan Murray - second to Jenkins
    4. Alyn Wyn Jones - outstanding 6 nations although i hope kennedy goes as well, unlucky not to start all the matches as the man holding him out was just there because of his captaincy, could prove a real asset in the lineout
    5. Paul O'Connell - phenominal talent and will be a great captain
    6. Tom Croft - pure athleticism and a great lineout option
    7. Martyn Williams - a real pain for SA, will slow their ball down
    8. Jamie Heaslip - we all saw that try against the french, great strenght and wil play with real passion

    9. Mike Phillips - powerful nine that can hold his own although i would like to see Care go as well for his pace
    10. Stephen Jones - O'Gara defence is a real issue, the welsh demonstrated this and the BOKs will be even worse

    11. Rob Kearney - playings so much better now than shane williams who is slipping off form, i believe that he will be a real favourite if he goes although i still believe that they will go with Shane
    12. Ricki Fluety - elusive running, Roberts its a powerhouse and i think de villes will end him there, Lions will make little proggress trying to plough their way over SA
    13. Brian O' Driscoll - Best player in the world atm, an unquestionable starter
    14. Tommy Bowe - a fine player with bags of pace
    15. Lee Byrne - In great form, pure gas and solid under the high ball

    Agree with my reasons?

  • Comment number 36.

    1. Gethin Jenkins (arguably the best prop in n hemisphere at the m0)
    2. Jerry Flannery (no outstanding candidates completely open)
    3. A Sheriddan (need brute strength against SA)
    4. A-W Jones (if not these two in second row will eat my hat)
    5. O'Connell (and captain, immense in the 6N)
    6. Croft (need to have some genuine pace around the ruck)
    7. Williams (still real quality)
    8. Heaslip (is a tough choice but had great six nations)

    9. Phillips (doubles as a back rower when defending and makes loads of breaks)
    10. Jones (would pick O'Gara but partnerships are key here)
    11. Bowe (Showed real class in try at millenium)
    12. Flutey (had great end to the 6 nations and can find breaks from no where)
    13. BOD (not the player he used to be but still the outstanding option)
    14. Shane Williams (SA wont of forgotten those two amazing tries in the summer)
    15. Byrne (only outstanding welsh back in 6 nations and much more reliable than armitage)

    16. Murray (v unlucky not to be starting)
    17. Ford (is a toss up between the two)
    18. gough (was solid in the 6 nations showed some crunching hits)
    19. Worsley (was immense against wales and is a real terrior around the ruck needed in SA)
    20. Foden (versatlie player, at 9 or 15)
    21. O Gara (probably the best 10 but need those combinations in midfield)
    22. Patterson (best kicker in the world, hugely underrated, is brilliant in open play aswel can play anywhere in the backs)

    To be honest i would of picked nearly the same team before the tour but the irish boys have just reaffirmed their places and people shouldn't turn their back on some of the welsh lads.

    Think some surprise places should be Halfpenny, the Evans brothers and steffan armitage.

  • Comment number 37.

    My concern for the lions tour is that we do not have enough quality to realistically challenge the South Africans on home soil. Take no 10 for example - probably the most important position on the pitch - we will have either Steve Jones or Ronan O'Gara. Unfortunately neither of these players can be described as world class. It's a shame that Cipriani has not quite reached the levels we know he is capable of. Hooker is another one, as is scrum half and No 8 - all crucial positions.
    Nevertheless, I hope Geech can work his magic in moulding a side with character and fight that can challenge them and unearth a few gems in the process. My suggestions/thoughts for selection:
    1. we need to take a few large, nasty characters capable of inflicting fear - and a bit of discreet pain - on the opposition. Do we have anyone who can do this? how about dusting down julian white? shaw and worsley are a must. what about that big scottish fella who plays hooker?
    2. the Munster pack - take them all!
    3.Why do all the pundits keep going on about Rob Kearney - is he really that good? I haven't seen it. and Fitzegerald and Bowe for that matter too. Maybe it's me but I would have thought that Sackey, Monye, Strettle, Lewsey are all equal if better - although that said may not have had the required exposure during the 6 nations.
    4. scrum half. danny care. he has all the attributes that you need for this tour - cheeky little chappy who is actually a bit of a fighter and will give as good as he gets.
    5. bolter - chris patterson at fullback. not the best fullback in the world but solid and will kick all the points - which will probably be crucial. think jenkins in 97.

