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Final trial for Lions Test contenders

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Bryn Palmer | 13:40 UK time, Friday, 12 June 2009

Cape Town, Friday afternoon:

In a hotel room in Durban late next Tuesday evening, Ian McGeechan and the rest of the brains trust on this Lions tour will sit down and pick a team to face South Africa.

McGeechan likens himself to a 'benevolent dictator' who will have the final say on selection after some 'straight-talking' discussions with his assistant coaches Shaun Edwards, Warren Gatland and Rob Howley.

In theory that process won't start until the conclusion of Tuesday's afternoon fixture against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth, after which the squad fly to Durban that evening to prepare to face the Springboks four days later.

But although McGeechan is adamant there will still be opportunities for those turning out on Tuesday to be part of the Test equation, reality dictates that the best they can hope for by then is a place on the bench.

Playing a full game four days before you face the world champions would hardly be considered ideal preparation. So Saturday's match against Western Province is akin to a final trial, a last chance for players to state a conclusive case.

"I don't want easy decisions next week," McGeechan said, "I want to have to sit down on Tuesday night and have some really big calls to make because the players are really challenging us as coaches."

So what are the biggest calls he and his coaching cabal are likely to face? Let's break it down into specific areas.


Given Lee Byrne has probably been the Lions' player of the tour so far, it will take something sensational from Rob Kearney against Western Province to dissuade the coaches from handing the Welshman the number 15 jersey.

No wonder the Irishman believes a mere "solid, consistent game is not going to get me into the Test side" on only his second tour start, so prepare for some fireworks from the back. "It is 80 minutes tomorrow or nothing," he added.

Considering he was in bed for 13 straight days with mumps last month, spent a week in hospital, lost over a stone and "had every supplement in the country down my throat" to get back to his optimum weight, Kearney is doing pretty well.

Another strong display on Saturday, after his successful outing against Golden Lions, could earn him a place on the Test bench given his ability to also play on the wing.

Tommy Bowe is candid enough to admit "I think I have as good a chance as anyone" of making the Test side. After a scintillating display in that rout of the Golden Lions, only a seriously bad game on Saturday should deny him the right wing spot.

The other flank is far more open. Shane Williams has failed to shine in three starts, and Luke Fitzgerald has also probably not done enough. A second strong showing from Ugo Monye could be enough for the Englishman, but if he fails to convince, McGeechan and company have a tough call to make.

Ugo Monye


Keith Earls must realise privately that he whatever he does on Saturday, Brian O'Driscoll has the number 13 jersey under lock and key, barring mishaps.

Riki Flutey probably has more to play for, even if his first start of the tour has probably come too late to dislodge Jamie Roberts from the 12 shirt.

If Flutey proves he has recovered his sharpness after a knee injury, he could come into contention as a midfield replacement option in Durban.


While Ronan O'Gara has done little wrong in two largely composed outings, the feeling is that a second strong showing from Stephen Jones on Saturday should be enough to see him start at fly-half.

James Hook, on the bench in Cape Town, is also in the mix as a possible Test replacement, given he covers more positions than O'Gara.

The assumption is Mike Phillips has sown up the scrum-half jersey, although Harry Ellis will want to cement his status as the most likely bench option ahead of Mike Blair with a convincing outing against Western Province.


Lee Mears appears to have seen off Ross Ford and Matthew Rees, who starts on Saturday, for the hooker's role, but the props are an altogether different issue.

The Lions are blessed at loose-head, where another strong scrummaging display from Andrew Sheridan could tip the balance in his favour if the tourists feel the Springboks have a genuine weakness with skipper John Smit likely to start at tight-head.

But "Big Ted" probably needs to show more around the field to dislodge Gethin Jenkins, who has become the most potent all-round prop in the northern hemisphere.

Both could make it into the Test 22, with whoever misses out a likely bench option.

On the tight-head side, there is no doubt that by starting Phil Vickery, rather than Euan Murray, on Saturday, McGeechan has given the English warhorse the platform to earn the Test number three jersey, eight years after he wore it in Australia.

"The reality is this could be my last chance to prove I should be in that Test side," said Vickery as he contemplated a situation where it now appears to be between him and Adam Jones, both props comfortable with the ball in open play.

"There are going to be a lot of bitterly disappointed guys when that team is announced," added Saturday's skipper, who will lead the Lions for the first time. "I just want to make sure I have put my name into that mix."


Despite suggestions in some quarters that captain Paul O'Connell has not shone sufficiently to justify his guaranteed status, the reality for Saturday's two locks, Nathan Hines and Donncha O'Callaghan, is that nothing has changed.

They knew before the tour that they - along with Simon Shaw and Alun-Wyn Jones - were effectively competing for one spot.

Shaw's presence on the bench on Saturday suggests he is out of the running, and is likely to start on Tuesday in Port Elizabeth, while Wyn Jones remains very much in contention for at least a bench spot, if not a starting role.

But a big statement from Hines, particularly in the line-out, would put the aggressive Scot from Wagga Wagga in pole position for an enforcer's job alongside O'Connell to take on the Boks' formidable pairing of Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield.

Nathan Hines


Barring a barnstorming outing from Andy Powell, where he can show he has the vision and off-loading game to go with his power, Jamie Heaslip appears to have the number eight jersey in the bag. But the flank positions are more open to late claims.

Joe Worsley is starting in his favoured blind-side role for the first time since the opening match against the Royal XV, and could yet force his way in ahead of the more athletic Tom Croft, who provides more options in the line-out department.

Worsley could also be a strong Test bench option given he can cover all three roles.

David Wallace is currently favourite for the open-side berth but has not enjoyed a totally commanding outing on tour to date, so there is hope for Martyn Williams.

If the fit-again Welshman convinces at the breakdown, and also finds time to show his superior creative skills as a link-man, that number seven jersey could yet be his.


  • Comment number 1.

    Almost agree...certainly Williams has shown nothing on the wing since he arrived - think we should go with Bowe and Monye (with Fitz on the bench?).

    Even though I am a fervent English man, and ex-loosehead, I think Sheridan has not shown enough around the pitch to get ahead of Jenkins; also think we are light on the open side (no-one has shone to date).

    Has to be a BOD/Roberts mid-field though - and Croft for blind side.

    Finally, I would - ideally - play AWJ and Hines in the second row...think POC is not performing...but if he has to play I would take Hines with him.

  • Comment number 2.

    I think this is a well balanced view of where things stand - although I am one of the people who feel that, if O'Connell wasn't the skipper, there would still be two second row positions up for grabs.
    One player you didn't mention as having a shout is Euan Murray. Have I missed something there, or is he just not on form?

  • Comment number 3.

    Agree with nearly all said although I think Monye needs a hell of a game to displace Fitzgerald who looked very sharp on Wednesday when played in his best position and when given the ball with a bit of space.
    The Lions management need to have a good think about the bench for the Test and not just pick players who cover a number of positions. They need to have a real impact when they come on, epescially if the game is not going their way.

  • Comment number 4.

    good comments bryn.

    in my opinion, team has to be:

    1) Sheridan
    2) Mears
    3) Vickery
    4) O'Connell
    5) Alun Wyn Jones
    6) Tom Croft
    7) Martyn Williams
    8) Jamie Heaslip

    9) Mike Philips
    10) Stephen Jones
    11) Ugo Monye
    12) Jamie Roberts
    13) Brian O'Driscoll
    14) Tommy Bowe
    15) Lee Byrne

    Bench: Ellis, Hines, O'Gara, Hook, Jenkins, Rees, Powell, Flutey

    How many xactly are allowed on the bench?

  • Comment number 5.

    Byrne, Bowe, O'D, Roberts, Fitzgerald, Jones, Phillips, Heaslip, Williams, Croft, O'C, AWJ, Murray, Mears, Jenkins. As simple as that.

  • Comment number 6.

