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Size matters for this pride of Lions

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Bryn Palmer | 21:02 UK time, Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Bish, bash, bosh. Here come the Boks. "A great rugby nation in great shape," according to the man charged with beating them, Ian McGeechan.

But for every prime slice of South African biltong roaming the High Veldt this summer, there's a Lion-sized chunk of British & Irish beef to meet it.

That seemed to be the underlying message as the 37 players heading to Springbok country next month were finally unveiled at a hotel next to Heathrow's Terminal Five.


Previous experience, as a player on the 1974 tour, and a coach in 1997, has taught McGeechan that you don't win matches in South Africa without meeting fire with fire.

The more you delve deeper into his selection, the more you sense we could be in for one of the most attritional, confrontational series of Test matches in living memory.

Something to match, or even surpass perhaps, the sustained ferocity of the Springboks onslaught in the second Test in Durban 12 years ago, a match Lawrence Dallaglio described as "more brutal than anything I encountered in my entire career".

On that occasion the Lions manned the trenches, tackled as if their lives depended on it, got under South Africa's skins and somehow emerged victorious.

Two of the key figures in that process were 'mighty mouse' props Tom Smith and Paul Wallace, but as McGeechan says, the game has moved on since then.

This time brute force in a Springbok jersey will find its equal in a red Lions jersey.

"You have to win the collisions, because South Africa are probably the best defensive unit in the world at the moment," noted Lions assistant coach Shaun Edwards, who has orchestrated much of the success enjoyed by Wasps and Wales with the same 'blitz' defence employed by South Africa.

"But it is pretty hard to stop the Boks, no matter what system you have in place, when you have 18 and 19-stone forwards running at you."

Well, for every Bakkies Botha, 'Beast' Mtawarira, Danie Rossouw or Pierre Spies, how about this lot running back at them?

When the out-sized Andrew Sheridan is only the fifth heaviest member of your squad, you are packing some serious poundage.

The Lions have 10 forwards over 18 stone, including all five props. Wales' hair-bear tight-head Adam Jones tops the squad's charts at 20 stone dead, just ahead of Simon Shaw, the 6ft 8in veteran who leads the second-row heavyweights at 19st 6lb.


Alun Wyn Jones (18st 10lb) and Nathan Hines (18st 9lb) are not far behind, with back-rows Andy Powell and Joe Worsley also weighing in at 18 stone.

The presence of "tree-cutter" Worsley, and other back-row bandits such as the niggly Alan Quinlan and combative Stephen Ferris, suggest the hits could be off the Richter scale.

Bruising centres such as Welsh duo Jamie Roberts and Tom Shanklin will also expect to make plenty of hard yards, while all three scrum-halves have an overtly physical edge.

The size and style of Mike Phillips is well documented, while Harry Ellis loves a scrap with the best of them and Tomas O'Leary also provides a sturdy, abrasive presence behind the scrum.

But for those worried that the 10-match tour could become a series of slug-fests, there are plenty of fleet-footed finishers ready to dazzle among the behemoths and bashers.

McGeechan and his assistants were all keen to emphasise the Lions will need to play with "intelligence, smartness and pace".

So while acknowledging the imposing physical nature of the challenge with some selections, other choices should ensure that when chances to attack arise, they are taken with alacrity.

Wings Leigh Halfpenny and Ugo Monye may not start as favourites to make the Test team, but both have gas to burn.

Halfpenny, as Edwards noted, "is a kid that seems to ooze confidence". He marked the electric Springboks wing Bryan Habana on his international debut as a 19-year-old last autumn, and may end up doing so again

Then there is the "genuine pace" of Keith Earls, the Irish 'bolter' in the party who cemented his place in McGeechan's imagination with his rousing two-try display for Munster against the Ospreys in their recent Heineken Cup quarter-final.

With two controlling fly-halves in Stephen Jones and Ronan O'Gara, Brian O'Driscoll to marshal midfield matters, Lee Byrne's solidity at the back and flankers Martyn Williams and David Wallace in the form of their lives, the Lions have good reasons for optimism.

But this pride could also be found wanting in certain areas.

With James Hook or Danny Cipriani failing to make a convincing case for inclusion as a third number 10 (interestingly, Leicester's Sam Vesty was also mentioned at selection meetings), Riki Flutey could find himself as fly-half and goalkicking cover in certain matches.

He did do a turn there for his previous club London Irish, but that was three years ago.

Against such fearsome operators as Botha and Victor Matfield, there also appears a worrying lack of renowned line-out prowess outside of O'Connell and Wyn Jones, which made Tom Croft's exclusion all the more surprising.

"There are some limitations there," admitted forwards coach Warren Gatland. "But you can't cover every single base when you are keeping a tight squad."

Responsibility for pulling that squad together and making the calls when the going gets toughest will be Paul O'Connell, the totemic Irish lock.

But the one he took from McGeechan informing him of his elevation to the Lions captaincy took longer than expected to reach its recipient.

Last Tuesday evening, O'Connell saw an English number come up on his mobile and decided not to answer it.

"I've had an English guy trying to sell me shares the last few weeks and I thought it was him again so I didn't want to talk to him," he recalled. "Then I saw the number again in the morning so I thought I better call him back."

The good news duly delivered, and confirmed to a wider audience a week later, the Lions strategists can now start giving serious thought to the scale of the task ahead.

The numbers may not stack up in many areas - only four weeks and five games to mould a team capable of beating the world champions in their own backyard.

But when it comes to the bare essentials of size, strength and speed, these Lions should give as good as they get.


  • Comment number 1.

    i think they should of took delon armitage, he provides cover for pretty much everywhere in the backs, hes got pace to burn, goal kicking cover,and solid under the high ball.
    danny cipriani i felt should of went because he provides more creativity than jones or o'gara who i think are two of the most boring fly halves in the world.
    and one more why isn't tom croft on the plane hes in the form of his life and definetly should be there he provides a lineout test for matfield and botha, hes probably quicker than most of their team, the hard ground would of suit him and hes about 100 times better than quinlan!!!!!

  • Comment number 2.

    hi bryn
    Good blog but i was just wondering what your opinion on the selection of andy powell is as i believe that he is too one dimensional and does not the all round game to face the likes of spies and kankowski and his main threat can be stopped quite easily as england showed with worsley. and if he wasn't to be there who would you replace him with. my personal choice would be croft as he's strong in the line outs has got the pace for the ground in south africa and the physicality as well. just wondered what your thoughts were on this.