  • Comment number 38.

    i find it quite amusing how many teams on here have no englishmen. good old english bashing ey. funny how eng came 2nd, scored most tries and had best defence tho. barring idiotic behaviour v ireland and a rediculous ref v wales what could have been...
    any hoo.
    4.POC Capt
    5. Wyn JOnes
    6. Croft
    9. Phillips/Ellis
    10. Wilkinson (ha if only) Flood based on attack.
    11. Cueto
    14. Armatige
    Good mix. not just english loving i reckon. but on form you you could hardly say Ry Jones, Kearny, Dwarf Williams etc can get in.

  • Comment number 39.

    I would be devastated if Ferris didnt go ...seriously i would! Despite being only 23 he has been plagued by injuries, mainly because he puts his body on the line at every opportunity. If he had played every game this season he would be certain of a starting place in my eyes.

    He has only played once since the six nations, and he doesnt get the same exposure as someone like Croft, and with the probable inclusion of a wasps back row player, I'm worried he could be overlooked.

  • Comment number 40.

    can i just say as an irishman, i highly recomend a look at jeremy guscott's column before half 1 2moro. usually he is 1 of the most bias person the bbc pays to comment on rugby matters. to be honest i would find it hard to disagree with any of his 35 man squad with the possible selection of danny care. however i daresay his starting xv will be ridiculas

  • Comment number 41.

    right gents, we all seem very excited about this selection. It seems it has hindered some of our thinking. In particular, our friend 'Hugh1985':

    "15. L. Byrne, D. Armitage & M. Tait."

    With 13 and a half hours to the deadline Hugh has clearly panicked with his selection of an out of form, inexperianced and unconfident Matthew Tait. My friend, you are in need of skysports. In fairness to you sir your other selections are reasonable.
    May i also make the point that i have not referred to certain irish players in short. e.g BOD. for the simple reason that they are not my friend, colleague or any sort of aquaintance. Please refrain.
    I can however tell the actual Lions starting XV:

    1. Gethan Jenkins (talented workhorse)
    2. Lee Mears (carries, hits his man. flannery hides at the bottom of rucks and has a poor tackle count)
    3. Euan Murray (solid in the scrum and loves to tackle)
    4. Alan Wyn jones (loves blue shoulders, good athlete)
    5. Paul O'Connell (Capt.) (glue mits, straight talking)
    6. Tom Croft (Good all-round ball player, line-out option)
    7. Stephan Ferris (aggressive carrier)
    8. Jamie Heaslip (In form, quick and smart player
    9. Dwayne Peel (good rugby brain)
    10. Stephan Jones (good when on the back foot, will kick points)
    11. Tommy Bowe (solid defence, pace to burn)
    12. Ricky flutey (silky feet, knows where the try line is)
    13. Brian O'Driscoll (reads the game brilliantly, a leader of men)
    14. Rob Kearney (good under the high ball, Du preez will box-kick allday)
    15. Lee Byrne (fine all round player, huge boot will sail in Johannesburg altitude)

    Thank you for your time.

  • Comment number 42.

    1. Gethin Jenkins
    2. Jerry Flannery
    3. Euan Murray
    4. Paul O'Connell
    5. Alun Wyn Jones
    6. David Wallace/Tom Croft
    7. Martyn Williams
    8. Lawrence Dallaglio
    9. Dwayne Peel
    10. Ronan O'Gara
    11. Shane Williams
    12. Jamie Roberts
    13. Brian O'Driscoll
    14. Tommy Bowe
    15. Rob Kearney

  • Comment number 43.

    There is some really shocking decisions made by some people here, Shane Williams is still deservadly the best winger we have even after a quiet 6N so he has to make the team. Also I dont know why anyone would have Tom Croft in their team when you have the power house of Stephen Ferris, should be team:

    1. gethin jenkins (best prop in Europe)
    2. Jerry flannery (not alot else)
    3. John Hayes (form of his life)
    4. Aw jones (solid)
    5. Paul o'connell (always reliable, ever present)
    6. Stepehen ferris (huge hitter and ball carrier, will combat schalke burger)
    7. Martin Williams (he's still got it)
    8. David Wallace (form of his life, frequently plays 8 for munster, the best back row in the 6N)

    9. Dwayne peel (controlles the game brilliantly but gatland will probably opt for Phillips)
    10. Stephen jones (best of a bad bunch)
    11. Shane Williams (magician, can win games from nothing)
    12. Jamie Roberts (great crash ball 12, also versatile)
    13. (C) Brian O'Driscoll (what a player, almost single handedly won 6N for Ireland, my captain
    14. Tommy bowe (form winger of the 6N
    15. Lee byrne (tough choice between armitage and kearney but form full back in Europe for a few seasons.

