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Lions guessing game nearly over

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Bryn Palmer | 20:15 UK time, Monday, 15 June 2009

Port Elizabeth, Monday evening

The guessing game of Lions Test selection is nearly over, but not quite.

In naming his side to face the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday, head coach Ian McGeechan gave the Springboks advance warning of most of his chosen 15 for Saturday's looming set-to in Durban.

Although in theory one or two players could - in the words of Tuesday's captain Donncha O'Callaghan - "force the coach's hand with a huge performance", this was always a match for which no serious Test contender wanted to be selected.

The big winners appear to be the Welsh trio of loose-head prop Gethin Jenkins, lock Alun-Wyn Jones and, possibly, flanker Martyn Williams.

The decision to give Andrew Sheridan his second start in four days removes any doubt that Jenkins - who is apparently straining at the leash - will start his fourth successive Lions Test, having featured in all three in New Zealand in 2005.


Likewise the coaches appear to have abandoned their policy of playing a big bruiser in the second row to counteract Bakkies Botha, with Nathan Hines - who also started on Saturday - now more likely to be a bench candidate in Durban.

The greater athleticism and line-out prowess of Wyn Jones appears to have held sway in settling the tricky issue of captain Paul O'Connell's second-row partner.

The back row still remains unclear though, with Williams now a strong candidate for the open-side berth after his performance against Western Province on Saturday.

That is not to say David Wallace is out of the equation by any means, and his presence on the bench on Tuesday may owe as much to giving Williams' shoulder more time to recuperate as a definitive decision in the Welshman's favour.

Williams will travel to Durban on Tuesday with Lee Byrne, Jamie Roberts, Stephen Jones, Mike Phillips, Jenkins, Lee Mears, Phil Vickery, Wyn Jones, Paul O'Connell and Jamie Heaslip, who can all now be certain of featuring in the first Test.

Tommy Bowe would have been them but for a late summons to join the rest of the squad on a short charter flight to Port Elizabeth to cover for the unwell Shane Williams.

While the World Player of the Year looks set to miss out on Test selection for Saturday, if his namesake Martyn makes the starting XV, a seven-strong Welsh contingent would be the Principality's largest of the professional era and highest since the 1970s.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity on Tuesday falls to fly-half James Hook, who could yet turn pre-tour predictions on their head and force his way into the Test side.

McGeechan prefers not to shower praise on individuals, but he was happy to label the Welshman's contribution on this tour as "brilliant".


Hook, 24 on the day of the second Test, has started only one match - against the Cheetahs - but come on as a replacement in three others after being added to the squad the day before their departure to South Africa as cover for Leigh Halfpenny.

Considering the coaches felt that he was not deserving of the third fly-half spot when the original squad was named, leap-frogging Jones and Ronan O'Gara into the Test team would represent a remarkable turnaround in fortunes.

While it would still be a major surprise if he overtakes compatriot Jones, a place on the Test bench appears increasingly likely, given he can also cover centre and full-back, and win matches at the death with his long-range goalkicking.

McGeechan does not have the luxury of resting his entire likely Test 22, and
each of the replacements - particularly Tom Croft, David Wallace and Ugo Monye - are still live candidates to start in Durban.

Big performances from number eight Andy Powell, prop Euan Murray and hooker Ross Ford could also see them enter the Test replacements equation.

McGeechan has already given encouragement to those on duty in Port Elizabeth by reminding them that on the 1997 tour here, Ireland lock Jeremy Davidson played against the Emerging Springboks on the Tuesday before the first Test before lining up against the real thing four days later.

"It is obviously less likely [we are going to make the Test team] but it is not unheard of," said Scotland scrum-half Mike Blair as he contemplated his first start - late fitness test permitting - since the opening match of the tour.

"The guys playing have also got the responsibility to keep the momentum going so the whole squad is buzzing for that first Test. Everyone obviously wants to be part of it but our job is to raise the bar for those that are playing,"

The man tasked with making sure that message is drilled home on the field is O'Callaghan, who looked as surprised as anybody when he faced the media as the fourth different captain to be asked to lead out a Lions side on this tour.

O'Callaghan's contribution to the success of Munster and Ireland is often overlooked amid the attention on his second-row partner O'Connell, who is actually five months his junior.

But the party's joker-in-chief - a two-Test Lion in 2005 - is also a seriously talented player in his own right and perhaps epitomises why there is a growing sense that this 2009 vintage could be on the verge of something special.

"I think this tour has pushed a lot of us out of our comfort zones," said the 30-year-old, who has no qualms about playing again three days after his last outing, as do Keith Earls, Riki Flutey, Sheridan, Hines, Joe Worsley and Powell.

"You get used to having two days of recovery with your club or country but it is great for us to be playing again so soon. It is a bit old school and something a lot of us haven't had before, but it gives us the feel of a club team."


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  • Comment number 1.

    Go Lions. Hook for the bench. Williams or Wallace? A toss up. But preferable Williams. Go Lions.

    I will miss the game on Wednesday. First one I have but all I can say is Go Lions!

  • Comment number 2.

    Go Lions! Wish I could watch any of the games but in the US we don't get them :( Wallace for me at the moment but could change, IMO the test team has already been picked it's just the bench that needs to be sorted out

  • Comment number 3.

    Hey andysuptonogoode. You can watch every lions match in the US on setanta sports. They're a premium channel you order extra from directtv for about $12 a month. They have tons of rugby and if you're a soccer fan they have more of that than rugby. Go Lions!

  • Comment number 4.