    Monye can't defend, he is all over the place against good teams and the Boks would target him. If you look back to the last Geech tour to South Africa, he picked Tait in the first test, who was a centre because of the defence. I wouldn't be surprised if he took Fitzgerald on that basis.

  • Comment number 7.

    bantamweight - almost agree with that team. I would swap Jenkins for Sheridan and Wallace for Williams (only due to lack of game time). Your bench is well out of balance - there is 7 subs, typically a hooker, a prop, a 2nd row, a backrow, a scrumhalf, a flyhalf and a ultility back covering wing/fullback.

  • Comment number 8.

    Given the need for proven burrowers & general purveyors of dark deeds at the breakdown, Martin Williams has to be in with a shout. In the same vein, mobility within the pack will be at a premium.

  • Comment number 9.

    Haven't seen much from Murray...for such a highly rated player he has been absent from line-ups.

  • Comment number 10.



    1. Jenkins
    2. Mears
    3. Jones
    4. O'Connell
    5. Jones
    6. Croft
    7. Wallace
    8. Heaslip

    9. Phillips
    10. Jones
    11. Fitzgerald
    12. Roberts
    13. O'Driscoll
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    The contentious decisions being 1, 3, 7 & 11

    1. Sheridan is not even close to being good enough in open field to dislodge Jenkins. The poor defending for the try way back at the start of the tour will count against.

    3. Vickery is too prone to ending up in the bin. Can't afford it.

    7. Williams I don't think will have enough game time to convince - unless he has an absolute stormer on Sat. There will also be questions over his fitness. Dodgy shoulder against the springboks? Yeah... dead on. More likely to start in the 2nd or 3rd tests IMO.

    11. Monye scored two tries against poor opposition. More tellingly, he made a not insignificant number of poor decisions with the ball in hand, ending moves that could have led to more scores. Fitzgerald is a better decision maker, and that will be the difference.

  • Comment number 11.

    Agree with Miniwelsh's team. Williams could displace Wallace if he absolutely dominates the breakdown tomorrow but the Lions don't look like a team that has adapted to the new interpretations (whatever they are) in this area

  • Comment number 12.

    Fair comments all the way down the line, however if there is an outside bet it might be if Kearney does have that stormer of a game tomorrow why not put him on wing where Williams is off form, Fitz is too lightweight and Moyne's defence is suspect. Kearney has often played there for Leinster and Ireland.

  • Comment number 13.

    cheers miniwelsh
    in that case,id have jenkins, rees, hines, powell, phillips, o'gara and kearney.
    jenkins is a very good prop, but every time i think of sheridan i think of how he destroyed the aussies. he turns it on for big games.

  • Comment number 14.

    1) Gethin Jenkins
    2) Lee Mears
    3) Phil Vickery
    4) Paul O'Connell
    5) Alun Wyn Jones
    6) Tom Croft
    7) Martyn Williams
    8) Jamie Heaslip

    9) Mike Philips
    10) Stephen Jones
    11) Ugo Monye
    12) Jamie Roberts
    13) Brian O'Driscoll
    14) Tommy Bowe
    15) Lee Byrne

    For those doubting Monye's defence, did you not see the excellent try preventing sprint and tackle on Evans (a player commentators had claimed was the fastest on the pitch)in the 6N? I have a sneaky feeling Monye's presence on the tour (and in the Test team) is in order to counter the pace of Habana.

  • Comment number 15.

    It's almost a shame that there isn't many conentious decisions to make. Now Ferris is gone, Croft should nail the 6. There's only a couple of positions to talk about - 1 prop and 1 wing.
    Fitzgerald v Monye (Similar speeds - Fitz is the better footballer, but Monye may offer more bulk at the breakdown).

    There's no questioning Kearney's skill (he is as good as excellent Byrne), but his slightly conservative, one dimensional preformances recently (and his illness) must count against him. It'd be interesting to see if he can mix it up, when needed.

  • Comment number 16.

    Re: Comments number two (Xeroxed) and nine (theboydunk) about Murray. I think if the coaches were contemplating starting him in the first Test, he would have been starting against Western Province. Of the three tight-heads, this will be a second start for Vickery, who has also come off the bench twice, while Adam Jones has also started twice. Murray didn't do enough in his one start last Sat against the Cheetahs. While the Scot is undoubtedly a powerful scrummager, there is a feeling he is not quite as adept at seeing the space around him and offloading with ball in hand as the other two. There was one instance where he had an overlap outside him but took the ball into contact. Bit harsh on a tight-head you could say, but the Lions need tight forwards who can also play a bit as an antidote to the Boks' power game.

    Also re: 12 (earthMickser), I agree that Kearney could be a good bet for the left wing if he plays well again tomorrow and Monye doesn't. But I asked him this morning if the coaches had spoken to him about playing there, and he said no. "If that was going to happen I think it would have probably happened by now," he told me. But reckon he's a good bet for the Test bench.

  • Comment number 17.

    Martyn Williams is the best openside in the Northern Hemisphere and Gethin Jenkins is the best loosehead prop. I am English so no biase on that front. Unless Williams has a serious failure of form he should start. I would start Monye on the wing, and I think the Lions will. 10.7sec for 100m is the sort of speed needed to catch Habana. No-one else has that speed. He has also linked well with BOD and Roberts. He is strong and has good defence.

    Philips and Jones look the best 9 and 10 combination. Neither Blair or Ellis has looked sharp and O'Gara has looked adrift. He has either been playing to a game plan or has opted to kick too much.

    I think all of the front row and second row forwards have played well. I think they will go for a combination of off-loading ability and grunt. If Shaw or Hines are chosen it allows Croft to be selected and have more of a free role. Less grunt and you will need a heavier and harder tackling 6. We could see Worsley chosen as a tackling machine for 60 mins with speed coming into play in the last 20.

  • Comment number 18.

    Those folks, including the author, questioning POC's performances so far are off the mark in my opinion. He's the Lion's top ball carrier and takes on an awful lot of work to make time and space for those outside him. A lot of work that the rest of the locks, AWJ aside, are incapable of doing. His selection is a given, not because of his captaincy, but because he is the best 2nd rower. No question.

  • Comment number 19.

    Personally this is what I think the XV should be:

    Byrne, Bowe, O'Driscoll, Roberts, Fitzgerald, Jones, Phillips, Jenkins, Mears, Murray, O'Connell, AW Jones, Croft, Wallace, Heaslip

    Bench: Ford, Sheridan, Hines, Worsley, Ellis, O'Gara, Flutey

    However my gut feeling is that they will start Vickery and drop Murray altogether.

  • Comment number 20.

    I dont think that Moynes defence is as suspect as people think.
    Most plays of first phase dont get that far and from what I remember of the six nations he was solid under a high ball, returned the ball with interest and his scramble defence was excellent, remember the tackle against the scots?

    There are a few choices still to be made but for the second row I think that O'Connel performs best with an enforcer so Hines and Shaw would do it for me rather than the more athletic Wyn Jones. This is especially true if Croft gets a run on the blind side.

    I don't think the fly half spot is completly nailed yet but Jones to me is the favourite.

    If it was me then the team would be


    Great to see competetion for places though, especially in the front row as I would put all of our props up against the Boks with confidence.

    We'll see who else gets injured over the next week, bad luck on Ferris as he was looking a certainty for a starting place, but providing we keep the crown jewels in tact then we have a fighting chance.

    C'mon you Lions

  • Comment number 21.

    Bowe has confirmed his starting place and if Monye has a good game I wreckon that Geechs will go with him, big ball carrier coming off his wing to break the gain line(look at his second try), he wouldnt be my choice becuase I think his D is suspect. Think we all agree that we can rule Williams out of a starting place becuase unless he's on fire he'l step himself into trouble and he dosent have the physical presence against a fired up Boks. I think its between Monye and Fitz for the other wing position. I'd go with Fitz

  • Comment number 22.