  • Comment number 3.

    just like a quick comment on that squad
    i dont think anybody watching from the stands can comment on the front five the guys who play with them will know if there the right selection.
    back row; what can i say, Andy Powel was picked before the six nations... unless theres a plan to pick the ball up and run accross field into touch. no third jumper and, lack of expirience at 8.
    half backs; well Wales had debatably the best pack in the six nations five of there outside backs are picked for the BL yet they scored only one try at home(against 14 men)if their half backs were running the show what happened? also two flyhalfs means your either playing or sub, midweek game at sea level saturday test at 5000ft... impossable
    Centers; flutty, o'driscal and shanklin were outstanding
    Backthree; Armatage outplayed them all, i'm not saying hes better than they are, well yes i am if your picking on form and Cueto was the form winger too(unless scoring against italy counts double)

  • Comment number 4.

    okay rant time regarding the above comment

    lwhitall23 are you insane? okay i guess i would maybe have taken armitage over monye but he's still 3rd in my mind out of the 3 full backs and would be an unlikely test starter.

    cipriani is the english equivilant of gavin henson - has too many focuses on the outside i.e kelly brook which distract him from his reasonable game - if he's so good why wasnt he in the england squad and why didnt mcgeghan - who should know him quite well from wasps take him on the tour. undoubtly a great talent and potential for the future but the 2009 lions tour i dont think so.

    quinlan i guess is a questionable pick since he didnt feature in the 6n but if u watch any munster game (particularly against the ospreys last week) he is easily the most influential forward with the exception of paul o connell

    it amazes me that all you english people that, having slated ur team endlessly for the first 3 matches of the 6n, are now crying out for ur players to be selected after finishing strongly against france and scotland.

  • Comment number 5.

    Ive gotta say, i am surprised that Croft isnt there. He was superb for england and although i havent seen much of him lately, would have been perfect for the hard grounds, as people have alluded to earlier

  • Comment number 6.

    Here we go...the slating has begun already. WillyGilly1990, don't tarnish 'all' us English with the same brush please. When Bath play, I'm a Bath fan; when England play, I'm an England fan; when the Lions play, I'm a Lions fan. I'm sick of this squabling between fans from the 4 home nations. This 'we should have more players in the squad than you' rubbish. All we have to do is, once every four years, come together to support a group of boys who could really do with it considering the task at hand, yet so many find it such a struggle. Whether we like it or not these lads are representing us and we are all fans of the same team. A set of united fans plays a massive part in the success of any Lions team so get behind them, get together and get down the pub on May 30th wearing a red jersey!

  • Comment number 7.

    not sure about Croft... a few years ago i watched Heskell come on late for Wasps and single handedly (i exagerate but you get the drift) beat lenster what a prospect thought i but since then you wouldnt pay him in buttons; Croft had a good game or two(?) for England but everyone was playing well for England then, but for a tour like this i would take a 6 who can play second row.
    Fly halfs the problem jones is a nice, rounded player but i dont think he dictates a game; o'garer can put a game in his pocket but is a weaklink in defence and can be 'got too' Hook's confidence looks low,
    Gerety, flood, Cipriani well you know, but that scots kid looked ok or am i forgetting something? with ellis and Wallace inside him ( or philips williams) and flutty o'driscol outside he'd look better still

  • Comment number 8.

    It annoys me as an English fan how other English fans are so blind! Yeah we won a few matches in the 6N eventually but Italy and France gave us victory and Scotland were just poor. We were never as bad as everyone was saying and we're not as good now!
    Cipriani has been poor at best this season and would be destroyed by the Boks but only two 10's worries me as they would have to at least be on the bench for the midweek games, in fairness though noone has put their hands up in that position.
    Good squad with a good chance other than that, think Ellis and Monye can count themselves lucky and Croft and Armitage unlucky but if you're picking a test team would any of them have an affect? Very doubtful.

  • Comment number 9.

    50 into 36/37 simply will not go. That ship has sailed . . . and will only pull into port when picking up fresh supplies, and injury replacements. So be of hope for your favourites.
    Mind you, there is a refrain that warns us 'to be careful of what we wish for'.
    If McGeechan has deemed them not good enough for the 1-36 jerseys, that must tell us something.
    Looking at the squad, it would seem that the Coach has been pretty good to his word, in that form has played a determining factor in selection.
    He's managed to use the lesser-tinted glasses, unlike some of the 'so called' worthies in the Fourth Estate.

    Despite the obvious limitations at 10, and lack of support jumpers in the line out . . . it should be remembered that 'boring rugby', if played to a proper game plan, can win the day.
    Test Match rugby at this level is not about the beautiful game.
    It's about trying to impose your game on the opposition.
    Okay, it's about tying to 'smash them into the ground'.

    In one of the more successful Lions teams in recent decades, the number 10 jersey was worn by a certain Neil Jenkins.
    Even his best mates wouldn't put him in the same bracket as a Gibson, a John or a Carter.
    But he was a most effective cog within a system.

    Can it be done . . maybe, on a good day, with a sympathetic ref, and by a 'good day' I mean a bad day ... weatherwise.
    Pray for rain, lots of it!

    Imagine a wet, miserable day in Limerick . . . . . facing the prospect of an intransigent Munster.
    That's the game plan.

    However, there is one big flaw . . I have a nagging doubt about the ability of Gatland to effectively produce winning packs.
    I hope I'm proven wrong, and that the players rise to the occasion.
    But they operate best within a suitable structure.

    Suggestion: get on the phone to Tony McGahan and Declan Kidney and request laminated copies of the Munster game plans to be available at the check-in desk at Heathrow.
    Munster will be looking to write a new version after their 3rd HC next month.

  • Comment number 10.

    last one before i go to bed, when we beat the boks last time it was a little differant, i was there then, they gave us no chance of winning even a game so to make it intresting they played two tests at sea level and picked a just retired player (Du Plese) as coach;
    The Lions fans were fantastic from a dozen or so of us at the Port Elizabeth opener we swelled and filled the hostels and seady dives as the show took off till there was over thirty thousand of us at Durban when we won it in the second test;
    Newlands, Cape Town European weather, your almost on the pitch and the players can feel the suport, no test there now; just stinkin hot, closs durban and two shots at the high velt behind the boravost curtain... not impossable but tough... you go boys!!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Still don't fully understand Croft's omission... I honestly thought he'd be one of those players like BoD, PoC, Gethin Jenkins etc... who'd be a certain starter! Having said that, I do understand Quinlan's inclusion. It's shocked many, don't understand why to be honest. He's a solid player. Tough as a nut as well as being a good tackler, good carrier and effective at the breakdown...and he's certainly experienced! My only concern is him giving away pens...

    Good blend in both the forwards and backs for me...Very happy to see Halfpenny. He's immense. Back row confrontation is going to be EPIC too! Worsley vs Burger! Hope that happens! Lots of Irish unsurprisingly...let's just hope the winning mentalilty from Munster and Ireland's Grand Slam achievement can inspire this strong Squad to victory!

  • Comment number 12.

    Well plenty of surprises and worrying omissions!! Lets face it, the standard of the Six Nations and the quality of the best teams has been poor for the last few years- but no less exciting I must add.

    Whilst I will be shouting from the rooftops when the tour kicks off and send all my best wishes and support, I'm afraid the team is devoid of any true quality and fight. You cannot have a player and man such as O'connell as captain and expect to have much success, as good a team talker as Im sure he is. Any team where Joe Worsley, Andy Powell, Wyn Jones and Flannery are being talked about as some of the best players is in desperate need. But thats on paper, if they can hold it together and show some passion you never know, I for one will be roaring them on!!!

  • Comment number 13.