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

  • Comment number 5.

    i'm not au fait with all the logistics, but it seems surprising that the party is splitting in two with 11 players, including the tour captain, flying to durban while the others are in PE. both cities are at sea level, and it seems to go against the unity message which is so important in the week the test xv is announced.
    with tuesday's match being a 3pm k-o SA time i would have thought there was time to get the whole squad out of PE on an evening flight and checked in to their durban hotel by midnight at least. is the plan to split the squad again next sunday/ monday?
    the warm-up games have been generally lacking in intensity, and the split squad idea just seems to make the last 2 midweek games even more of an irrelevance.
    we seem a bit light on replacements, if there are any doubts a couple of players should be flown over later this week as standby. even if these late replacements only get a bench spot for one game, the emerging springboks, it means the test players can get proper rest.

  • Comment number 6.

    ROG to start the 1st test at 10, Jones on the bench, I have an inkling that will come to pass. If ROG was out of the running he'd be starting. Hook has no game control and no chance of being the test 10.

  • Comment number 7.

    Hey jennii69 thanks for the tip! Not sure it would be worthwhile as I'm only out here for another 7 weeks but thanks anyway :) If only I had known sooner....

  • Comment number 8.

    cheers Ucdpitch84 will have to do that

  • Comment number 9.

    Hey BOILS, the game is on Tuesday night this week not Wednesday! You might not miss it after all.
    Good Blog. I think nearly all of the test places have now been inked in after the release of the team to play on Tuesday night, the one new certainty being Monye. Although there are still some test shirts up for grabs depending on the performances given on tuesday. The one everybody will be watching is James Hook. Stephen Jones is nearly a cert to start the test but he has had no real competition, O'gara is a solid player but he just doesnt have that spark that players such as Hook or Cipriani show!

    Hoping for a good game on Tuesday and some good performances! Come on Lions, show those Saffers what we're made of!

  • Comment number 10.

    Hook has shown a lot more class when playing than ROG or Jones, neither of whom covered themselves in glory in the past two games. AndySuptonogoode, you can also go to and type in your zip code, which will show you the nearest bar to your location showing the game (only test games charge for entry - others are free to air). UDCpitch84, all I can say is "Go on the Trin"

  • Comment number 11.

    Nice one I'll check that out! Although I'm in Florida so the nearest bar showing rugby will probably be out of state!

  • Comment number 12.

    Please don't start with ROG

  • Comment number 13.

    I still think there are a few places up for grabs. Have to disagree with you ulsterinedinburgh, I don't think Monye is a cert at all. Still all to play for tomorrow with Fitzgerald and Williams (if well enough). Other than Bowe none of the wingers have excelled. Monye and Fitzgerald have been no better than ok, they are not setting the world alight. Williams hasn't been as poor as people make out on these blogs, he just hasn't produced anything out of the ordinary which is what people have come to expect of him. If either Fitzgerald or Williams have a stormer tomorrow then they will become front runners for the 11 jersey.

    Also still a 3 way battle for Tight Head between Vicks, Jones and Murray.

    Still a question mark over 6 between Croft, Worsley and Wallace.

    Can't wait for the team announcement. Still think they could be one selection that shocks us all......

  • Comment number 14.

    Don't worry IlCucchiaio. No danger of a great rugby brain like Ian McGeechan starting with ROG. He's been a great servant to Irish rugby and you have to admire his stickability (although since David Humphreys retired he hasn't exactly had great competition for the 10 jersey in Ireland). He's a great tactical kicker which is why he has been on two previous Lions tours (and you have to admire that too) but he didn't come close to a test start on either of those tours either. Jones is the most accomplished 10 on tour and I think Hook will take the bench role as he covers both centre positions and full back.

  • Comment number 15.

    I agree with you that there is likely to be an unexpected name when the test team is announced.
    Like many other bloggers I have been concerned by the lack of outstanding contender for the left wing position, if Shane Williams plays tomorrow it is his to lose.
    If he does not play, although Monye has done nothing wrong, the choice then become between two competent rather than exceptional player.
    Given this problem, exploring all alternatives could bring a option of putting Hook onto the left wing. This would put a proven long range kicker on the pitch and an extra good 'out of hand kicker' in defense which could also allow Berne a more attacking roll.
    The first test is going to be extremely tense, having cool heads on the pitch is essential, as is having a match winning kicker.
    I do not know if Hook has ever played on the left wing before, but is an interesting concept.

  • Comment number 16.

    I would just like to point out that Tom Croft also did not make the original squad and is now bang on for a place in the test side, yet all we hear about is james hook - are you a welshman in disguise lol?
    Seriously i cannot wait for saturday and think we have a very good chance of putting one over the boks and casting the disastrous new zealand tour into a distant memory. Geechs more simplistic 'old school' methods have worked a treat compared to the ridiculous entourage Woodward took along!

  • Comment number 17.

    Glad to see some sense being spoken on this blog, Jones to start at 10, Hook on the bench, ROG in the stand.
    A half decent game from powell will see him on the bench, they will bring him on for the last 20 and the Saffers will not be able to double mark him and Roberts.
    As much as I rate Maryn Williams, I think they may well play Wallace to add more bulk as it looks like Croft on the blind and he is pretty light weight.
    Unless someone really shows up tomorrow then I think it will be Bowe/Monye on the wings and Byrne at 15.
    Front row - Jenkins, Mears and Vickery to start, Murray and a n other hooker.
    POC and AWJ to start, Hines on the bench.
    N9 - Phillips, Ellis on the bench.
    Resources getting a bit tight for the weekend lets hope no more injuries/illnesses or we could struggle.