    I would have jenkins and sheridam, with jenkins at 3, as he can play both sides of the scrum, with murray on the bench! NO vickery as he commits too many penalties!

  • Comment number 23.

    It will never happen but what the hell!:
    Byrne, Bowe, O'Driscoll (Capt.), Roberts, Kearney, S.Jones, Philips, Jenkins, Mears, A.Jones, Hines, AW Jones, Croft, Heaslip, Williams

  • Comment number 24.

    I thought there would be more competition at this point of the tour, but when you look at it closely, there isn't that much. When the coaching team said they would wait until Tuesday to announce the team, I think it's pretty solid even although they haven't played together as a unit. My team would be:

    1) Gethin Jenkins
    2) Lee Mears
    3) Phil Vickery
    4) Paul O'Connell
    5) Alun Wyn Jones
    6) Tom Croft
    7) David Wallace
    8) Jamie Heaslip

    9) Mike Philips
    10) Stephen Jones
    11) Ugo Monye
    12) Jamie Roberts
    13) Brian O'Driscoll
    14) Tommy Bowe
    15) Lee Byrne

    Murray, Rees, Hines, Worsely, Ellis, Hook, Fitzgerald.

  • Comment number 25.

    I still think many positions are up for contention. You can never rule out many of the players on the tour. They have all been chosen because of there ability and performances throughout the season. Nearly everyone on the tour has the ability to make or break the game. And many of the so called 'fixed' or 'dead cert' test places are very much still open come saturday.

    However at the minute from performances during the tour, my starting test side would be:

    1. Andrew Sheridan
    2. Lee Mears
    3. Gethin Jenkins
    4. Paul O'Connell (not because he has played well. But because he is captain)
    5. AW Jones
    6. Tom Croft
    7. David Wallace
    8. Jamie Heaslip

    9. Mike Phillips
    10. Stephen jones (as much as it hurts me to choose him)

    11. Ugo Monye
    12. Jamie Roberts
    13. BOD
    14. Tommy Bowe
    15. Lee Byrne

    16. Phil Vickery
    17. Ross Ford
    18. Nathan Hines
    19. Joe Worsley
    20. Harry Ellis
    21. Riki Flutey
    22. Rob Kearney

  • Comment number 26.

    I share some of the concerns about Monye on the wing being defensively suspect and was pondering Kearney. I believe that his sound defence and ability under the high ball would make him secure however neither he nor Bowe has the lightning pace to cope with Habana/Ndungane (who has?) so would be hesitant in that respect. Wish Geech would start Byrne at FB on Saturday and give Kearney the opportunity to play in a back three with Bowe and Byrne (guaranteed starters).
    Otherwise Bryn's team seems accurate enough for me.

  • Comment number 27.

    S Jones

    Wallace (8)
    Williams (7)

    Wallace is more than capable of playing at 8 and with two out in out 7's on the pitch we will be much stronger at the breakdown, which is key against the Boks. Stephen Jones tackles better than OGara which is vital against Pierre Spies crashing through his channel from number 8. Plus his distribution has been better so far.

    Also, I wouldnt be surprised to see Harry Ellis at 9. That would not be expected from the boks, especially as they will be targetting Phillips' physicality around the fringes, and of course his temper. Ellis (however much I hate him) is a bit of a jackal and would easily get under the oppositions skin. Hes worth a shout.

  • Comment number 28.

    The only dissapointment I've got is the lack of game time given to Mike Blair. Ellis looks like an imposter - he's not even Leicester class, let alone Lions class.

    He can tackle, but almost everything else he does is poor - his passing, his decision making, he slows everything down.

    I'd like to see Blair get a chance behind a pack which is actually giving him the ball without 5 opponents.

  • Comment number 29.

    The second & back rows concern me greatly against the Boks. Nothing I have seen in the games so far fills me with any confidence in these areas. I fear that we will be seriously outmuscled & outpaced.

  • Comment number 30.

    Just as he promised everyone would get a run out in the warm up games, I wouldn't be surprised if Geech puts out three test teams with a few changes in there. Stands to reason really. A bigger squad is like a deep bench. He needs to keep the boks guessing, and let's face it, there's not that much of a gap in class among the tourists. A handful of players have made themselves indispensable and I would expect them to play all three tests if fit (Byrne, Roberts, BOD, Philips, Heaslip and O'Connell). Other than that, I wouldn't be surprised by any team Geech fields, because surprise itself may be the one advantage he takes into the first test. A bigger clue to who will appear on any given Saturday might be in those combinations he was talking about. Very smart stuff written by some of the posters on here about what kind of second row partner best suits POC and whether that selection lends itself better to a Croft or a Worsley at six. I am not guessing that POC was chosen as captain for his physical edge (Geech said so) and this is a first-impression kind of thing. Geech may go for brute size in the first fifty of the first test. I would not be surprised to see Shaw line up with O'Connell in the first test. We would probably see Croft at six. AWJ on the bench. Wallace would still be at seven, but Martin Williams would surely be on the bench. He may well start in the other two tests. At Prop, I wouldn't be surpirised to see Sheridan start if the physical option is favored, but Gethin Jenkins would probably see almost a full half of action. Vickery will most likely take the other prop spot and Mears has earned the right to start with Rees on the bench (possibly to arrive with Jenkins). For the first 50 minutes it would be English grunt up front, and thereafter the Welsh skill of Jenkins, Rees, Williams and AWJ would be available to introduce speed and linking play when the gaps appear on attack, or fresh legs for the rearguard when they appear in defense.

    At fly-half, I would expect Steven Jones to start, with Hook on the bench. I don't think O'Gara will cover fly-half from the bench, because he is actually too similar to Jones. Hook is a better impact sub. Having said that, I wouldn't be surprised to see O'Gara start at least one of the tests. He is class. Again it would be Hook on the bench for the same reasons. I only pick Jones first up because he is better defensively and his handling game looks sharp right now (beautiful hands in the Golden Lions game!).

    Phillips will start at nine. It could be either Ellis or Blair on the bench. Roberts will start and so will BOD. Byrne will start at fullback. Bowe looks good for the right wing. On the left wing, I would expect Fitzgerald to start (combinations with BOD). He can also cover center if needed. Kearney should be on the bench as cover for wing and full back (depending what shape he's in). Hook can also cover center and full back from the bench, so if Kearney is not in good shape, perhaps Monye will be an impact sub, but only if the lions are in front or in touch with twenty to go.

    1. Sheridan
    2. Mears
    3. Vickery
    4. O'Connell
    5. Shaw
    6. Croft
    7. Wallace
    8. Heaslip

    9. Phillips
    10. Jones
    11. Fitzgerald
    12. Roberts
    13. O'Driscoll
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    16. Jenkins
    17. Rees
    18. Wyn-Jones
    19. M. Williams
    20. Ellis/ Blair
    21. Hook
    22. Kearney/ Monye

    That should do it, eh Geech?

  • Comment number 31.

    By the fifth game, the four Scots have accrued a combined 5 starts, two of which went to Hines. Blair has been treated disgracefully - Ellis isn't good enough to start for his club side. Murray's benching can be explained by Vickery - there's not much difference there - but Rees has been pitiful, and Ford has been hard done by again. Blair should go off tour, hit the pubs and clubs instead!!

    The pack tomorrow looks worryingly immobile. Who will provide the quick ruck ball bar Martyn W? Worsley and Powell have been anonymous and inept respectively so far, while Sheridan and Vickery aren't exactly known for their work in the loose. Fully expect the poor breakdown work to continue with Shaun Edwards pouting quizzically on the sidelines. Lions must hope WP are as hopeless as the other B sides we have faced to date.

    Hope the forwards provide some quick ball, as the backs look very slick. Still think a Stephen Jones, Flutey, BOD axis would be the best, but we'll see.

    The 'why did I bother list' - Blair, Ford, Murray, D'Arcy, Shaw, O'Callaghan, Hook (to date).
    The 'why are they getting so much gametime list' - Ellis, Rees, Earls, Worsley, Sheridan, Shane Williams.