    The squad that has been selected by Ian McGeechan is very interesting. As a Scottish Rugby fan I feel that perhaps we were lucky to get the two selections! However best of luck to the Scottish boys selected. The only selections I would possibly change would be have a more traditional scrum-half in the snipey mould of Peel/Blair instead of one of O'Leary/Ellis and I also feel at hooker that Best of Ireland was unlucky to miss out but I hope Rees can prove me wrong. Chris Paterson would have made an exceptional substitute purely for his goal-kicking and versatility, in the problems with stand-offs noted above in previous comments...however that would be American Footballizing the fantastic tradition that is the British Lions and would certainly need an extra place and that is creeping towards the territory of Sir Clive and we all know how that ends!! The squad has been picked now and I think instead of dwindling on the could of-would of-should of, we should be praying that none of these boys get injured or Dan Carter discovers his Scottish lineage and a magical ankle surgeon!!!

  • Comment number 14.

    Ferris might be a likely starter based purely on the fact that croft hasnt been selected. Even if croft had been picked I would like to have thought ferris would probly be ahead of him in the pecking order, but i always saw croft as a replacement as he is good in the line-out and is good cover for several positions. This would therefore mean ferris would either start or not be in the 22 at all (hope this makes sense so far lol).
    Since croft hasnt been picked, Ferris seems to be the only decent line-out jumper out of the backrows. Although he has never played 2nd row for ulster, or been used in the lineout much (because he basically drives mauls forward single-handedly instead), he has been used in the 2nd row for ireland even with a replacement 2nd row on the bench. He has also been a receiver in line-outs so it can only make sense that he should be a line-out threat in the for the lions aswell as O'Connell and Jones.

    Therefore I think McGeechan could try and use him in this way which gives him a better chance of starting ...I think he should start anyway but thats besides the point!

  • Comment number 15.

    Oh well, don't think there's going to be any point watching this Lions Tour! Squad has decided this, you can't play like Munster away in S.Africa for many,many,many reasons, but it's been decided, no chances taken, just a matter of a 'good' big pack playing against a much better big pack!!!could be a masacre

  • Comment number 16.

    Re: Danny Cipriani...

    Right now I would not take him on a tour of Sale, let alone one of South Africa. He has talent, but he has a lot to learn, particularly about making fewer mistakes at critical times.

    I would not go so far as the fan who claims that England only won games that were given to us. Had England shown more discipline they would have won both the Ireland and the Wales game too and no side scored more tries in the tournament than England, so let's forget the self-flagellation and keep a sense of proportion (maybe we should criticise Wales because England handed them the win in that game on a plate???). However, there is no question that having just 8 out of 37 Lions is fair and England may even have been flattered to get that many after a chequered campaign.

  • Comment number 17.

    happyDrTom comment 12

    When you complain about something at least make sure it has relevance or is at all factual!!!!!!! Where did you get the idea that anyone here or anywhere else claimed Worsley, Wyn Jones, Powell or Flannery were the best players in this squad? Although I think they're all great players they're not even the best players for their respective nations let alone for the Lions and if you're complaining about this squad due to the fact they're the best we have you obviously have a wet sponge with the word 'brain' written on it between your ears!

    Also, how is this squad devoid of true quality and fight? O' Driscoll is one of the best centers to ever play the game, S Williams ( despite not being up to his unbelievable standards lately) is still one of the deadliest finishers from anywhere on the pitch, Byrne has quality and pace to burn, Wallace and M Williams are world class on their worst days and happen to be on form and Jenkins will give any front row in the world problems! O' Connell has all the ability and ferocity of any lock in the world and for you to suggest anything other than that is a disgrace! To question the fight of any of these players, not to mention the other 30 is laughable! You obviously spend the day picking random words from the english language and then putting them onto this site because nothing you said made any sense whatsoever!

    Ps. england2003- comment 15
    If there's no point watching this tour then don't! But don't come back on here when it's over telling us all were it went right or wrong because then obviously you did watch it! I assume your disgust is based on the fact that England have low representation compared to Ireland and Wales! I'll admit Armitage and Cueto were unlucky not to be on the plane but the fact remains, based on current form England would be lucky to have 2 players in the test team!

  • Comment number 18.

    Bit odd this fascination with size, as what makes the Boks pack so dangerous is that they're not only big but also quick. I'm not sure that the same applies to the Lions pack. I guess we'll see when the series starts who gets over the gain line more often at contact.

  • Comment number 19.

    All in all I'm pretty happy with the squad, bar one exception. I'm just disappointed for whichever player missed out on a lifetime dream to become a Lion due to the inclusion of Flutey. No doubting his talent, just his "eligibilty".

    Flutey will probably be the only player to have played against the Lions and then for them. I just don't feel that's in the "spirit" of the Lions.

  • Comment number 20.

    As always there will be much debate about the selections but if I were to pick a man who would have a well thought out game plan to beat the boks then Ian McGeeghan would be that man. The Lions are a last munite get together team, albeit made up of some world class players, and he will use complimentary players around the central figures of O'connell, O'Driscoll and Williams.

    I'm not sure about some of the comments criticising a big pack. This is SA after all and if we don't match up in the forwards then our chances will be minimal.

    The likes of Moyne has been picked purely as they have raw pace and for the few chances that will be created you need to be an inch infront of the defenders and those with pace give you that.

    I think his starting line up will be something like


    It won't be pretty or for the fiant hearted but I can't wait

  • Comment number 21.

    leanard, regan, rowntree, johnson, shaw, back, hill, dilalio, rodbar, dawson, healy, bracken, catt, greenwood, guscot, rugby league winger and leicter fullback... england team? no part of Mc gechans the last successful lions tour
    Vickary, grewcot, johnson, hill, corry, dawson, wilkinson, robinson, perry/balshaw... last time the lions won a test, they played
    50 percent English is about right, OK they were shocking this six nations but the celtic nations raise their game against the old enemy and still were lucky to win at home
    Dont think so? 5 6 scrum half is binned for running into a loose head prop at a ruck, 6 6 second row Gough does it in three consecutive matches against french capt, italian capt and o'connol gets penalised but stays on, Care stays on, then even with o'driscals gamsmanship, ireland loose
    big turnement against good oposition, say world cup, how many celts preform... O'Connel and Williams are fine forwards but they were very poor on the last lions tour.
    take on form jenkins, murray, couple of second rows, heslop, williams, o'driscal, shanklin, england team and Lewsy, Rees and i dont know the winger from rotherham but please not Andy Powel or Shane that scots kid ran through me williams

  • Comment number 22.

    Pretty much agree with most of the selections and he has stuck to what he said. However, I am worried about a few things.

    1) He has picked players on current form. How do we know this form will still be there come the 1st test? Form is temporary, class is permanent. I wouldve taken Ryan Jones as he is a proven performer and another natural leader in the squad

    2) 2 fly halfs - Do not understand why we are taking just 2. Most international teams call up 3 to a WC squad, and we shouldve followed that here. James Hook shouldve gone. Although I agree with the omission of Danny Cipriani. Geech wanted players whom, when left out, would be good for squad moral. From what we all know of Cipriani, he is a sukler, a spoilt brat. He couldve ruined squad moral. He is the type of player that if you take, you have to play.

    3) Tom Croft - He shouldve gone. end of.

  • Comment number 23.

    I think we pretty much all agree Armitage and Croft are very unlucky not to be going but I expect there'll be some injuries between now and tour, and one or both will make the trip.