    16. Euan Murray (for scrum time)
    17. Lee mears (dynamic replacement, best of v.bad bunch)
    18. Donnacha o'callaghan ( work-horse unlucky not to start)
    19. Jamie heaslip (form 8 of the 6N, unlucky not to start, great impact)
    20. Mike Phillips (dynamic,impact player to bring off the bench)
    21. Ronan o'gara (would love to see Jonny wilkinson here instead but unlikely to happen)
    22. Delon armitage (can change games from the bench, unlucky not to start)

  • Comment number 44.

    As an Englishman I am not sure you can pick Williams over Wallace at no. 7. Wallace is just that bit bigger, stronger and more powerful than Williams, and a better 6 nations.

    Ferres or Croft at No. 6. I would prefer the physicality of Ferres.

    Problem is I want Heaslip at No.8. If you do that, then the No 6 has to be a lineout jumper, so it then goes to Croft.

    6. Croft
    7. Wallace
    8. Heaslip

  • Comment number 45.

    Loins Team

    1.Gethin Jenkins
    2.Jerry Flannery
    3.Euan Murray
    4.Paul O'Connell(c)
    5.Alun Wyn Jones(Vc)
    6.Joe Worsley
    7.David Wallace
    8.Jamie Heaslip
    9.Mike Phillips
    10.Stephen Jones(Vc)
    11.Shane Williams
    12.Riki Flutey
    13.Brian O'Driscoll(Vc)
    14.Tommy Bowe
    15.Rob Kearney
    16.A Sheridan
    17.R Ford
    18.D O'Callaghan
    19.M Williams(Vc)
    20.T O'leary
    21.R O'Gara
    22.D Armitage

    Unlucky to Miss out would be L. Byrne and he could well start but I think Kearney had a better 6n and deserves his place. Have put Armitage in as he I think he is going to be a class player and provides cover for wing and FB.
    Am I the only one who would love to see J Wilkinson making the plane even as Kicking coach or outhalf specific coach role. Since the two starting N.10's Jones and O'Gara are not quiet world class even having Wilko there to assist them and advise them would be invaluable imo. He was the best in the world until he got blighted with injuries, such a pity he couldnt get fit in time to make the starting team.
    Dont think Henson or Cipriani should make the plane as they will disrupt the harmony of the team and you need a 35/36 man squad that are in it together weather they are starting the tests or not.
    Think K. Earls will make it as he is another up and coming star for Munster and Ireland and barring disaster will probably take over BOD place in a few years when the great man steps aside.
    Picked O'leary as second scrum half as I feel on his current form he deserves it. Prob not the quickest passer of the ball but his box kicks and his size might do the trick late on agains the Boks.
    Can see Ferris and Croft going as back row cover and mid week players and both will do a fine job as tourists.
    Have picked a load of Vc as you can see as i think we need these players to stand up and be counted as leaders and I feel they will do a fine job if asked to do so.
    Players such as P Vickery, M.Horan, J.Hayes, N.Kennedy, S.Shaw, Ry.Williams, A.Powell, M.Blair, J.Hook, T.Flood, U.Monye, J.Roberts, T.Shanklin, J.Lewsey, M.Cueto, L Fitzgerald, C Patterson all in with a big chance of making the plane.
    All in all I think we have a great chance of winning this tour and dare I say it going un beaten. Would love it if we did to shut those SH crowd up for a change and show them the real rugby is played up north.

  • Comment number 46.

    Looking at left-field I have been impressed by Falcons' hallf back Youngs and May, what about them? I'm worried about O'Gara bottling it.

  • Comment number 47.