  • Comment number 32.


    i dont think blair has been treated badly
    he was hulled in at the last inute for o'leary, and in the game he played in he delivered awful ball all game, not allowing the fly half to move the back line.
    if you watch scotland, that is often what happens there too.

  • Comment number 33.

    bantamweight - he was treated badly being omitted for O'Leary in the first place (as were Cusiter and Peel). O'Leary, at age 25, is still unable to keep Stringer out of the Munster or Ireland sides. In the first game, the Lions were woeful, esp up front. Blair had zero protection at the breakdown during a game where ROG and Martyn W said the experience at altitude was absolutely exhausting. 60 minutes gametime is the lowest on tour which, for potentially the best breaking scrum half on tour, is pointless.

    Ellis supplied his usual mediocre delivery last weekend. Remember that? Where the Lions sneaked a win through the oppo missing a late drop goal? Blair should have had a second start by now as he's only had 10 mins off the bench while the other 9s have both had 30 minute stints off the bench and two starts to boot.

    Shane Williams was given a ridiculous amount of chances to start on the basis he was the IRB player of the year in 2008. Blair was the only scrum half on that five man shortlist but it's not earned him leeway with the management, has it?

  • Comment number 34.

    earthMickser, how can you argue that kearney should be on the wing ahead of fitzgerald when fitzgerald has been ahead of him of late. because he's too light weight? he's heavier than kearney not too mention a lot faster and not suspect in defence. he has to start and offers cover for 12, 13 & 15 which allows either monye or williams to be named on the bench despite only covering wing. bowe can also cover centre. i think it's a toss up between monye and fitzgerald but i'd give it to fitzgerald. defence rock solid(as nonu found out), better kicking game than ugo and all round the cleverer footballer. he picks great lines every time and his work at the breakdown, which will be crucial, will be very important.

  • Comment number 35.

    I agree with vonstoobing about his 'why did i bother' and 'why so much gametime' lists. I feel sorry for Murray and Ford and Blair, are they training really badly or something? I know Darcy was brought out only as cover, but I really hope he gets more than a few minutes on the pitch to show what we all know he has.

    O'Gara has looked a bit shaky when he has been on, so I can see Jones starting no bother. Hook has been playing well when he has come on.

    Fitzie was great against the Sharks, showing that there is more to rugby wing play than straight line speed. I heard someone say he is lightweight, but have they seen him tackling? Punches way above his weight, has bulked up this season and runs brilliant lines.

    Kearney really does need a big game tomorrow, he has been looking a bit one-dimensional in the last few matches, while remaining awesome under a high balls and reliable in defence.

    I couldn't believe how quickly Vickery was sinbinned when he came on, I'm sorry, but he is a liability! I didn't think Jones was particularly impressive last time out, Murray should come in here. Sheridan to start with Jenkins to come on early second half or before. Ford really needs some game time!

    I like the idea of Hines/Shaw and POC, with Wyn Jones to tear into them as impact sub. I can't wait to see what Worsley brings at six as we need some dog to go with Croft's undoubted ability. I still hope that Leamy comes out now that Jones is going home. Martyn williams is a master 7 at the breakdown, while Wallace is such a strong runner. I'm happy with either of them really.

    Heaslip on his own, Powell is another liability at the moment.

    Phillips has been brilliant, but I wish Blair could have had more time to be his backup.

    Jones with Hook as backup I reckon. Then Fitzie, Roberts, BOD, Bowe and Byrne. Still think Kearney could get in depending on tomorrow.

    Sorry for long comment, haven't been on for a while!

  • Comment number 36.

    There seems all too little doubt for the test team

    1. Jenkins
    2. Mears
    3. Vickery
    4. O'Connell
    5. Wyn Jones
    6. Croft
    7. Williams
    8. Heaslip

    9. Phillips
    10. Jones
    11. Fitzgerald
    12. Roberts
    13. O'Driscoll
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    Think this largely picks itself. Possibly some debate surrounding Williams but if he is on form on Saturday he will be in as hes the only class open side on tour. Disappointing that we don't have more competition at wing, hooker & no 8. Yes we have players who can do the job but not world class.

  • Comment number 37.

    i personally think it is a little worrying the lack of competition for the test jersey. it means we lack depth and the reserve players lack drive. therefore if the first test eam doesn't work it will be hard to change the team for the other two games due to the lack of options left behind.

  • Comment number 38.

    I see many people are suggesting a place on the bench for Hook but what about starting at 10???
    Lions are supposed to be the best of the best and Hook is the only one of the three fly haves with any kind of game changing magic.
    Stephen Jones is too much of a "steady Eddy" and ROG will get trampeled by the SA back row!!
    He has played weel so far on tour so his poor form of this season is perhaps behind him??

  • Comment number 39.

    Regarding Monye :

    He has the best rush defence of any winger on the tour - stopping moves at source, and as already mentioned the kind of pace to make cover tackles (Thom Evans) and reduce the threat of interceptions akin to the wingers tackle on BOD on Wednesday.

    Having said that I thought Fitzgerald looked sharp on Wednesday too - so wouldn't be too upset either way.

    Good selection headache to have (wouldn't discount Kearney on the wing either).

  • Comment number 40.

    here is the team i would play for the first test.

    1. Jenkins
    2. Ford
    3. Murray
    4. AWJ
    5. O'Connell
    6. Croft
    7. Wallace
    8. Powell

    9. Phillips
    10. O'Gara
    11. Monye
    12. Roberts
    13. O'Driscoll
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    the one most won't agree with there is number 8 powell. i just think he is quicker, more powerful and generally mor of a modern number 8 to the traditional heaslip. i think that powell would be great to combat the powerful pierre spies or ryan kankowski. i am an australian and after watching southern hemisphere rugby, it is obvious that the fitter, more muscular number 8's do the best at the pace the game will be played. The ball will generally be given out and powell, wallace and croft will need to get there quick to control possesion.

  • Comment number 41.

    15. Byrne
    14. Bowe
    13. BOD
    12. Roberts
    11. Williams
    10. Hook
    9. Phillips

    8. Heaslip
    7. Williams
    6. Croft
    5. Hines
    4 AWJ
    3. Jones
    2. Mears
    1. Jenkins

    No problems there whatsoever. I know Shane hasn't been on top form, but still rate him as a potential game winner against the springboks more than Fitz to be honest. There's no room for safe options on a Lions tour. Shane can have the ball 15 times a game, and do nothing for 14 of them, but can score a belter with the other and win the game, Fitz can't.

  • Comment number 42.

    VonStoobing: - Tomas O'Leary has in fact displaced Peter Stringer as Munster Scrum-Half, and moved ahead of Stringer, Reddan and Boss as Ireland Scrum-Half. He has speed and power, can cover out-half in a pinch, and has played Centre and Wing for Munster. He would have been the Test Scrumhalf ahead of Phillips.

    Keith Earls has been the find of the season, scoring tries for fun for both Munster and Ireland, and Ireland A in last years Churchill Cup.
    He took a bang on his shoulder at the start of his first game on tour, a bang which the medical staff considered tour-threatening. As a result of that he dropped a ball or two. But he has shown what a tough boy he is by sticking at it, and is certainly good enough to be on tour.

    I can understand your frustration that your favourite players are not going to play in the Tests, but please do not falsely disparage good players because of your disappointment.

  • Comment number 43.

    I'd go for
    3. Vickery
    6.A-wyn jones
    7.M. Williams
    9. Phillips
    11. Kearney
    Bench; Ford, Murray, Shaw, Croft, Ellis, Hook, Flutey.
    Btw, Jones at 6. because croft just doesn't have the weight/strength in the contact or breakdown. A-wyn Jones has mobility power to excell at six. Kearney on the wing for just lack of competition and vickery is backk to best form while O'Connel is at his worst. O'callaghan gives an honest work rate and shaw has impact off the bench.