    I know a lot are saying they are surprised by Monye's inclusion but to be honest he is one of the form wingers and I think is pushing a starting spot. Exactly what we need over there, quick and strong, and a good finisher. I don't think shane williams will make the test side, as his best time is often in broken play, and he won't get that over there. I fear if we start with him, he'll suffer the same embarrassment as the last lions tour.

    My starting line up:


    I suspect Worsely will be charged with the job of marking Spies.

    10 really worries me, but we simply have nothing better, at least the kicks will go over!

  • Comment number 24.

    I would have taken Peel instead of Harry Ellis. Out of all three scrum halves not one gets the backline going like Peel&I would have sacrificed Ellis for Peels inclusion.

    Delon Aritage is another I think should have gone. The guy is a class act and has all the skills needeed to play anywhere in the back 3 plus another goalkicking option.

  • Comment number 25.

    I can understand people disagreeing with the selection of certain players but not the stupid comments about there should be more English, Welsh, Irish or Scottish players. As a Lions fan I just want to see the best possible squad go to South Africa regardless of which home nation they are from.

    Regarding selection I think it is a mistake to only take 2 flyhalfs. Geech should have taken 3, not sure who that third one should be but probably Hook.

    Its difficult to argue to much with the rest of the squad as he always said he was going to pick form players and pretty much he has. Difficult decision I'm sure not to take Ryan Jones but his form has not been good, might be the kick up the arse he needs and he may well still tour as a replacement as its almost certain that there will be injuries to the selected squad. Form may well only be temporary but given the nature of the compacted modern Lions tour there is no time to play someone into form.

    Given McGeechan's previous Squad selection in 1997 there was always going to be a suprise or two, Earls and Quinlan were 2 of those suprises but both are good rugby players and could even end up playing a test from the bencch or starting if there are injuries.

    On the whole I am quite happy with the squad, really want the lions to win of course but will be happy so long as we are not stuffed like we were in New Zealand.

  • Comment number 26.

    I'm a Munster fan and obviously very happy with the selection. Particularly for Earls and Quinlan. Earls has been a revelation for Munster, especially since switching to outside centre. He probably won't start any tests but may get a chance as a sub or through injury. Quinlan is one of the most consistent performers we have at munster and does the dirty work as well as anyone.
    I've seen a few folks here like Peadar and eng2003 who clearly haven't seen a Munster match in many years. There seems to be this idea that we're just a bunch of fowards. Did you catch that Ospreys match ? Or the now annual Sale demolition? You don't become european champions twice in 3 years without having a decent 15-man team.

  • Comment number 27.

    As a third fly half, I'd have taken Flood, who also covers inside centre. However, and here's the problem, I've no idea who I'd have left out for him.

    As most have said, Armitage and Croft (along with Ryan Jones and Mike Blair) are very unlucky not to make the trip. However, I wouldn't be surprised if Croft ends up playing in the final test having joined the team on standby.

    Cipriani was rushed back unfit by England in the Autumn. Missing this tour could do him the world of good and I'd expect him to go to Argentina and be back to the player we hoped he'd be next season.

  • Comment number 28.

    I'm truly excited by the prospect of this tour! There has been a lot of doom and gloom in recent months and now that the side has been picked, the optimism is flowing.
    I think the squad seems to be correctly balanced and Geech has made the most of the choices available.
    I still predict a Springbok victory but it isnt a foregone conclusion. The key positions are lock, flyhalf and fullback in my view. Botha and Matfield are in a different class but I'm sure O'Connell will lift his game on the day. If he doesn't, its game over. The Springboks have selection issues at 10, with talk of Butch James as an option. This won't happen but it is an indication of the uncertainity as Pienaar is injured and Steyn not trusted. Also, the Springboks haven't got a settled fullback and Lee Byrne is the best in the world at the moment.
    Other than that, it is difficult to see where the Lions match their opponents for speed, size or quality. Not even O'Driscoll (and he is by far the best player on the side) can match the Springboks who have the 2 best centres in the world in Fourie and De Villiers.

    Last point: I'm not a fan of Flutey, he was destroyed in the Autumn and if he were good enough to play in the Southern Hemisphere, he would have stayed there.

    Here's to a great series. I hope to continue this chat over some cheap beers in SA!

  • Comment number 29.

    One hopes that the Lions won't run out of gas at 5000 to 6000 feet, the height at which the last two tests are being played.

  • Comment number 30.

    Some interesting selections, but overall very happy. However, I do think Cueto rather than Fitzgerald, just because something always happens when Cuets gets the ball - arguably one of the best finishers in world rugby. But then I do watch him every week!
    The decision to build the scrum around Munster is sound and very smart, but why take Gatland - Kidney should be there!
    Armitage is unlucky, but I think Tim Croft is the biggest shock and I do agree about Powell (who exhibits the distinct lack of ability to run straight and quite honestly he can't actually think either).
    Go Lions - knock the Boks (cos they'll never really transition to the Proteas will they?) off their cocky perch!

  • Comment number 31.

    As a Scotsman, I am disappointed that, for the third Lions tour in a row, we will be on the periphery of the event with little or (probably) no involvement in the test matches.

    This is a sad indictment on everything about sccottish rugby, from coaches to staff to players but especially to the SRU. Though I do think more players merited selection to the squad.

    Where I understand Scotland are the weakest of the 4 nations included in the Lions I do think that there could and should have been at least two more players (Chris Cusiter or Mike Blair and Alistair Strokosh would have been my picks).

    I will still be supporting the team however the tour I am sure will be pretty low key up here as it has been since the last tour of South Africa.

  • Comment number 32.

    Just to echo what most people have said, Croft and Armitage should both be in there. Armitage was one of the most impressive performers of the 6 nations, when combined with his versatility and the fact that he's a kicking option in a squad with only two fly-half's he should have been a certainty - not that I'm disputing that Byrne should be the first choice full-back.

    I'm not really sure how Monye, Powell, and Quinlan made it in but best of luck to them. I would have preferred Cueto above both Monye and Halfpenny to be honest.

    Shaw is arguably a bit fortunate to get the nod, but he's a dependable performer so I'm glad he made it, although I'd be astounded if O'Connell and Wyn Jones didn't start in the tests.

    Other than the obvious names (O'Driscoll, O'Connell, Williams, Byrne) I'm predicting an impact from Flutey, Worsley, O'Gara and Roberts on this tour, but somewhat negatively, I'm going to go for a 2-1 series win for South Africa.

  • Comment number 33.

    From a purely England prespective Dean Richards got it right when he questioned the likely Wasps bais in the squad. With 4 of the 8 England players coming from a Wasps team having a dreadful season it looks like Deano's prediction has come true. Hardly selections based on form.

    Croft's omission (particularly when compared to some of the inclusions) is staggering.

    Must be a very good chance of the starting XV being Celtic Lions to a man.

  • Comment number 34.

    As a Scotsman not sure I'm even entitled to voice my opinion on this Lions Tour. Nevertheless, I'm going to!

    First off where is Tom Croft? Outstanding player, I'm really surprised he's not in the 37. I'm assuming Paul Sackey is still injured judging by his omission. Hence Monye?