    I think the constant re use of coaches is against the spirit of rugby. Geech is a legend but hes had a few sucks of the sauce bottle as coach. It should be given to a younger up and coming coach. The same thing applies to the captain. The choice of all coaching staff should be left till after the Six Nations. There is a need to pick coaches who are in form as well as players. There are question marks about Gatland and Edwards a feeling f 'same old, same old'. What is developing here is a Wasps 'Cosy Club' . Lions tours should case the talents of the very best of players in their prime or just coming into their prime. It should not be a jolly for has beens especially if they have 'retired' from playing for their home nations.

  • Comment number 48.

    I just found out that the squad has been leaked early.
    Wikipedia has put up the squad,

    It's quite good actually,

    this is insane!!

  • Comment number 49.

    Form may be temporary but in my opinion it should be all that gets you on the plane. If not form then you're picking on reputation or even worse favouratism and the abject failure of the Graham Henry and Clive Woodward tours shows how well that works.

    Disappointed that some of the big names in Welsh rugby haven't really shown up this year as I think it would have given the Boks a few sleepless nights before a ball had been touched but either by lack of form or injury they didn't so sadly they shouldn't be on the plane. For what it's worth here are my thoughts:

    1: Jenkins, Horan
    2: Mears, Flannery, Ford
    3: Murray, A. Jones
    4: O'Connell (c), O' Callaghan
    5: Wyn Jones, Kennedy
    6: Croft, Worsley, Ferris
    7: Williams, Rees
    8: Wallace, Heaslip
    9: Ellis, Phillips, Blair (assuming Peel in unfit)
    10: Jones, Robinson, O'Gara
    11: Monye, Williams
    12: Flutey, Earls, Roberts
    13: O'Driscoll, Shanklin
    14: Bowe, Halfpenny
    15: Byrne, Armitage

    The only player I think I've picked on reputation is Williams as I think he is poushed very hard for his place by Thom Evans but if you are going to chance it why not the IRB Player of the Year.

    Players such as Roberts, Armitage, Worsley are picked because they would never let anyone down and can cover a number of bases. In terms of controversial picks if Monye can stay fit he has everything needed to scare the life out of the opposition.

    In terms of bias I'm English so may be one or two extra red roses in there.

  • Comment number 50.

    re comment 48 - LIES! i'm ashamed to say that, like an eager child searching through his parents wardrobe for his christmas presents, i looked at that web page shame on me for not waiting for another 2 and a half hours

  • Comment number 51.

    Its going to be very interesting - the majority of the squad picks itself. The only places that really come under scrutiny just now are the hookers and the scrum halves.

    The hooking position is going to come down to Flannery, Mears and Ford by the looks of things and you can easily argue for and against them all.

    And the scrum half is even more of a choice - Ellis, Phillips, Blair, Peel, Stringer, Cusiter.

    As i said its going to be interesting at 1.30 today.

  • Comment number 52.

    Re: #48

    Below is the squad list that was on Wikipedia but it has since been removed. You can see the history of updates on Wikipedia pages via the History tab at the top of the screen...

    - 1. Euan Murray
    - 2. Phil Vickery
    - 3. Andrew Sheridan
    - 4. Adam Jones
    - 5. Lee Mears
    - 6. Dylan Hartley
    - 7. Jerry Flannery
    - 8. Nick Kennedy
    - 9. Paul O'Connell (C)
    - 10. Alun Wyn Jones
    - 11. Tim Swinson
    - 12. David Wallace
    - 13. Martyn Williams
    - 14. Neill Best
    - 15. Scott Gray
    - 16. Tom Croft
    - 17. Steffon Armitage
    - 18. Lewis Moody
    - 19. Harry Ellis
    - 20. Dwayne Peel
    - 21. Paul Hodgson
    - 22. Stephen Jones
    - 23. Jonny Wilkinson
    - 24. Andy Goode
    - 25. Brian O'Driscoll
    - 26. Paddy Wallace
    - 27. Riki Flutey
    - 28. Tom Shanklin
    - 29. Tommy Bowe
    - 30. Shane Williams
    - 31. Leigh Halfpenny
    - 32. Josh Lewsey
    - 33. Lee Byrne
    - 34. Delon Armitage
    - 35. Ben Foden

    And (unless I misunderstood the audit history) the contributor was one "draktom1".

    Funny that...

  • Comment number 53.

    Lots of these selections keep banging on about how we'll need strength and power to match the Boks, but I think we'll be missing a trick if we assume that's the way to go.