  • Comment number 18.

    welshtanman - easy know your a welshman
    In general though I think a lot of people have been very unfair to Ronan O'Gara on this tour. He hasnt done a lot wrong in the two matches he has played and he was superb for Ireland in 4 of their 6N matches this year. He has also shown down the years for Munster what a talented player he is. Alright we all know that his defence isnt the best but he'll be playing opposite Ruan Piennar or Morne Steyn; hardly the biggest physical specimens ever seen. Also with a beat like Jamie Roberts alongside him i dont think the Lions will be severely weakened in this department. His kicking out of hand is exeptional and i genuinely think that the lions should show an intent to play attacking Rugby by selecting him at fly half. Also i think Donnacha O'Calaghan is a decent shout for a place on the bench on Saturday.

  • Comment number 19.

    Well Bryn I said before that I thought no-one starting this game would start the first Test. I thought that the likely starters would be on the bench, to give them a little game-time.

    Now, maybe I was wrong then, and McGeechan has said no-one is ruled out, but this team has a haphazard look to it that smacks more of filling out the 15 than playing players in their best roles. (Worsley, Hines and Flutey spring to mind here.)

    I think O'Gara and Wallace are on the bench BECAUSE they are starting next Saturday, and will get a run-out. I also think that Euan Murray will start, and hence will be off after 60 mins. A few other players may get a chance to shine, and possibly feature in Test 2 or 3.

    One last thought, surely if Shane Williams doesn't make it then Monye will start and Bowe will be on the bench? Why start Bowe again?

  • Comment number 20.

    Does anyone think the Lions will take a gamble and play Hook at 10 from the start?
    For me he can be, on a good day an amazing player (good boot, quick, take take people on etc), but can also be very unpredictable on a bad day.

    To the chap in the US - you should also be able to listen to BBC radio coverage online, I'm in Germany and can pick up most things out here :)

  • Comment number 21.

    Great Blog, Bryn. I have never commented on a web-site this before but have now become a regular!

    Good to hear people taking about Hook for a start on Saturday. While Jones is a strong player, kicks well, holds the ball up well and doesn't make many mistakes, he doesn't really have that spark of genius that Hook does. Our probable back line is looking pretty dangerous, good strong runners who retain the ball well. It would be great if Hook could give them that extra bit of space.

    Also, as a gambling man, what do the Lions have to lose by playing Shane Williams on Saturday? Not much, I think. But what do they have to gain? A possible match winner in what could be a tight game!

    Can't wait to see. Cheers to the comment about the game being tonight! I might have missed my first one!

  • Comment number 22.

    So basically we've all finally realised that playing big men against even bigger men is silly and that a 3 x Lion Martin Williams is actually a better option.
    So the team of definites looks like:

    1 G Jenkins
    2 Mears
    4 O'Connel
    5 Wyn Jones
    7 M Williams
    8 Heaslip
    9 Phillips
    10 Jones
    11 Monye
    12 Jrob
    13 Bod
    14 Bowe
    15 Byrne

    Pretty mean unit.

    6 and the three interesting, I'd go with A Jones 3 as he's a naughty ruck monster and can scrum well (don't remember Ross Ford causing him much bother in the 6 nations).
    6 wide open, Croft might go missing in a big game and be bullied and the fact that lightweight Williams is on the 7 it might be better to have a ball carrier, maybe Wallace or even Powell, a bit of aggression, Powell is starting to play better and better, I know people seem to have a preconceived idea about him but if he's on a team with support he is enough of a controlled animal and one of our only forwards in the M Johnson, Scott Quinell, L Dallagio type way that oppos actually look at and say "well I'd rather someone else". The others not so much. Geechs tried out Hines in that spot the other day as he maybe wanted an animal there but he had a quiet game........Wallace? I think you need some raw aggression, I'd go with Powell if he has a big game, if he tires (from so much Rugby) put Wallace on....

    Very nice looking team with a lovely balance if we get the 6 spot right....

  • Comment number 23.

    1 G Jenkins
    2 Mears
    3 Vickery
    4 O'Connell
    5 AWJ
    6 Wallace
    7 M Williams
    8 Heaslip
    9 Phillips
    10 Jones
    11 Monye
    12 Jamie Roberts
    13 BOD
    14 Bowe
    15 Byrne

    16 Croft
    17 Sheridan
    18 Powell
    19 Rees
    20 Shane Williams
    21 Hook
    22 Flutey

    Lions to win by 5 points - the Boks are uneasy about what they've seen so far, they know that the Lions are going to run them ragged. The Boks will be gasping for air in the last 20 minutes.

  • Comment number 24.

    I really don't feel that Euan Murray has had a fair shot on the tour. One start for the man who a lot of people said was the best scrummager in the party before they left.

  • Comment number 25.

    If O'Gara makes the Test team, the Lions will lose. And if they lose the First Test, it's going to be a VERY long fortnight.
    Equally, if Vickery starts, the pack will get smashed. They'll probably be smashed anyway, but Vickery will ensure it (until he's yellow-carded for something stupid).

  • Comment number 26.

    Williams or wallace? both top players who deserve a start, but with heaslip and croft likely to start at 6 and 8 i think wallace gets the nod due to size and power in order to balance the back row

  • Comment number 27.