    I am, however, surprised by the inclusion of Harry Ellis a) before Blair, and b) before Cusiter (who has Frank Hadden to thank for this on account of letting Blair start ahead of him in all 5 6N's matches). Cusiter is better than both of them. To be honest, I think Goode is as well, despite being a funny shape.

    I agree with most of the picks other than that.

    Selfishly, I'm hopeful that Strokosch will still go as a replacement and that Murray will start the Tests.

  • Comment number 35.

    As a Welshman I agree with the bulk of the squad (minus Ryan Jones' absence), although I definitely sympathise with England fans who are surprised at the omission of Armitage, Croft and Cueto.
    Still, though, given the unfortunate rate of injuries in modern-day rugby, if you're on stand-by you can rest assured that you have a pretty good chance of being called out at some point.
    Re the Wasps bias- true, teams like Harlequins have been in better form, but then again not many Quins players are test internationals. As with any Lions tour, there'll be an inevitable but understandable bias toward the players that the head coach knows best and feels he can trust.

  • Comment number 36.

    As far as size matters goes, I am little concerened that McGeechan and co are a little behind the times. If they think they are going to bish bash bosh their way past the Boks then they are in for a rude awakening.

    Perhaps in 1997. But these Boks are powerful, agile, quick and most importantly fit. Anyone watching super 14 will accept that - the point is the Boks now have guile to go alongside their Brawn.

    We have not. We need to be in a position to outfox them, but selecting two conservative 10s and a host of trudging animals in the packs is not going to help.

    This makes the absence of Croft even more spectacularly absurd. Of all the 6N forwards, he has the most fitness, the most speed and the most suited to playing the Boks.

    But Geechs has made a bold statement - we only need strength.

    The Boks will know what is coming at them, what happens when plan A fails? I can't see that squad offering a guile strewn and innovative plan B.

    I fear that Geechs has missed what is happening in world rugby, he certainly has at Wasps.

  • Comment number 37.

    I accept that the decision should have been made on form - but how is form being assessed?

    From a Cardiff Blues perspective, they are not exactly setting the Magners on fire, but in the last 2 weeks have had a couple of good games including a smashing of Gloucester who are pants.

    Yet Halfpenny gets the nod. He hardly had a great 6N and is on the periphery of the squad and has only played 6 Magners games this season (if you believe that Website).

    Yet players like Armitage S and D, as well as Croft and Cueto have been on fire all season or this year.

    You can't take players based on the last few weeks form. Thats insane - this is the Boks we are going up against, not a weak Gloucester outfit.

    And as for form, what of the Wasps who are going? Worsley is an obvious choice because of what the unique talents he has. Flutey is the form centre in England, so fine - but Shaw and Vickery have been at the heart of a dreadful Wasps team - I have seen no form from either of them.

    Blair has been awesome for Edinburgh but is getting penalised for his form for Scotland - wheres the logic in that. Halfpenny showed no form for Wales in the 6N and is in, Blair, nominated player of the year last year, shows no form in the 6N but plenty for Edinburgh and is out.

    Nope, sorry, no sense at all.

  • Comment number 38.

    for all the people saying 'why have they only taken 2 fly half's', stick £10 on Ricky Flutey starting the first test at 10.

  • Comment number 39.

    Cricketing Stargazer.
    Your comments on if England had not given away so many Penalties against Wales and Ireland you would have won easily as in your comment on that we gave them the games on a plate is quite ludricous, in the fact that if they had not given the Penalties away then both Ireland and Wales would have scored without any doubt more tries, Ireland if O'Gara had his kicking boots on would have put Ireland out of sight in the first half and Wales should have had at least 2 more ties but Engalnd blatantly killed the ball hence the yellow cards, and don't forget wales were 20 points to 8 up at one point with england never looking if they could win the game thats a fact watch nthe game or games.
    Get over it.

  • Comment number 40.

    steohara- I was actually just as surprised/amazed to see simon shaw and joe worsley as anyone else, my comment was nothing to do with the amount/lack of english players. At the end of the day the only 'english' coach on this tour is the welsh assistant manager and does explain halfpenny over cueto. As you are obviously another defensive celt on here (which is one of the reasons we will lose, whatever happened get over it), I will again state that if we play like Munster we're in trouble, you are just a big pack with a boring/weak/ 10 who kicks the corners and is a 'home team' Munster are half the team when they play away from home, the hard grounds and pace plus power of the boks back row will rip the likes of quinlan/worsley/o'callaghan and others to pieces. As for your comment on picking on form, well Ireland won the 6n'S but did they honestly play well???were the boks quaking in there boots at the prospect of 14 of those boys coming there way?!!I've said it before and I'll say it again but the 6 Nations is decided the day the fixtures are made, home advantage is that important. We all know how the celts travel, and the proof of that is the last 2 world cups, and if there was a world cup tomorrow, Ireland would be on the plane home before england (unless of course it was held in ireland)

  • Comment number 41.

    Ricky Flutey starting 10 1st test Ha Ha Ha.

  • Comment number 42.

    well do you honestly think they'd only take 2 FH's to Salf africa and 5 centres (plus tommy bowe who has played at 13 most the season), Flutey has played a hell of a lot of rugby at 10, and can actually step and has pace/creativity......jog on

  • Comment number 43.

    In reference to Comment No 2 from unbeatablebigginge89: I personally am glad Powell has been selected, and I think he will do some major damage in South Africa. I think either Jamie Heaslip or possibly David Wallace will start the Tests at number eight, but I'd have Powell on the bench as a replacement guaranteed to make an impact. Some people have suggested he is lucky to make the squad, and that he is a one-trick pony. Having witnessed his Test debut first-hand last autumn and seen the damage he did to the Boks on that occasion, I'd say being a side-stepping number eight who will invariably get over the gain line is not a bad trick to have! Even though I accept he's not the cleverest with some of his decision-making, I think he'll play a big part on this tour.

  • Comment number 44.

    Where to start…

    Firstly, tinoflyer has got it spot on – Mike Blair is unlucky to miss out. Scotland had a pretty shocking 6N but he has been great for Edinburgh. Their last game against Leinster showed this, not to mention Ross Ford’s talent. Mears’ size worries me – he’s going to get eaten.

    The backs choices in general though are, in my opinion, excellent. I saw Munster play Edinburgh back in September in the Magners League (the first time I saw Keith Earls play) and frankly was amazed that he didn’t play a bigger role in Ireland’s 6N. A consistently good performer all season. For those of you who think Munster have only a pack you either need to watch them play or you just don’t know enough about rugby. Although not on the Lions, the likes of Warwick, Howlett, Tipoki and Mafi are all phenomenal!
    Taking Fitzgerald is another good shout, along with Halfpenny and Monye. Admittedly Armitage had a great 6N and has been solid for London Irish all season but I part of me feels that he wouldn’t keep that up in SA (that’s only because I’m skeptical). I would love it if (in the unfortunate instance that some other player gets injured) he gets called out and proves me wrong.
    As a lot of people have already said, the 10 jersey is not great. I’m a fan of RoG but having only 2 is a worry. I suppose there’s consolation that SA aren’t in great shape in that department either.