  • Comment number 44.

    I would imagine Murray, Blair and D'Arcy will be on at half time to resolve the subs bench issue...

  • Comment number 45.

    4.AW Jones
    10.O' Gara
    13. O'Driscoll


  • Comment number 46.

    I'm surprised by the number of people picking Vickery at 3 - surely Jones has looked a better bet so far

  • Comment number 47.

    comment 4- you confidently state what you think the team should be, then ask how many players your allowed on the bench! kind of undermines your opinion really doesn't it if you don't even know enough about the game to know you have 7 replacements.

  • Comment number 48.

    I think Ford is almost nailed on for the bench spot regardless of game time, and Murray is likely to be either starting or bench no.3. interchanging with Vickery.

    It was a ridiculous call to pick up on Murray's apparent missed overlap - he got a hospital pass.

    The one guy who has been hard done by is Mike Blair. He still managed to look good in places against the Royal XV, and Mike Phillips made almost no difference when he came on.

    Harry Ellis has no class. They've worked this out at Leicester, so why haven't the Lions?

  • Comment number 49.

    Comment 41, I've read every email on the thread and yours is the only really biased one. You have 9 welshmen starting, including Adam Jone sand Shane Williams, in fact other than prefering Hook to S Jones, nd you can't have two welsh 10's in the same team, and Heaslip to Powell, who has been very poor, I think everyone else is in.


  • Comment number 50.

    bamtam, again, "i dont think blair has been treated badly
    he was hulled in at the last inute for o'leary, and in the game he played in he delivered awful ball all game, not allowing the fly half to move the back line.
    if you watch scotland, that is often what happens there too."

    how much do you actually watch scotland? sure in the last 6 nations he was poor, but for the previous 1 1/2 years he's been exceptional. also whilst you might think that he provided poor ball in the first match have you actually questioned why, or just jumped on the bandwagon again. the first game was pretty poor all round, blair really didn't get the ride that philips and ellis have subsequently had.

    philips should start based on tour form, but to spout a load of rubbish about a player you clearly don't know much about is just wrong. you didn't even know how many players there are on a match day bench (comment 4), really puts your opinion in perspective i think.

    quick, the bandwagon's leaving without you.

  • Comment number 51.

    Agree with the comments above that Vickery is a liability. Too many silly penalties and too much time in the bin and we just cannot afford either against the Boks.

  • Comment number 52.

    Just read this in the Telegraph;
    'Pierre Spies, the powerful Springbok No 8 can power-clean 300lb, dead-lift 520lb and bench press 370lb. Impressed? He can also do pull ups with a 100lb weight between his legs, launch his 17st body 4ft 6in onto a raised platform and sprint for 850 yards before slowing, on a repeated sprint ability test; he also has a body fat percentage of just 6.5 per cent.'
    Got our work cut out eh?
    Just wrote out a 22 and scrapped it. Four positions too hard to call. We all know which ones :-
    Left Wing - Surprised Kearney hasn't been played here as he could be the best option; on-field cover for fullback with Shane on the bench for his big-game match-winning ability (he's still got it, folks, and if anything can spark him it'll be a Lions test) As it is, Fitz and Monye should toss a coin.
    Openside - Really hope the Nugget has a stormer against the Stormers as he's another one who could make a massive difference in the tests. I think Wallace is awesome going forward and both should be in the 22 without doubt. At the moment Dave has it.
    Loosehead - When do you want to sacrifice Jenks' amazing all-round game for Sheridan's strength against Smit? From the start or in the second half? Big call. I'd have Geth on from the start and, if needed, introduce Sheridan later on to hopefully power through that 'Bok scrum.
    Tighthead - Weakest position in the squad. Ads seems slower than usual but gets the job done, Vickery stronger but temperamental. Trouble is, neither are 80-minute Gladiators and we're all assuming Jenks or Sheridan will be on the bench! Cue Euan Murray...?
    Hooky must be on the bench with Hines (AWJ to start). Still think bench 9 is up for grabs (Ellis/Blair). Others depend on above starters.
    Sorry for the ramble. Excited!!!

  • Comment number 53.

    15 Byrne
    14 Bowe
    13 O'Driscoll
    12 Roberts
    11 Williams
    10 Jones
    9 Phillips
    8 Heaslip
    7 Williams
    6 Wallace
    5 O'Connell
    4 Jones
    3 Jones
    2 Mears
    1 Jenkins

    16 Ford
    17 Sheridan
    18 Croft
    19 Powell
    20 Ellis
    21 O'Gara
    22 Kearney

    A few points to make...

    a) I go for Williams on the wing as he still has the ability to produce some magic out of nothing and turn a game in your favour, more so than any other player in the squad (O'D included). People are making too much of the fact he hasn't impressed on tour. Neither has Monye or Fitzgerald. One interception pass aside he hasn't done much else wrong and hasn't seen a great amount of ball in space. If Monye or Fitzgerald had shone on tour then he wouldn't get in but they have been no better than Williams. If it's not Williams then Kearney will play on the wing and theres a good chance that will happen.

    b) I think Ferris is a massive loss for the lions. I go for Wallace to replace him instead of Croft as he is more abrasive and agressive.

    c) Adam Jones gets in ahead of Vickery at tight head because he is more likely to stay on the pitch. But I also think that in the second half Geech will bring Sheridan off the bench for Jones and move Gethin Jenkins to the tight head. If the scrum goes well with that combo (and I am sure it will) there is a good chance that Sheridan will start the 2nd and 3rd tests with Jenkins at 3.

    d) I think O'Gara will get the bench job ahead of Hook for the 1st test. Despite Hook covering more positions and being a more creative player I think they'll go for O'Gara's experience. But if Lions lose the 1st test, expect Hook to bench for next two tests.

  • Comment number 54.

    1) Gethin Jenkins
    2) Lee Mears
    3) Phil Vickery
    4) Paul O'Connell
    5) Alun Wyn Jones
    6) Tom Croft
    7) Martyn Williams
    8) Jamie Heaslip

    9) Mike Philips
    10) Stephen Jones
    11) Luke Fitzgerald
    12) Jamie Roberts
    13) Brian O'Driscoll
    14) Tommy Bowe
    15) Lee Byrne

  • Comment number 55.

    Here it is:

    1. Sheridan
    2. Mears
    3. Vickery
    4. Hines
    5. O'Connell
    6. Worsley
    7. Wallace
    8. Heaslip

    9. Phillips
    10. Jones
    11. Fitzgerald
    12. Roberts
    13. O'Driscoll
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    Jenkins, Rees, Shaw, Croft, Ellis, Hook, Kearney

    If Geech ignores this then he has nobody to blame if it all goes pear shaped! He should definitely ignore WG's guidance. That's my free advice over.

    I'm not English so it pains me to accept that this front row is the pick of the bunch available, but it's true. Too much can be lost if the boks aren't hit hard and pushed backwards from scrum 1. We need the biggest baddest MFs we can find. Period.

    AWJ is a fine player, but again simply not enough impact with ball in hand. Hines to start and thump everything green, Shaw to continue service from the bench once PoC or Hines are unable to continue.

    Croft is another fine player, but again lacks the physical heft to dent the boks.I think his time will come but it just isn't now. Worsley is less gifted but is more physical and will drop anything coming his way. Croft might make a bigger iompact off the bench to challenge tiring boks when spaces begin to open up (wishful thinking maybe).

    Wallace has been in good form but I'd be delighted if Nugget puts in a display good enough to dislodge him. I think we're in good hands either way.

    Heaslip is a no-brainer at 8. If Powell starts it would be an affront to rugby (see free advice re. WG above). Unthinkable.

    Phillips another no-brainer. Ellis off the bench.

    Jones at 10, but I'd be just as happy with ROG. I think too much is made of their supoposed limitatons, they are fine players and will guide us to victory so long as Geech is listening!