    I entirely agree with you fabuniquemembername, Vickery's very presence on tour is still a mystery as I believe he is well past his best. Someone like Tony Buckley, who is a bear of a man or even John Yapp as a surprise pick a la Earls would've been interesting to see.
    Euan Murray has been severely overlooked here and that is surprising considering he's probably the best scrummaging tighthead in the northern hemisphere at the moment, something which will be key against a very physical springbok side.
    The last bench spot for the test should go to a versatile game breaker, someone like Flutey or even D'Arcy who I think will be Geech's surprise for the tests. On the subject of bench spots, Powell should get the back row spot for his impact-player style, much the same as Chabal, however his lack of control means he should definitely be overlooked for a starting place. Blair over Ellis too on the bench as Ellis, along with Rees and Earls, is a mystifying choice for this tour.

  • Comment number 28.

    OK. Here's my IX

    15. Byrne
    14. Bowe
    13. Drico
    12. Roberts
    11. Monye
    10. O'Gara
    9. Philips
    8. Heaslip
    7. Wallace
    6. Croft
    5. Hines
    4. O'Connell
    3. Murray
    2. Mears
    1. Jenkins

    16. Rees
    17. Vickery
    18. Wyn-Jones
    19. M Williams
    20. Ellis
    21. S Jones
    22. Fitzgerald

    Pity O'leary broke his ankle, because he was a cert to get a test place. No question.

  • Comment number 29.

    i still think that jones is a shoe in for saturday, whether hook plays well or not. he's a good player, and has proved his selection worthwhile since coming in late (as someone else mentioned so has croft) and is definately another weapon. but i also think that McG has a game plan for saturday already, and will know the players he wants (and has) that'l best be able to execute that plan. and im not sure whether the players not selected for today (Bowe, phillips, jenkins etc) are those who definately are going to start (of course they are very likely and i've probs picked three examples of those who almost are definate starters) on saturday, and that McG may well be throwing his last experiment in for todays game to see how well certain players do with different instructions, further giving him options for saturday. he's defo no fool and will want to use all the time he has available to him to make his mind up.

    like all you guys im really very excited for saturday!!

  • Comment number 30.

    You can spot the Taffs a mile away!!!! Andy Powell has run up more blind alley's and committed more turnovers than any other man on the tour. How a big, bad number 8 can be stripped quite as easily as he is, is beyond me. Maybe a spot on the bench in the hope that in the last 20 the Boks back row will be too tired to strip the ball off him.

    As for moving Wallace to 6!!!! No, no, no, no, no!!!!! M Williams is top draw (and I think just edges Wallace at 7). However its all about balance and Worsley would have to play at 6 if Williams plays 7 and if we want to win Worsely should be in the stands. Once Ferris went (by the way Ferris impressed me no end) Croft was a shoe in. We need three things from our back row;
    1. Ability to hit the rucks to win ball
    2. Line out option (in case of 2nd rows struggling)
    3. Pace around the park

    As such Croft wins 2 and 3 hands down, Williams and Wallace are not catching Spies or any of the Boks backs.

    As for Shane Williams, always been a potential liability due to his size. Made up for it in the past with his ability to beat players. He hasn't done that for nearly two years and seems to be a yard slower these days. A shame as he WAS a real live-wire who could conjure something out of nothing.
    Test team
    1 Jenkins
    2 Mears
    3 Vickery
    4 AW Jones
    5 POC
    6 Croft
    7 Wallace
    8 Heaslip

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

    Res, Sheridan, Rees, Powell, Ellis or Blair, Kearney, Hook

  • Comment number 31.

    hmmm, back row is all very interesting but if you look into what geeks is saying about combinations, horses for courses and getting the players to fit to an idea of playing the game coming from the management i think the clues are there for an educated guess. There is NO CHANCE he will play Williams at 7 and Wallace at 6. Suggesting that is a cop out, we all know there is nothing between these two excellent players and the best we can hope for is that the presence of the other brings the very best of the selected. Heaslips performances has also removed the possibility of Wallace at 8.

    The squad is weak at 6 becasue of losses incurred, Ferris and Quinlan were both seen as Teak tough sixes picked to smash tackles all day, Croft is a different player and a lesser option to fulfil this function. The Ryan Jones circus was a major blow also. Dennis Leamy can count himself very unlucky not to have been asked to get on a plane at this stage. I realise I'm mentioning alot of Irish players here but it just so happens that back row is an area where Ireland is blessed.

    can't agree with the Vickery bashing, think he is first name on the team sheet to be honest, also there is alot to feat about this south african team but the scrum is not one of them given the size and strength of the Lions pack. , breakdown and lineout is a much greater threat.

    Also I'm really hoping for a series win, going crazy about the first test selection always leads to overstating the case for one guy who then gets injured and we then start to reconvince ourselves that the guy who replaces him wasn't that bad after all. Its all looking good, competition is tight and those who miss out saturday may will be the hero of the third test.....cant wait

  • Comment number 32.

    why if blair is injured ( and not good enought at this level)haven t they brought in a replacement. as there s a welsh scrum half better than the 2 replacements what has peel done not to be on this tour

  • Comment number 33.

    The two key components of Shane Williams' game, his pace off the mark and his step, are currently not firing. Without these assets he doesn't offer mean defence, a great kicking game or the ability to power through defenders. Bowe and Monye both finish well but also run decent lines (Bowe's certainly superior) and either go clean through or at the least beat one man and get across the gain line.

    Shane's been off form for a while now and I don't believe he'll be played on the hope he might rediscover it in 80 mins on Saturday, when there are two wing options who can currently offer more.

    Don't get me wrong, I think Shane is one of the most exciting players in the world, when on form, but this selection needs to be made by head, not heart...on this messageboard anyway.