    As for the forwards, this is where the real debate seems to lie. My big surprise is Vickery. I remember reading a blog a while back and will always remember someone saying “I wouldn’t take him as far as the Isle of Man, let alone South Africa” and I believe they have an excellent point. Taking 5 second rows seems a bit excessive as well. Still, I will concede that Geech knows considerably more about rugby than me so he may (and I would hope, probably) have a valid reason. For those Tom Croft fans, I wouldn’t worry – expect to see him out there as soon as there’s an injury. As with Ryan Jones, who will hopefully have as big an impact upon coming out as he did again NZ last tour!

  • Comment number 45.

    Yes - not a bad squad, but there are some strange selections (Quinlan???). Only two outside halves - and very similar players at that. Somebody is needed to provide variety - Hook or even gamble on Cipriani (even Henson used to play there!) - just to provide a bit of invention.
    I just fear that we have announced in advance what our tactics will be and we don't have the players to change the game if it doesn't work. Blundering forward with the big men is fine when it works, but totally pointless when you aren't making ground. Yes, we have to meet the massive physical challenge of the Boks - but we shouldn't fall into the trap of thinking that we can outmuscle them.
    Where do we go if size doesn't work? We might have to resort to the Jonathan Davies view that we play two open sides (Williams and Wallace - two excellent footballers). At least it could be exciting - and are we any more likely to succeed with Worsley? You know what he going to do - it won't be pretty and it won't be inventive! The Boks know too.
    I am not too sure that there should have been more Scots - but perhaps somebody else in place of Hines (a good player, but another Flutey). Murray will probabaly start - he was the best tight head in the 6N.
    Mike Blair didn't just have a poor 6N - he had a shocker!! Cusiter must wonder why had to wait so long to get on. Neither is as good as Peel.
    Strokosh looked very good to me, and is unlucky not to go.
    I agree about Armitage and Croft - and I have not really been impressed by O'Leary or Fitzgerald (if Mike Blair suffered because of a poor performance from the Scottish pack in the first few games, O'Leary's performance did not rate in proportion to the luxury of playing behind the Irish 8).
    Tinoflyer thinks that Halfpenny showed no form for Wales in the 6N - I thought that he was rather good - did little wrong and scored two tries in three games - replaced by Mark Jones for the latter's experience. Halfpenny is also a good kicker.

  • Comment number 46.

    i've just seen on my previous post that there're a lot of question marks. just to clarify, i didn't put them in.

    to add to my comments though i feel like this cipriani debate has to end. please! yes, he has a lot of talent and is likely to be a great player but at the moment he is nowhere near ready to be playing at Lions level. granted, another would calm me down but i dont think flutey is the answer. i dont think playing people out of their natural positions is likely to go down well at all. i think someone has already pointed out that he doesn't have the right mentality either - something that hopefully will mature. looking at the '97 lions john bentley said that one of the most important things was that the people who dont get selected for tests congratulate and support the people who were awarded their place.
    james hook would be a good choice for me.

  • Comment number 47.

    First up, as the name might suggest, I am all for the big ginger fella leading the Lions. Quite apart from all the business about winning Lions tours being led by locks and the inevitable Johnson comparisons, this is a series won or lost up front and, for all of O'Driscoll's inspirational play in the Ireland grand slam seasons, I don't think the absence of an armband is going to stop him playing just as well in a red shirt. However, the sight of O'Connell taking it to the Springbok pack could go a long way to nullifying their advantage and, for sheer edgy physicality there's not another player in the four home nations to match him. Inevitably, B O'D will end up leading the backs anyway and his outstanding defence apart, he looks like one of the few players likely to cut through the Springbok centres.

    There are, of course, a few shocks in the squad. For all that I rate him, I don't think many people were more shocked than Alan Quinlan that he got the nod over Tom Croft.

    Similarly, as every second person here has commented, only taking two out and out fly-halves has got to pose some questions. Game time's one thing but, if there's one lesson that the 1997 Lions Tour taught us then it is that every provincial hard nut in South Africa is going to want to take a lump out of a Lion for a souvenir. Twelve years of professionalism won't have changed the suicidal commitment of South African rugby. How two tens (and with O'Gara in particular not being know for his defensive commitment) will cope with being rotated throughout most of the games, is worrying. OK, Flutey can competently put a game together at fly-half but watching him do so for Wasps shows his limitations, let alone in so much more charged an arena. Whilst there are clear limitations to Cipriani, Flood, Goode, Hook, Robinson and Wallace, one of them should have been in there, probably in the place of one of the glut of wingers. For my money it should have been James Hook, unlucky not to get more game time in the 6 Nations and not only a reliable kicker but also a line-breaker who would have added another option. Who should he have replaced? Perm one from Monye, Fitzgerald, Earls or Shanklin and I can see the squad stronger for it.

    For all that we're debating the minor adjustments to the composition of the squad, how many of the 37 selected will make it on to the plane at all?

    Trying to gain a bit of perspective and tearing myself away from club and national loyalties, the Lions would be all the better for a Leinster vs Leicester Heineken Cup final for all that I'd like to see Munster lift the cup again. For all of the commitment to clubs, its pretty much inevitable that with Cardfiff and Munster contributing 14 members to the Lions squad (and Leinster weighing in with a handful more)if any of them - and there's got to be two of them there - are involved in knocking seven shades out of each other, and missing a week of team building and conditioning for the week before the final, the Lions are not going to go with a full complement to South Africa and those who do stagger on to the plane are not going to have gelled with the rest of the squad and will be jaded. There must be some more sensible way of sorting the itinerary out than this.

    I can see a truly mixed bag starting the first game, against an admittedly thrown together invitational side but it does seem an odd way to start an already huge challenge.

    On the plus side, I might have a look at the odds on Ryan Jones, Tom Croft, Dellon Armitage and Thom Evans playing in the second midweek game - those odds might be considerably longer today than on the 30th May when the tour kicks off.

  • Comment number 48.

    england2003..................the name says it all really, living in the past my man, so be nice and stop fighting with the "celtic" lions, as we may actually win a test series for blinkered folk like you ;) May not, but the team will evolve, stand-bys will come in, make an impact and what will be will be.

    now be nice and support the squad and the tam like a good buachaill!

  • Comment number 49.

    I can't believe Geech didn't take croft or Armitage
    Quinlan is robust and experienced, but in south Africa the pitches are hard and would suit a true natural athelete like croft. Also he gives you that extra line-out option. And as for armitage, can play 11, 131 14 or 15 and is a great goal kicker too. Something that may be needed with only 2 specialist kickers in the squad.
    Suprised at McGeechan's Naivity on that front. Always think "what can go wrong will go wrong" especially in rugby!

  • Comment number 50.

    Just noticed what famoussalfordlad said about having a 6 who can play 2nd row and how he said he wouldn't take croft. Are you mad, croft plays about 10-15% of his matches for leicester there. Actually think before you write such stupid coments

  • Comment number 51.

    I am way too biased on the Boks' side to comment fairly but I will give it a go. The thing with the Boks is that every team that plays us looks at our team's size and use words like "massive,brutal,ferocity,aggressive" and quite rightly so.But they miss out on the obvious,the All Blacks match us for size etc. and so do the Fijians,Samoans and more, the thing that opponents need to copy, so to speak, is the intense commitment that we play with.