    Roberts and BOD in the centre. Can't argue with that. Shame D'Arcy has gotten so little game time, he has something different that could be interesting. Flutey is a fine player, but boks play centres like him all the time and if he is even 1% less than perfect in contact or offload they will eat him and the lions for breakfast.

    Bowe and Byrne are no-brainers.

    Fitz is a better footballer than Monye. Monye is fast, but how much faster than the others? It would be interesting to know the facts, but either way a second can be made up easily if you know what your opponent is going to do. Football brain has to win out in the back three. Kearney on the bench because he is versatile.


  • Comment number 56.

    I agree with huw4beynon (#41) - although we appear alone when saying Shane must start! I'm constantly amazed at how people continuously underate the most skiful/artistic player in RU for the last decade! Lest we forget he is currently the World Player of the Year!! And I'm not aware of the oozing quality of this particular Lions squad to suggest it can afford not to pick someone of that calibre! Crazy!! Anyone who saw Shane's tries against the Boks (on tour in SA) just a year ago would be frankly amazed we could even think of picking a "meat & potatoes" player like Monye! Not fit to clean Shane's boots before the game let alone start ahead of him! Fitzgerald I have more time for but frankly what would be the point of picking an inferior version when you have the "original Shane" in the squad? And picking Kearney for defensive reasons would be tantamount to raising the white flag (i.e. damage limitation option).

    Now, I know lots of bloggers will argue Shane's out of form etc etc, and yep, he's been pretty ropey by his standards so far this tour but class is class, and against the world champs in their own backyard you'd better be prepared to take some gambles - and with the exception of BOD and possibly Byrne and Phillips, we don't have any other game breakers. So I'll say it again - we must pick Shane!

    Of course, like the majority of the myopics blogging on this site (with English 'biff & bosh' mindsets or Irishmen suffering from Grand-Slam-Fever), McGeechan will probably go "safety first" and pick a "bigger man" and/or "on form"...

    I'm not optimistic at all about the Test Series, in fact, the Lions could well be stuffed by the speed and power of the Boks although the 1st Test offers a chance at least to make it close given their lack of game time. But only if we're bold...

  • Comment number 57.

    1. Jenkins
    2. Mears
    3. Murray
    4. Wyn Jones
    5. POC
    6. Croft
    7. Wallace
    8. Heaslip

    9. Philips
    10. Jones
    11. Fitzgerald
    12. Roberts
    13. BOD
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    16. Ford
    17. Vickery
    18. DOC
    19. Williams
    20. Ellis
    21. ROG
    22. Kearney

    I really can't see it being anything other than that. That team would beat any opposition.

  • Comment number 58.

    Just read some more comments and I feel compelled to point out that the test squad is 22 players. Since starting with 15 on the field is customary this means that we are limited to 7 on the bench.

    Nothing personal folks.

  • Comment number 59.

    I still can't believe the number of people that think Sheridan should start the 1st test...incredible! Sure he is a monster in the scrum but he doesn't get around the pitch like Jenkins, has no where near the tackle count that Jenkins has, doesn't hit the tackles as hard as Jenkins, doesn't hit rucks like Jenkins does, doesn't have the soft hands and side step that Jenkins has, not to mention the fact that Jenkins is a pretty strong scrummager himself.

    Sheridan to make the impact off the bench when the boks are tired. He will have far more influence on the game this way both in the scrum and with his ball carrying.

  • Comment number 60.

    Isn't it just fantastic at all the comments we're receiving about who wil play where, when and why, the mind boggles !!

    Look guys, the Lions are going to win, there's no doubt about it, you only have to look at the faces of the Boks side during last Wednesday's game, and you can see that they are not smiling so freely anymore. I even saw good old Shalk biting his nails !!

    The Boks genuinely know that they have their work cut out. If anyone thinks that the Boks will just run all over the Lions, they are in cloud cuckoo land.

    All the tests are going to be nail biters (a la Shalk), and they're going to be tough, but the Lions ARE going to win. The game against the Sharks was a defining moment, there was no nonsense, the boys just got on with the job, professionally, patiently and eventually all paid off.

    You heard this here first, the Lions are on for a white wash of all the SA games - scoff now while you may.....I'll be collecting your beers in the Kings Head Teddington, on Sunday morning 5th July. So get your money ready.

  • Comment number 61.

    Not sure who mentioned it first as i have read all the comments made today, but I have to agree with whoever mentioned Hook as a starter. Can I begin by saying I'm an Englishman and you can judge my bias or otherwise accordingly. James Hook has looked by far the most dangerous out half with ball in hand. He takes it flat, keeps the back row honest, and has a better step and pace than either Jones or O'Gara. Added to that, he kicks the ball further out of hand and at goal. Can he run a test match at this level? Well, we all know Geech has sprung surprises in the past.....why not Hooky?

    I can't be alone in thinking we are short of world class in certain positions. It's hard to take my own country are short of world class in various areas, but when we have the cream of the British Isles, its hard to believe we cant have world class all round.

    I doubt Lee Mears is the best hooker in England least alone the British Isles, yet on tour form he is head and shoulders above the rest. I shudder to think that the boks have to shunt Smit out to prop to accomodate a list of hookers all capable of filling the Lions jersey. However, there is a paradox, because it demonstrates a weakness at prop that is probably the Lions' strongest area.

    I also bemoan the loss of Ferris on the blind side flank. His undoubted strength and power was never in doubt, but the turn of foot he demonstrated in the cheetahs game came as a surprise to me, who thought that Croft was the quickest of blind sides. He will be missed. However, as a replacement I think Croft's pace and athleticism will serve the Lion's better than Alan Quinlan's abrasiveness.

    I worry about the open-side. Williams is the British Isles king of the breakdown. Wallace, the prince of the open space. Personally, I think the series will be won and lost at the breakdown...the contact area. Do you go for Williams on the floor? or Wallace for his strength at contact. Tough tough call. I have Wallace ahead at the moment, but if Williams puts in a towering performance tomorrow, who could write him off. As has been said before, it is one of few decisions left for the selectors.

    Which brings us to the wing. Intelligent comments all I think. Bowe is pencilled in. What a wonderful all-round performer he has become. Of the left wing...well...You have to say Williams isnt quite firing, wonderful player that he is. So, Fitzgerald or Monye. Again, its hard to say Monye is England's strongest wing, least alone the Lions. Fitzgerald is the better bet of the two, but I have to agree with previous comments. Why hasnt Kearney been given a run on the wing. A back three consisting of him, Bowe and Byrne fills me with immense confidence.

    I am astounded at the criticism levelled at POC. His workrate is top drawer, he has outshone any lock he has partnered so far on the tour, and apart from a shaky start in the first game, has captained well. The only question is who should partner him.

    I agree with previous comments that if Croft plays at 6, it needs to be a heavy weight enforcer. Look no further than Shaw, in my opinion a hugely underrated lock throughout his career. Great hands, he can add to the Lions off-loading game. However, Hines would let no-one down.

    At prop, I have to fight my patriotic tendencies. Jenkins is the best all round player, and I would love the management to incorporate both he and Sheridan. I'm sure I have seen Jenkins pack on the tight-side? If not probably Sheridan and Vickery to do the grunt early doors, and then Jenkins on after 50 minutes for his all round dynamism.

    So here it is:



  • Comment number 62.

    brilliantberniemac - hi mate, if you're referring to my comment, sorry I didn't make it clear - when i said bench 9 is up for grabs i meant the scrum-half position (9) player on the bench. That's why I put Ellis/Blair in brackets.

    Anyways, this has been fascinating folks, I'm gonna get some shut-eye before another big game tomorrow. Enjoy, all....

  • Comment number 63.

    Broadly agree...though not convinced by Monye, would play Kearney on the wing if he comes even close to what he can do tomorrow. Continued POC criticism hugely unwarranted.