  • Comment number 34.

    the lions will lose like 4 yrs ago watch them take out the scrum half as there is only one test stantard no 9 in the squad ellis is a good prospect
    but blair is useless a scrum half who can t pass or make a break and now hes injured send him home and bring in peel a player with class

  • Comment number 35.

    I think it would be an absolute disgrace if O'Gara does not make 22. He has had two consistent games indeed he was the one who took control of the Royal XV game and ensured a victory. He is a more consistent kicker than Jones and that will be vital. I rate Jones in general but he was poor in the last match and the only other match has has played was against the weakest team yet. I understand that his combo with Phillips is important but on that basis why not play O'Callaghan in second row and why did they take Ford over Best? Surely you pick your best players.

    I think Monye, Hines and Vickery are all overrated.

  • Comment number 36.

    Thanks for all your comments folks.
    Re: No 5 (thomthepom) I wouldn't read too much into the fact the squad is 'splitting' into two for this match. The reality is it's saved the majority of players who are going to be involved in Saturday's Test more time hanging about and travelling yesterday and today than they need to. I flew up on the team's charter flight from Cape Town yesterday afternoon and it was delayed by nearly an hour and we didn't get into the hotel in Port Elizabeth until 8pm. Likewise after today's game we all head back to the airport and don't fly to Durban until 9pm, whereas the dozen not involved in today's game could relax in Cape Town yesterday and then get up to Durban today and be ready to go first thing tomorrow morning. Why put them through the extra travelling? They'll need all their energy for Saturday. Tommy Bowe's had a wasted journey as he won't be involved now with Monye starting. Mind you when I bumped into him at breakfast a little while ago he said: "Am I? I better find out what's going on!" It could be he plays three games in eight days now if he gets the nod for the first Test.

    Agree with no 19 (Ruck_Maker) though that there are still opportunities there today for players to force their way into Test contention, if only on the bench. The interesting selection is Hines at six. Would they consider playing him there, or bringing him on there, in the Tests? Or, as I think more likely, Tom Croft is going to start on Saturday and with Stephen Ferris and Ryan Jones gone, and Joe Worsley having to cover open-side, it's a stop-gap measure. But the fact that it's Hines and not Alun-Wyn Jones playing at six gives you a pointer to selection for Saturday.

  • Comment number 37.

    nice blog.
    i think monye should start as the other winger alongside bowe. made a few mistakes but has shown good pace i think.
    ROG should in no way start, his defensive capabilities are too limited, especially against a physical outfit like the springboks, he'll b on his backside the whole game if spies fancies a run.
    s jones should definately start, his kicking game was faulty on saturday but he has shown he can control the game, and as a member of the senior player squad he is nowhere short of passion and commitment. hook on the bench, hes not an 80 minute 10 but he has the ability to turn a game,much like shane can.

    close game i reckon!

  • Comment number 38.

    I have always thought that Vickery has been over-rated for years, and still think this. However, I think he has played well on tour and has taken the opportunties that have come his way, and therefore deserves a start on Saturday. I think people are being unfair by criticising him, although he will have to be more disciplined.

    With regard to all the criticism Shane Williams is getting, he is not in such poor form as people are saying. It's just that in the run-up to him being named player of the year, Wales and his club were playing well, and he was getting a lot of spaces and chances. He was playing with confidence. Over the past year or so, Wales have not played as open flowing rugby and he has not had the same ball. His performances have actually been a reflection of the way the teams have played around him as much as his own ability. He is still as fast and can still make something out of nothing. This said, I don't think he has done enough to make the first test team.

  • Comment number 39.

    Looks like as many as seven Welsh starters, with four English, four Irish and no Scots for Saturday. Can't say I'm hugely surprised given the make-up of the back room. But Im happy to leave the national crap at the door and I hope the players are too. Winning the tour is all that counts. Come on the Lions!

  • Comment number 40.

    ROG should start - Jones was poor last time out and Hook lacks necessary control. Powell should be nowhere near the team or bench but I would risk Williams at 7 and Wallace at 6 to start with. Croft would be a good impact sub.

  • Comment number 41.

    Shut up about peel! He barely plays and has slipped off the radar altogether recently.
    Cusiter, Reddan and Cooper are all more deserving.

    Plus, has anyone got any thoughts on who was unlucky to miss out that may have done a job in SA?

    I would say; Armitage
    Thom Evans
    Jonathan Thomas
    Paterson (for versatility and reliability with the boot)
    Buckley (for sheer size and presence)

  • Comment number 42.

    or it is being timed to report after the election because it will criticise people in the government. You can't have it both ways!

  • Comment number 43.


    We should show some attacking intent by playing ROG at fly-half???

    sorry, but you talking about Ronan O'Gara arent we??!! Aside from andy goode, he is the most pragmatic 10 in the world (at least Goode has an excuse, hes to fat to run the ball) Hook or Jones are far more attacking players....picking Andy Powell at 10 would give the outside backs a better chance of getting the ball! besides, to many times this tour hes shown an inability to pass off his lef hand, which is inexcusable for a veteran fly half...Jones to start, Hook on the bench as the gamebreaker. ROG if we need someone to endlessly grubber the ball to the opposition in their own 22.....

  • Comment number 44.

    Hi all

    some interesting thoughts being posted, now I will add mine to see what people think.