    The Boks bury their own agendas and play 100 percent to the game plan chosen for every match right to the end whether it works or not.Proof of this would be the massive loss to Australia, the disastrous world cup of ill repute when the team was subjected to more abuse from their own coach(Rudolf Sraueli)than from opposition.

    Another crucial factor is our media is never ever happy with how we play,never a hero in sight until there is a cup in the captain's hands.But crucially and the Lions if they want to win should know this,when the Boks lose their belief system is such that a loss is down to our own game plan's failure and not down to the other teams superiority during the match.

    What does that mean? It means that while some teams believe they can pull off a win, the Boks not only believe they will win but they also have meditated and memorized how they will win. As a point in fact looked at the Boks' faces after a loss- it's a picture of disgust and confusion which shouts, "how did the game plan not work guys"

    The best way to beat the Boks is a secret that I will keep because like I said I am biased towards the Boks.

  • Comment number 52.

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

  • Comment number 53.

    robb_b84 see comment 6 i wouldnt dare paint all you english fans with the same brush i was mearly making the point about the majority's reaction to your 1st 3 6n matches. i went on to the 606 message board after the games and many of you appeared near tears. in fact if u look at a previous article entitled english lions on the wane im sure u'll find plenty of similar comments. despite as how i may have come across i will definatly be supporting the lions and i genuinely believe we have a realistic chance of winning the series with our current squad with a starting XV which i can see having plenty of english players competing for. riki fluety for example will be starting at 12 guarantee it. see? no squabling... im being nicer already!

  • Comment number 54. obviously have serious chip on your shoulder!! Poor you! I pity you, you blind fool!!
    Munster players will pull the Irish and Welsh Lions (yeah I can live with Celic Lions name as well!) through his tour with winning mentality and mettle.
    The English were lucky to get 8 in the squad....very flattering!
    Alan Quinlan is just the type of abrasive character we need up front to mix it and get down and dirty with the Boks pack.
    P.S. Riki Flutey....the selectors are havin a laugh on that one surely? What part of Engurland is he from exactly?!?!?!

  • Comment number 55.

    Its a good selection with a great captain. I note most of the replacements suggested tend to be England Players. What a surprise!

  • Comment number 56.

    As a passionate Welsh rugby fan I would have liked about 30 Welshmen on Lions duty but to be realistic I have only one criticism of the current selection. I don't believe that Harry Ellis has enough exceptional skill to justify his inclusion when he has such a suspect temper.

  • Comment number 57.

    Dear Toptile, please read my comment. None of the things that you have attributed to me actually appear anywhere in it. Perhaps you should get over it? Try to win gracefully, it's actually a game and not something to take quite so hard.

  • Comment number 58.

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

  • Comment number 59.

    Nice one willhwiky, well put.

  • Comment number 60.

    26. Lynchem notes . . "I've seen a few folks here like Peadar and eng2003 who clearly haven't seen a Munster match in many years.. . . "

    Well mate, my last visit to see Munster 'live' was the recent mauling of Leinster in the Magners. Does that count!
    Yes, I do get to watch matches in the raw, rather than depending on the goggle-box.

    So mate, I suggest you adjust the 'red tinge' settings on your glasses and actually 'read' my comments, so that you might be better informed.

    I'm a long-time admirer of the ethos of Munster rugby . . and can see beyond the perception that they are a one-dimensional outfit.

    My point, in case you've missed it -- and fail to recognise that it is a philosophy successfully practiced by Munster -- you first win the battles upfront before allowing the backline to flourish.

    Never thought it, never said it, never posted it.
    But hey, don't let your myopia get in the way of a good rant.

    Oh, and one final point:
    2 HC wins, but I humbly suggest you review the tapes to reacquaint your self with the aggressive, mauling, forward-based style with which they won the first trophy.

  • Comment number 61.


    "As always there will be much debate about the selections but if I were to pick a man who would have a well thought out game plan to beat the boks then Ian McGeeghan would be that man."

    If I were to pick a man that would have a well thought out game plan to beat the boks then it would not be McGeechan - it would be Jake White.

    I think Wasps are decidely average team on a good day, and play a brand of rugby that is ludicrously out of date. Geechs insistance on the Bish Bash Bosh is going to get us run round like kids in a park.

    I hope I am wrong, I hope somewhere along the lines the players pick find a new level of fitness and new dynamism that can see them compete with the Boks. Thats what is needed, 1997 was a different Rugby Game. lets hope the McGeechan way is similarly evolved - I hope and pray.

  • Comment number 62.

    Odd squad selection methinks...

    Cipriani is by far the best fly half in the northern hemisphere! His place on the starting sheet should have been cast in stone never mind the squad!
    Can't believe O'Connell was given the captaincy!! He's the fifth best lock on tour behind Hines, Shaw, O'Callaghan and Wyn Jones!

    And finally why was Parrise not picked? He was by far the best number 8 in the six nations!

  • Comment number 63.

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

  • Comment number 64.

    dutchirish you have to be joking...

    seriously though...

  • Comment number 65.

    Joking about what?

    Cipriani might not be popular as a person but his rugby speaks for itself - he's better than boring old O'Gara and Jones.

    O'Connell isn't even captain of his own country yet he's catpain of the lions?!! Just because he's popular with the fans doesn't mean he's the best candidate for captaincy!!

    And Parrise? What more can be said? He basically carried a poor Italian side - and ALL pundits sung his praises throughout the 6 nations!!

  • Comment number 66.

    cipriani is undoubtly a good rugby player and is definitely 1 for the future. i'd fully expect him to make the no 10 england jersey his own sometime within the next few years sooner if he keeps himself in his current form at wasps, but the lions tour 09? starting? doubtful... and he is not ' by far the best fly half in the northern hemisphere' wise up!

    personally i kinda agree with your remark about captaincy i thought it was a certain for o'driscoll having said that though o'connell does captain a little team known as munster who (if memory serves me) are currently in the semi finals of the heinikin cup no? furthermore what rubbish are you talking about o'connell being the 5th best lock going on the tournament? how can u possibly justify that?

    finally i fully agree with you about parrise... he was easily the best 8 in the tournament and i would definitely be up for the queen granting him home nation nationality (if she can do such a thing)...

  • Comment number 67.

    O'Connell's appointment as captaincy for the Lions however is a slight step up from captaining his proveince. As mentioned before, if O'Connell isn't firing on all cylinders in the lineout then we could be in for a long 7 weeks. O'Driscoll on the otherhand thrives under the pressure of being captain.
    However, this is not taking away from the fact that O'Connell is a top class player and will, fingers crossed, shine as captain.

    Cipriani may be more exciting than 'boring' O'Gara and Jones, but when the likes of Spies are running at No.10 would you rather have the flash in Cipriani or the reliable in Jones or O'Gara.

    As for squad selection I agree that Armitage should have been picked, however the rest of the squad seems to tick all the right boxes. Why take Ryan Jones, who has been poor for his high standards in the last few months, when someone like Quinlan has been superd in the backrow for Munster all year. (Croft should have been picked ahead of both due to his speed and line out options but Quinlan should, in my opinion, still have been picked ahead of Jones.)

    In regards to the backrow who do you think are the three likely to be playing in the test?
    I would say Worsley/Williams, Wallace, and Heaslip.