  • Comment number 64.

    westywing - not just you. lotsof eight plus on the bench. doesn't take anythign from the debate.

    I don't care who starts so long as they win!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 65.

    Brilliantberniemac......Amen to that pal....come on the Lions!!!!!

  • Comment number 66.

    I'm not going to pretend to understand the relative merits of the prop forwards, I'll have to trust the experts opinions on that ones but for the rest of the positions...

    Wyn Jones seems to be on form and is more dynamic that the other options. O'Connell, Shaw and Hines are similar in nature. O'Callaghan is probably the most limited of the 5. O'Connell hasn't been firing on all cylinders but he hasn't exactly been put under pressure.

    In the back row Croft and Heaslip provide athleticism and line out options. I can't see them being touched. Williams and Wallace is a close call. I'd love to see Williams play a decent 80 minutes tomorrow. He's the only natural number 7 playing consistently well for any of the 4 nations over the last 4 years. Wallace is very good at what he does but I don't consider him a natural 7.

    Half backs are Phillips and Jones with Ellis and O'Gara on the bench. I'd love to have seen Hook get more game time as he's a better option than either on form but he hasn't had the opportunity and the incumbents have barely missed a kick yet.

    Flutey would need to do something amazing to dislodge Roberts and Earls could score a try with every touch without even making O'Driscoll shift in his seat.

    I'd agree with Bowe and Byrne as starters and I like Fitzgearld for the last spot. Like Williams, he's the more natural player of the two options. I'd love to see Shane Williams hit anything like the kind of form he showed last year but he's been a poor imatition of his old self. timalbi up there tried to make a case for the defense but managed to invalidate his argument by claiming that everybody else was blinkered. Moyne is a big fast man but until he shows a bit more than that, he'll have to wait in the wings.

    For back line cover, I'd include Kearney and maybe even Earls for versatility.

  • Comment number 67.

    Jenkins, Mears, Vickery
    O'Connell, Hines
    Worsley Heaslip Williams

    Phillips S.Jones J Roberts BOD Monye Bowe Byrne

    Sheridan, Ford, AWJ, A Powell, Ellis, Hook, Kearney

  • Comment number 68.

    barry_maigheo (#66)

    Mate - I don't see the logic of my claim of myopic bloggers "invalidating" the case for Shane - let's just let merit be the sole criterion rather than whether I've offened you/others or not! Facts are facts and Shane's stats, pedigree and track record SHOULD speak for themselves and he should, therefore, be a shoo-in - he's streets ahead of Moyne, Fitzgerald or Kearney - unfortunately he isn't a shoo-in or even, according to the maj on this blog (inc you) worthy of making the matchday 22, suggesting to me that most Lions supporters couldn't see class if it tapped them on the shoulder and slapped them around the face! That's my point. (I'm a little surprised that some Englishman has suggested sticking Worsley out there for his tackling!!!) I suspect most Sarf Afrikaans would be amazed that we're even having this debate (although delighted)!!

    I still hope McGeechan (maybe under the influence of Edwards & Gatland) will go for substance over form... If not, you and other visually-challenged Lions supporters will get what you deserve. That's all.

  • Comment number 69.

    For the record, my matchday 22:

    15 - Byrne 14 - Bowe 13 - BOD 12 - Roberts 11 - SHANE!!! 10 - Jones 9 - Phillips 1 - Jenkins 2 - Rees 3 - Murray 4 - O'Callaghan 5 - O'Connell (c) 6 - Croft 8 - Heaslip 7 - M Williams

    16 - Sheridan 17 - Mears 18 - AWJ 19 - Wallace 20 - Ellis 21 - Hook 22 - Kearney

  • Comment number 70.

    The Shane Williams issue is intriquing. The SAs are probably a little bemused that the World Player of the Year may not even make the bench.
    I feel inclined to agree that SW should start. 'Form is temporary, class is permanent' is largely true and SW has the rare ability to spark an attacking game. He links well with passes that can put players into space, and he is also a fine defensive player, despite his size.
    Finally, there may be some truth in the fact that he is being marked well (causing him to force things a little) but this has the advantage of freeing up a little space for the centres.

  • Comment number 71.

    I thought Brian Palmer's team selection and comments were spot on. i have grave doubts about POC's ability to raise his team when they are under pressure (as they certainly be in the tests) and if he weren't captain, would be selected at all? Other problem areas are No6, No7 and one of the wing positions were none of the current contenders has really looked international class. In particular Shane Williams has looked like a rabbit in the headlights.

  • Comment number 72.

    Re Alun-Wyn Jones as the majority pick for starting second row - did nobody watch his performance on Wednesday? Uncertain in defence, average going forward, turned over and a few handling errors.

  • Comment number 73.

    Vanstoobing -72. I agree mate. AWJ is a fine player but Hines is the better option on this tour. Unlike many I feel POC is playing well enough to merit a place. The captaincy may be adding a bit of pressure but he is growing into it well. POC and Hines for the first test.

  • Comment number 74.

    WestyWing - 52. Quote: 'Pierre Spies, the powerful Springbok No 8 can power-clean 300lb, dead-lift 520lb and bench press 370lb. Impressed? He can also do pull ups with a 100lb weight between his legs'

    100lbs between his legs?? Do we have anyone to counter this threat? Monye to start perhaps?


  • Comment number 75.

    some here are saying Vickery has poor hands and does nothing in the loose. We must be watching different games. He and Jenkins are the form props.
    POC unfortunately will be playing but 2nd row should be Shaw and AWJ. They both have great hands and are aggressive which we will need. Back row of Wallace Heaslip and Croft
    Backs have been decided

  • Comment number 76.

    The starting team has got to be..

    1. Jenkins sub Sheridan
    2. Mears sub Ford
    3. Murray
    4. Hines sub AW Jones
    5. POC (c)
    6. Croft sub Worsley
    7. Wallace
    8. Heaslip

    9. Phillips sub Blair
    10. Jones sub Hook
    11. Williams sub Fitzgerald
    12. Roberts
    13. BOD
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    1. The SA team would laugh if wee shane wasnt on the team, he might be a bit rusty but come the first test williams will be back to his best.

    2. Jones has been the most consistent stand off with hook being the most creative so we will be looking at him for some magic off the bench.

    3. Sheridan isnt good enough around the park however he may pip jenkins because of his superior scrumaging.

    4. M. Williams recent injuries will mean he might not make the bench with worsley being favourite due to his ability in playing a variety of positions.

    5. POC will find his 6 nations form and will make a good partnership with Hines. AW Jones has been far too inconsistent.

    6. Centres and fullback - no doubt the best three players so far.

    7. 3 scots :)

  • Comment number 77.

    All this shane Williams chat is amazing! He has been given chance after chance and shown nothing like the form of the others! Any time he has the ball heteies to make some solo effort, dances sideways across the pitch and gets tackled! To have him involved would be a slap in the face to Monye/Fitz/even Kearney! There's no point in bringing 37 players out there and then ignoring how people play in the ore-test games! Definitely not involved in the first test, but if that doesn't go to plan, maybe consider him for the bench then.

  • Comment number 78.

    I think the backs should be pretty obvious really based on form. The only problem in the backs is who will play fly half? I feel that James Hook should be guarenteed a spot n the bench simply because of his versitility and more 'exciting' style of play compared to the more safe and precise options of O'Gara and Jones. My Backs are shown below;

    9. Philips
    10. Jones
    11. Monye
    12. Roberts
    13. O'Driscoll
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    20. Ellis
    21. Hook
    22. Williams

    The forwards on the other hand are alot more debatable...I would go for;

    1. Jenkins
    2. Mears
    3. Vickery
    4. O'Connel
    5. Wyn Jones
    6. Croft
    7. Wallice
    8. Heaslip

    16. Ford
    17. A. Jones
    18. Hines
    19. Powell

  • Comment number 79.

    okay shane fans i've just heard blair has been ruled out of todays game with our friend mr williams taking his place. assuming he does see some action, (this will mean he's the only player to feature in all 5 matches so far), would you agree that he must show some type of form if he wants to stake a claim to a test spot. we all know what he is capable of but i doubt geech will hand him the no. 11 jersey based on that. surely if he plays he must show some spark of the brilliance we know he can produce. am i right?