    First the back row, I believe I am right in saying Burger is out for SA, and Brussow has been bought in to replace, if this is so, Williams should start at 7 to combat Brussow at ruck time, there wont be such a need for bulk in the back sow, but speed and link play, I would also be tempted to play wallace at 6, hood ball carrier, and gives us another jackal, but we would lose an extra line out jumper if so, can POC and AWJ cope? I dont know, Mattfield is a genius in the line out.

    As for 10, Jones is in possession I would say at the mo, I dont think ogara is anywhere near, has kicked too much thus far in attack, and while his positional kicking is very good, I would hope that Byrne's huge boot behind would be equally as effective. Hook starting today is in with a great shout at making a bench spot, Jones and O'Gara very similar players, seems silly to have them both in the test 22, if one is not working its likely the other wont, Hook can provide something different, a spark, especially in an open game, he can as others have mentioned cover 10/12/13/15 which is a great asset.

    My test 22;
    15 Byrne
    14 Bowe
    13 BOD
    12 Roberts
    11 Monye/Fitzy (cant decide here, monye could win it with a good display today)
    10 Jones
    9 Phillips
    8 Heaslip
    7 Williams
    6 Wallace
    5 POC
    4 AWJ
    3 still open, vickery gives away too many pens for me!
    2 Mears
    1 Jenkins

    16 Ford
    17 Sheridan
    18 Hinds
    19 Powell
    20 Ellis
    21 Hook
    22 Flutey

    Oh and the game is this afternoon not this evening!!!!!!

  • Comment number 45.

    just a note for andysuptonogoode and jennii69: Not sure you can still get Satanta Sports in the US; As far as I know they are £50m in debt and as of last week have stopped taking on new subscribers.

    Guess you'll just have to fly over to S. Africa to watch the games.

    And will the Lions win? In my mind it all comes down to how South Africa deal with O'Driscoll's rush defence. It can be hugely effective, but with Brian Habana on the wing, a couple of miss passes and the Lions are in trouble. Clearly how much the forwards compete at the set piece and break down (essentially whether they manage to stop South Africa getting quick ball) will have an impact on that too - and when up against the likes of Spies, Botha and Matfield, they have their work cut out.

  • Comment number 46.

    i lot of interesting points made good to see supergedwards is still as patriotic as ever.

    i'm only here to say this - for the love of god please no more injuries!

  • Comment number 47.

    It seems to me that too many people are taking a stand in favour of players from their own country, the idea of the Lions is 4 countries coming together as one, not we must have more Welshmen that Scotsmen. In the past there were more Welshmen(70,s) and more English because at that particular time in the positions they were selected for they were the best players, nobody argued about Gareth Edwards, Barry John, Martin Johnson or the like because we would have all picked them in our team if we had the opportunity.
    I suspect nearly all of us would be picking Byrne, Bowe, Bod, Roberts, Phillips, Heaslip, Jenkins, Mears on the showing so far it is just the other 7 that 4 great rugby men (McGeechan, Gatland, Edwards and Howley) will be pontificating on and I would suggest they are better qualified than the rest of us.
    As an Irishman of Munster I actually believe that Paul O'Connell has not exactly covered himself in glory and if not selected as captain would probably not be in contention. I too see someone coming from nowhere on the tour and I am not going to fall into the trap of mentioning an Irishman as I would only be doing what I am accusing others of. Although it's a crying shame that Ferris got injured.

  • Comment number 48.

    "watch them take out the scrum half as there is only one test stantard no 9 in the squad"

    Have you seen Phillips? He's bigger than Joost and can handle himself. Good luck to the Bokkies taking him out.

  • Comment number 49.

    Interesting comments. Let's not forget about the Wasps connection. With Geech and Edwards' loyalties won't be surprised, where it's too close to call, if Vickery, Shaw, Worsely and Flutey all feature in 22 for 1st Test.

  • Comment number 50.

    Lots of sense on this board. Team at 22 is the one -- though Monye is not a cert, just top of the bunch at the moment. Hook has booked his place on the bench. No more, no less. Rough on ROG, missing out by whisker to Jones means a place in the stands such is Hooks impact.

    Key for Lions is Croft, in the sense that if they can play him AND compete at the breakdown then they can win. Its an if, but its an if that means he has to start to find out. Why? Because without him they will struggle at the lineout - POC and AWJ are suberb but they are up against the best. Croft will take the pressure off here and compete for pace with the likes of Spies.

    Go Lions, if they can get ball then I can't wait to see that back line in action...

  • Comment number 51.

    The big issue for me is the breakdown. Too many times have we seen the Lions' ball turned over for my liking and that was in the warm up games against 2nd rate packs. If this continues on Saturday the Boks will have a field day.

    Also, what odds on Vickery being the first yellow card? This is a serious question as, good player as he is, there always seems to be a moment during the game when he offends giving the ref no option.

  • Comment number 52.

    I deffinetly agree with comments about murray we should pray that vickery does not start he is garanteed to get binned. As for the back row i would play williams if ony to slow S.A down at break downs there is nobody better at doing it. Then that leaves croft and heaslip free to do what they want. I think poeple need to forget about shane williams at best put him on the bench incase we need a score in last 10 and we have nothing else. What do people think about maybe giving kearney a run on wing i dont know if he ever has but i feel he is a quality player and could do a job there.