    South Africa play with a lot of pace as well as power, we won't be able to beat them for either facet, that's for sure, and will come off second best if we try.

    Nee Zealand, and to a lesser degree Australia, have success in South Africa when they go for smaller, mobile and skilful players who tackle well, compete on the ground, and force errors through playing a spoiling type of game.

    Therefore my team is:

    1 G Jenkins
    2 S Flannery
    3 E Murray
    4 P O'Connell
    5 A Wyn Jones
    6 D Wallace
    7 M Williams
    8 S Ferris
    9 M Blair
    10 R O'Gara
    11 S Williams
    12 B O'Driscoll
    13 R Flutey
    14 T Bowe
    15 L Byrne

  • Comment number 54.

    Another Squad has been leaked on wikipedia

  • Comment number 55.

    I cannot believe people are seriously suggesting Nicky Robinson as a lions tourist. Fair enough, he was good in the final on Saturday but that was against a woeful Gloucester backline and behind an utterly dominant pack.

    As a Blues season ticket holder I've seen a lot of Robinson this year and I would not let him anywhere near the plane. He is far too inconsistent.

  • Comment number 56.

    1. Gethin Jenkins Sheridan at 60 mins if required you need to conserve your players
    2. Hartley wild card selection but the familiarity with Murray from Northampton will aid the scrummage, beligerent fiesty and will be a good tourist, Ford on the bench
    3. Murray outstanding six nations Vickery mid week leader experience top bloke and from wasps
    4 Shaw for the first 50 proper sized 4 to damage the boks then Alun Wyn jones to finish strongly in last quarter of game
    5 O'Connel skipper enough said Kennedy back up
    6 Worsley Croft for midweek and bench
    7 Williams Wallace Rees the two best opensides and the up and coming star it will generate fierce competition
    8 Heaslip, Hogg, Wallace and Worsley can cover the 8 if requied

    9 Phillips, Care, O'Leary
    10 Jones, O'Gara, Robinson in form and midweek game Cardiff link
    11 S. Williams,
    12 Flutey,Robertson, Darcy
    13 Bod, Shanklin, Tindall excellent tourist
    14 Bowe, Carney, Cueto,James
    15 Byrne, Armitage

  • Comment number 57.

    There seems to be a surprising agreement on the test team, and in fairness I can't really disagree on any of the positions. If they are managed correctly they have the potential to beat SA

  • Comment number 58.

    There are a few players who can feel unlucky about not going but the one I haven't heard mentioned on 5Live so far is Delon Armitage. For me his versatility and kicking ability added on to his form in the 6N means he can feel hard done by.

  • Comment number 59.

    Well that's it, the team is out. I must say that the team is a statement of intent. Already the likes of the Times and The Sun are baying for blood for leaving the "poster-boy" Cipriani out as there will be a lack of magic. However this team is there to do one thing, win games. A lot of experience there with a lot of power and speed. Couple of curve balls though but should make for a good tour.

    Can't wait for it now!

  • Comment number 60.

    no croft, jones or armitage massive surprise and that comes from an irishman

  • Comment number 61.

    Can understand why Armitage was out as there are a lot of others in contention, though I think if he'd shown his class a bit earlier he may have sneaked in. I'm very surprised though that only two fly-halves are in the squad. What if they get injured?

  • Comment number 62.

    Well what a surprise, the most overrated team in the six nations is both over-represented on the pitch and in the coaching staff- half of the Welshmen in that squad do not deserve to go. All of the Ireland players probably deserve their place but I would say England and Scotland are under-represented. Bit of a lack of imagination at ten- Stephen Jones and Ronan O'Gara are not going to exactly set the world on fire are they?
    Think selecting the arrogant Gatland will backfire.

  • Comment number 63.

    How on earth canhe leave out Croft and Armitage, Yes i am English and think the squad is ok but weak in some areas.

  • Comment number 64.

    62- Gatland left out his captain and one of the best 9's in world rugby. Halfpenny is a suprise but his goalkicking probably got him the nod over sackey/ cueto/ evans. Think the major suprise is only taking 2 outside halfs. It will be interesting to see the standby list..

  • Comment number 65.

    64- Ryan Jones did not deserve a place in the squad and Wales most definetly do not have one of the best no.9's in the world.I agree with you about the standby list and no.10's though


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