  • Comment number 80.

    1. Jenks
    2. Mears/Ford. Rees is rubbish
    3. Murray
    4. POC (Shouldn be there though in my opinion)
    5. AWJ
    6. Croft
    7. Williams
    8. Heaslip
    9. Phillips
    10. Jones
    11. ????????
    12. Roberts
    13. BOD
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    16. Ford/Mears
    17. Vickery/Adam Jones
    18. Hines
    19. Wallace
    20. Blair
    21. Hook
    22. ???????? One of those who misses out on the 11 spot

  • Comment number 81.

    1. Sheridan (to destroy Smit in the 1st half, Jenkins 2 1/2 to rampage)
    2. Mears (by far the best hooker on tour, spot on throwing)
    3. Vickery or Jones
    4. POC
    5. Shaw or Hines (need an enforcer against Botha)
    6. Croft (such a shame re Ferris would have been an interesting fight)
    7. Wallace (just that bit more powerful than Williams at breakdown)
    8. Heaslip (Powell one dimensional)
    9. Phillips (one word immense)
    10. Jones
    11. Monye (see below)
    12. Roberts
    13. BOD
    14. Bowe
    15. Byrne

    Subs: Jenkins, Ford, AWJ, Worsley, Ellis, Hook, Kearney or Flutey

    Shane Williams in my view and many of my friends views has been a wasted tourist spot! Yes once he was a fantastic game breaker and it was not that long ago that he was on this hot form. But alas at the moment I do not think he should have even got on the plane to South Africa! So many other young and more exciting wingers out there that could have gone. I'm an Englishman and I would have taken either of the Scots boys, Evans or Lamont, over Williams. Cueto was also showing great form towards the end of the season. All too late now as he is there and been given every opportunity, in no way or form should he be in the match day 22!

    As for the other winger spots I think Bowe has secured his starting shirt for sure. He's a big lad and runs some great lines taking his opportunities! As for the number 11 shirt I think some people are being very short sighted over Ugo. Have they missed his performances this season for both England and Quins? He has been fantastic going forward, akways staying on his feet allowing his forwards to catch up with him. Then his defence has been superb also, confident under the high ball, strong in the tackle and then there is his out and out pace for covering! Thom Evans the quickest man on the field??? Please Ugo tracked him back and smashed him up as if it were man against boy (nothing against Evans as he is an exciting quick winger). We will need his pace and power for sure as like it or not S.A will break our defensive line!

    Rant over.....

  • Comment number 82.

    Feel that I must enter the Shane Williams debate, again.

    Too many people on this blog are basing their judgements on either Geech's comments about picking on form or on being fair to all squad members.

    Both these considerations must take second place to actually trying to win the series, surely! Fitz and Monye have played ok, but no better. Shane has not played well but has not had much ball in good positions.

    Shane Williams is a game winner. Do you think that the boks will be worried about Monye or Fitz? Come on! If Shane Williams does not play the boks will be delighted, this is regardless of how people have played on this tour. He is world class, world player of the year and can turn a game on his own. the other two are solid and no more!

  • Comment number 83.

    Not sure about Hines, gives away far too many penalties and I think Matfield would destroy him.

  • Comment number 84.

    Not one pundit on Sky has Williams in the starting 15! First test no way but its a long tour and the Welsh Wizard may still have a large part to play! For the first test its got to be pace power and size! So Ugo and Bowe all the way!

  • Comment number 85.

    Just finished watching the Western Province game...

    For me Sheridan, Rees, O'Callaghan, Hines, Powell, Ellis, Flutey, Earls and Monye have not done enough for 1st test selection.

    Worsley has a shout but I think they may move Wallace to 6 to accomodate Williams at 7 who was outstanding.

    Left wing spot goes to Rob Kearney (provided his dead leg is ok).

    Byrne, Bowe, O'Driscoll, Roberts, Kearney, Jones, Phillips, Heaslip, Williams, Wallace, O'Connell, Wyn Jones, Vickery, Mears, Jenkins

    Subs: Rees, Sheridan, Hines, Powell, Ellis, Hook, S Williams

  • Comment number 86.

    jenkins for the loosehead sheridan is so overatted he wouldnt make the bench just so overatted and not good enough

  • Comment number 87.

    Murray may have played his way quietly into a test start.

  • Comment number 88.

    Ok, I'll admit my mistakes.

    The test 22 should be:


    Williams M

    A few other things:
    Shane. A class player. Not playing well now, and hasn't played well since last Autumn. If Lions selection was made on class alone Geech could also look to Jeremy Guscott, Scott Gibbs and Neil Jankins. All class players ... just not playing well right now.

    Hines was every bit as good, tough and agressive as I expected. Can't see past him right now as POCs partner. AWJ as replacement.

    Monye had a good game today in probably his least favorable conditions. I am waivering between him and Fitzgerald. Whichever isn't selected will not be on the bench.

    Sheridan was a liability in the loose today. Shame, coz he is t5he biz in the scrum. But it's got to be Jenkins and Vickery as props. Murray was a solid replacement, he makes the test bench.

    Powell, one offload aside was no surprise today. Heaslip has to start.

    Williams M had a really good game. I think though that he won't get further than the bench fro the first test. Wallace will put down the physical marker, maybe Nugget can pick the bones once the game opens up a little late on. As a consequence I think Croft will play with the extra benefit that he can switch positions if needed.

    Jones didn't convince me today. The conditions were tough, but he's looking to be the Lions' fly half. While he is perhaps a "better player" than RO'G he just didn't manage the game today. RO'G is a far better game manager, and he can handle pressure.

    But whoever is selected they just have to win. The SH is not f'ing invincible!!!

  • Comment number 89.

    6)Croft (would have been ferris)


    18)A W Jones

    The amount of Irishmen on my test 22 reflects the dominence of Irish rugby in the NH this year, Grand Slam, Magner's League and Heineken Cup!
    Still think however that O'Driscoll should have been captain!


  • Comment number 90.

    My test squad would have to be:

    15- Byrne
    14- Bowe
    13- O'Driscoll
    12- Roberts
    11- Monye
    10- Hook
    9- Phillips

    1- Jenkins
    2- Mears
    3- Murray
    4- O'Connell
    5- Jones
    6- Croft
    7- Martyn Williams
    8- Wallace

    16- Ford
    17- Sheridan
    18- Hines
    19- Powell
    20- Blair
    21- S.Jones
    22- Shane Williams

  • Comment number 91.

    Everyone lauds the abilities of Phil Vickery but personally i think, despite the talk of his "experience", his presence in the test squad would be a bad choice. His scrummaging ability is far poorer than Murray and his discipline and fitness would be punished by the Boks. Murray would be more than a match for the South Africans' loosehead as proved by the autumn series game.
    Those certainly not in contention would have to be Earls and Rees, both were rare poor decisions by Geech.
    I also thnk D'Arcy has the ability to be a surprise choice for at least one test squad, especially if Williams or Flutey are struggling for fitness/form.
    Hook has to be the 1st choice as he brings the pace and attacking flair that Jones and O'Gara, as solid as they are, simply don't have.
    I chose Blair as the sub scrum half as his experience in the autumn series game against the Boks could be useful in the closing 20 mins or so from the bench.
    I think it would be a risk to play the back three I have picked (see above) but if it paid off it would be a masterstroke. Croft brings speed and attacking ability to the backline where Worsley doesn't and Wallace and Williams are too good not to start. Powell would be the ideal impact sub in the mould of a Chabal, although this is a harsh decision on Heaslip who has performed well so far.


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