  • Comment number 53.

    moleywales - first of all think it would be better to stop complaining about selections and being so nationality bias in saying peel should be out there. Blair on his day can be a world class scrum half and i think better than Ellis by far. he has great cover defense and behind a strong pack great vision and a quicker pass than phillips. i hope he recovers and plays a blinder to prove me right / you wrong.
    Great points from rainbowflashyboots though some of your missed out selection are sadly injured as i think Strockosh could have been a great inclusion as a ferris replacement or the likes.
    for what its worth heres what my selection would be and what i think it will be.

    my selection probable selection
    1)jenkins 1)jenkins
    2)mears 2)mears
    3)murray 3)Vickery
    4)Poc 4)Poc
    5)Hines 5)AWj
    6)Wallace 6)?
    7)williams 7)?
    8)heaslip 8)Heaslip
    9)phillips 9)phillips
    10)hook 10)jones
    11)fitzgerald 11)monye
    12)Jrob 12)Jrob
    13)BOd 13)Bod
    14)bowe 14)bowe
    15)kearny/byrne happy with either 15)Byrne

  • Comment number 54.

    Can we put the Shane Williams thing to bed for a while. Unless he does something spectacular off the bench he has no chance of starting. However he has not lost his pace in the last 3 weeks, he just is not on top form, unfortunately he raised the bar and now everyone expects something special every time. He has always been guilty of forcing plays and getting turned over but these were forgotten when he was skinning people eg Habanna. I suspect he will find some form on this tour and his play will do the talking.
    I to think Croft although a great talent will go awol in the test so would go for Williams and Wallace, don't even mind if they play a bit of old fashioned left and right!! I stick by Powell on the bench, last 20 he will be handful. I like Hines and he is close to a test starter for me at lock but no way as a 6.
    No more injuries/illnesses or we could be buggered.

  • Comment number 55.

    Would have sympathy about the large welsh contingent but having followed these tours from the late 80's onwards it is nice to have the shoe on the other foot for a change, swings and roundabouts, as of saturday they are just Lions.

  • Comment number 56.


    'option of putting Hook onto the left wing. This would put a proven long range kicker on the pitch and an extra good 'out of hand kicker' in defense which could also allow Berne a more attacking roll'

    I think this would be a waste, a lot of trys have come from the backs and escpecialy the wings in this tour. Hook is NOT a winger, no way quick enough and his boot is wasted out there. MOnye has finished well but he is a worry in defence. Fitzgerald hasn't had a good chance to shine (first game at inside centre, not a lot of ball in the second game) although scored a good try in combo with BOD. I'd ;like to see Kearney out there if fit and if the others cant put there hands up. He's had a solid tour so far, I appreciate he's unlikley to get the birth at 15 for the test, but he's quick, a great passer/provider, hell of a left boot, unrivalled under the high ball (more assured than Byrne IMO) and a good rugby brain. He's definetly an option there, what do you think?

  • Comment number 57.

    oh oh oh burger's been left out of the squad for saturdays game. at least the lions aren't the only team to be plagued by injuries. does this mean that new fella will go straight in to the starting xv. cos surely burger would have been starting...

  • Comment number 58.

    Square pegs in round holes! Wallace is a 7, he played 8 on this tour and was gash. Are you really going to risk trying him at 6?

    The SH department is poor, Blair has looked bad and Ellis is not even Englands first choice! Phillips has been good but it would have been good to have a decent traditional 'sniping' SH as an option. As for Peel, he's not even been first choice at Sale (although he was great on the last lions tour).

    Agree with the injuries, can't understand why we haven't called up one or two more players. Why have we got Hines playing 6 and Worsley playing 7! Neither of these players would get a look in at those positions for their own national team!

    Finally - very disappointed in the Hookers. Mears aside, Rees & Ford have been terrible lineout throwers. Its like having Steve Thompson all over again (at least he was a giant and good around the park!)

  • Comment number 59.

    Burger's exclusion will have an influence on Lions selection, Croft now more likely to play with Heaslip and Williams in the back row. I still can't bring myself to select Vickery, he just concedes too many penalties. Front row Jenkins, Mears and Murray for me.

    Also look out for a McGeechan bolter, someone that we really don't expect in the Test fifteen.............. Darcy/Hook !!!

  • Comment number 60.

    Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, John Smit, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Heinrich Brussow, Juan Smith, Pierre Spies.

    That's a massive pack. Even with a hooker at prop.

  • Comment number 61.

    "Also look out for a McGeechan bolter, someone that we really don't expect in the Test fifteen.............. Darcy/Hook !!!"

    D'Arcy?? Are you drunk? :-)

    The only possible bolter I can see is Murray, but he hasn't played enough minutes.

  • Comment number 62.

    Oh my God, just seen the SA 22....I know they're a fairly settled team, but when you read through the names its scary stuff! To be honest, Burger being left out is probably bad for the super 14 this year he was terrible, and he usually gives you about 3 penalties every game for being on the wrong side. Brussow will cause us a lot more problems, in that worrying area we all keep coming back too,the breakdown. I love the fact they've got a player whos 6ft 10, about 19 stone, with a turn of pace, and hes on the bench!!! The sign of a strong 2nd row?!

  • Comment number 63.