    The inclusion of Monye in the squad I think is brilliant. His raw power and speed is exactly what the Lions need in the backs. He adds a different dimension to the team and I have a feeling it will be Monye, Byrne and Williams as back three. ;)

  • Comment number 68.

    As an American let me start by saying that my opinions are naturally more insightful into the sport of rugby.

    Ok, maybe that isn't true, but I do know a few things:

    First, there is only one Bakkies Botha.

    Second, Rugby Union is the most underrated sport in the world. In fact, it's so entertaining that the only explanation I can see for it not being more popular is that the people in charge do a miserable job promoting their sport. (Whereas the author of this blog does a fantastic job.)

    Third, I don't think the balance is right in the Lions side. I'm relatively new to rugby, but even if you match the opponent's forward pack, I think the gap is too big in the kicking game and the play of the backs. Even if the Lions forwards outplay the South Africans, I think you need at least a stronger kicking game to turn that into a win against a side as talented as the champions.

    Finally, there is only one Bakkies Botha (what can I say, his clearance of Matt Stevens (sp?) made a rugby fan of me) : )

    Can't wait for the tour!

  • Comment number 69.

    england2003 sorry but that is one of the most ignorant comments i have ever read on the bbc!!!
    i think all in all it is a very capable side however im surprised at quinlins inclusion and also earls can considered himself very lucky to make it
    croft should be there and also i think peel should be going instead of ellis
    finally i think if the gameplan is to outmuscle sa then we are in trouble as spies is one of the most destructive players in the modern game and will make short work of most of our backline

  • Comment number 70.

    All this debate about who should be there and who shouldn't is probably premature. How many of them are going to be fit enough to board the plane after the HC matches and Premiership play-offs? Who - in the 'stand-by squad' - between now and take off time will play blinders and go up in the pecking order and conversely who will be going down? Who will be be on the plane as replacements for the injured - maybe some we haven't even thought about yet?
    There's a long hard month ahead and there could be major changes.
    We should all have a rest and start bickering again in about a month's time.

  • Comment number 71.

    regarding the last line of the above comment - can't wait!

  • Comment number 72.

    DutchIrish, You are right Cipriani's rugby does speak for itself, and what it has said this year is that he is nowhere near ready for international rugby. He may look amazing when looking at highlights on youtube, but his game management and kicking from hand ahve been dismal for most of the season. For most of the season he was in serious danger of losing the 10 shirt at Wasps.

    To those listing Flutey at FH - to go into a Lions tour with a part time FH (how many games has he played at 10 in the last 2 years) would be suicide.

    I agree with those who said they should take Peel, if only because he offers something different to the other scrum-halfs - he is far better at generating quick ball for the backs.

  • Comment number 73.

    I can understand the sympathies of taking Peel, but who would you take out if he were to be included? If one of the FH's gets injured they can fly Peel out to SA, he'll gel into the team without issue.

    As for me I'm quite pleased with the team, though a little surprised with some of the inclusions and exclusions (especially Shane Williams on current form). However McGeehan has obviously made a statement that form and cohesion was important, and I can see this squad certainly giving the SA's a good run for their money.

    What makes me laugh though is the way everyone is describing SA as invincible. Wales only lost by 10 points in the Autumn, and with another 5 minutes we would have beaten them. World Champions they may be but they can be beaten and I can see this team beating them, though it will be a tough tour


  • Comment number 74.

    Overall, I think the Lions squad as a whole can grind out a result in South Africa. However, I'm concerned with some of the selections in key positions particularly at Scrum Half and Outside Half. There is no real creativity there, I think O'Gara is the more creative of the 2 Fly Halves going.

    However, if O'Gara gets clobbered a few times his game can go to pot. Stephen Jones I feel is the more consistent 10 and has a better defensive game. Being welsh I still would have taken Flood as a 3rd Outside half he can cover the midfield and seemed to get the English backline attacking more effectively - Is it just me but I think he's got the best out of Flutey when he's been at 10.

    Scrum Half wise I dont like the idea that we have picked players that tend to take on the back row too much and play a more physical type of game around the fringes (South Africa will love Mike Phillips and Ellis). It frustrates me seeing scrum halves that cant pass properly, that take that extra step, cant pass off the weaker hand, that run across field and cant kick off both feet (if only Robert Jones / Howley were still playing!).

    I would have taken one of the more physical scrum half's, but also take a scrum half that can play a good service, kicking game too I think either Blair or Peel should have gone.

    I have have not seen it mentioned in the posts but I'm concerned about playing with 2 small wingers in Halfpenny and Shane Williams both Wingers have been exposed by the cross field kick tactic where the bigger winger running on has an advantage of plucking the ball out of the air and scoring. Dont get me wrong both can be prolific at finishing but it surprised me that Shane Williams has got in over Cueto who has been solid in the 6 Nations, I would have personally took Armitage for Full back and Wing cover instead of Williams and kept Halfpenny as he has shown good form.

    Midfield and Fullback, I have no problems what-so-ever I wish they could all play O'Driscoll, Flutey, Roberts, Shanklin have been outstanding. Now we come to the back row Andy Powell made a great impression first off he is quick off the back of the scrum has quick feet and can be good at taking the ball up. I personally feel that he's still got work to do on his game, afterall he's not been in the international fold that long. I would be looking at him coming in off the bench as an impact player.

    I think the back row balance is pretty good and has the physicality to make the collision area competitive. If we cant compete at the break down we wont win in South Africa. Martin Williams has been in great form and the whole Irish back row have played well. I wont be surprised if the back row will be made up of all the Irish players - Even though I'd like to see Martin Williams in there. I would have also liked to have seen croft go as the line out I think will be an area that South Africa will exploit, particularly at the back of the line out.

    Front 5 needs to be mobile, aggressive and able to carry the ball I think we'll be able to compete and match anything that S.A. throw at us there. I think its going to be a close call but I think the Lions can do it.

  • Comment number 75.

    Leaving Croft out is a mistake. He's an asset in the lineout and strong in the loose. The problem I guess was who do you drop instead?

  • Comment number 76.

    Croft maybe a asset in the lineout, but he offers nothing else around the park. With little bulk, and even littler brain he is in-effectual at the breakdown, and in defense.

  • Comment number 77.

    I agree with rugbyblogger. Croft offers a good alternative in the lineout but he's nowhere near the standard of Williams, Wallace, Ferris etc at the other duties of a back row player!!

    On another issue I think that now O'Leary has been injured we should call on Mike Blair as replacement.

  • Comment number 78.

    Cipriani wasn't taken because the Wasps coaching team know that he needs time off to heal properly.
    Also there would have been so many cries of nepotism if he had been taken as until the last couple of weeks he hasn't sparkled for club.
    2013 I suspect he'll be the starting 10 (injuries permitting) but it is right not to take him this year
    Shame about Lewsey not going though - he deserves it

  • Comment number 79.

    DutchIrish - the last time the Lions toured and won, their captain wasn't captain of his country.

    He was a second row forward who went on to lift the RWC

  • Comment number 80.

    Go Wasps - No he wasn't!

  • Comment number 81.

    Bryn, I've been looking at the coverage by BBC Radio for the Lions tour - why aren't all the games live on Sports Extra like they were in 05?


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