    Gobsmacked to see so much support for S Jones. He was shockingly poor the other night, his kicking is not up to the standard required and I think ROG is one of the best kickers in the world at the moment, he has done it at club and international level for years now and won everything the game has to offer apart from a World Cup. Here's my team:

    1 G Jenkins- Class
    2 Mears- Best Hooker available due to Flannery's injury
    3 Vickery- Would have started Murray but Vicks is obv favoured by Geech and will start
    4 AWJ- Great year and in great form
    5 O'Connell- Given
    6 Croft - In great form and good option in the lineout, pace to burn
    7 Wallace- Is everywhere and unreal workrate, in my opinion a given
    8 Heaslip - Great young player amazingly mobile for a big lad and has a great future ahead of him
    9 Phillips - Given
    10 ROG - Best kicker and all round 10 in the squad, good under pressure
    11 Monye/Fitz - Probably Monye
    12 Jamie Roberts- Given
    13 BOD- Given
    14 Bowe- Given
    15 Byrne - Given

    16 Rees
    17 Sheridan
    18 M Williams
    19 Powell
    20 Shane Williams
    21 Hook
    22 Flutey

  • Comment number 64.

    when is the test team being announced?
    I think its already picked except for 6/7 and right wing. As much as I like M. Williams - i think geech will go for power with Croft and wallace. as for right wing I wouldn't write off fitzgerald. he look sharp last match and punches above his weight when in comes to defence.
    Can't wait for sat. Much to the annoyance of the wife I have booked it off from work.

  • Comment number 65.

    rainbow flashyboots..I was just thinking that myself yesterday when I saw the lineup for tues. Most of these players left after the starting 22 would never be in my best team of the nh. People I wish had made the tour:

    Armitage,foden,t evans,tait,strokosh,care,cueto,easter/guest...

    I think the starting 15 are settled with only the bench to look at..I think they will have: jenkins,mears,vickery,oconnel,wynjones,croft,williams,heaslip,phillips,
    jones,monye,roberts,odriscoll,bowe,byrne. people that are playing for the bench: hines,shaw,worsley,hook (though I think that's a certainty),
    flutey,powell,sheridan,jones,blair. I think the bench will be rees (ford hasn't done anything yet)murray,hines,worsley,ellis,hook,kearney. no surprises there.I think the surprises of the tournament will be hook and kearney. It was a shame about ferris. I am a big croft fan but he would have had a hard time making the test if ferris was still here. Monye will either be wonderful or poor. I was shocked when he made the lions but he is the best 11 so far considering we only have fitzgerald(too small) and s williams(too slow and defense is poor)I think O'Gara will start the second test. I think management now see what a mistake it was to bring some people that are too old...(shaw,s williams,worsley) and some people that have no business being lions..(earls,powell,fitzgerald)I hope D'Arcy has a great game today because if roberts or odriscoll get injured he could feature in the second test. I think it's hilarious all the bickering between countries..I am American but my husband is english so I support all the nations so I want the lions to play as a team and win.Also your idea of playing Yapp instead of vickery are you insane? that boy cannot scrummage to save his life..he may be one for the future but a very distant future. Earls is a joke out there..don't get me wrong he has tried hard and better in his second test but nowhere near int'l class. Some of the choices based on country have been poor considering what a pathetic 6 nations it was this year. I hope O'connell fronts up in this game or he should be dropped for the second test. I worry about this weekend. I think we may be too slow and a little undercooked going into a test match against the springboks.Did you see the super 14 final? We haven't even played a team half as good as the chiefs and we have struggled and the bulls annhilated them. All I can say is no O'Gara and let's hope the backs score some amazing tries!!!

  • Comment number 66.

    I still think he will pick O'Gara to start, event hough I wouldnt.

    O'Gara is just not the man to be coming on with 25 minutes to go so he either Starts with Jones on the bench or he misses the 22 all together and Jones starts (my preference). I just have the inkling that his better place kicking will get him in as it could be very tight for the first 40 minutes.

    Monye is surely a certainty on the wing. williams isnt doing too much wrong technically, if anything he is chasing the ball too much, also the other teams have been doubling up on him as he is the one man we have that the Saffers fear on the ball. Monye starts, Williams on bench for me.

    Vickery to start? Frankly they could play Jones, Murray or Vickery and it wouldnt make much difference I reckon.

    AWJ has to start in the 2nd row, he is simply better than the others.

    The open question is the back row, We can assume Heaslip is a show in for No8 so that leaves two slots between Williams, Croft and Wallace, I would start game 1 with Williams and Croft but not necessarily all three tests.

  • Comment number 67.

    I think Geech has now shown his hand and it would be a major surprise to most if the test line up and substitutes were not
    Tommy Bowe

    A Jones

    I can't for the life of me see why AW Jones is being picked out of position whenever the other second row (front of line out jumpers) have been doing so well and are much stronger in that position. AWJ is a great prospect but in the big matches so far this season POC has had him in his pocket. I think Shaw or DOC should be picked.
    I also think that for all Geech's comments about giving everyone a fair chance the reality is that on this short tour this hasn't been possible.
    Murray, Ford, DOC, Blair, Fitzgerald have all been to a greater or lesser degree largely positioned as dirttrackers from the start eg Blair - one start first match - Ford & Murray - one start well into the tour ( and I'M not Scottish!!) whereas they have been bending over backwards to try and play Steve Williams into form. (4/5 starts). Much as I would love to see S Williams at his dazzling best its not going to happen - the poor guy looks like he needs a rest and possibly an operation to recover from his groin & shoulder problems. Ferris (and Flannery) are the one big miss from the test squad as they haven't really been able to replace their abrasiveness and athletism. I like Tom Croft as a player and would love to see him start but think Williams and Wallace perhaps offer more. The picking of Vicks at the expense of Murray or even Adam Jones also in my opinion smacks of Cockerill & Geech favouring 'old friends' at the expense of the stronger better option - Vickery at best should be on the bench as he can cover both sides of the scrum.
    For the sake of the lion s - I hope they have enough strength in depth to get away with a few strange choices!

  • Comment number 68.

    Murray and Hook gone, O'Gara on

  • Comment number 69.

    this injury situation is getting a tad tedious...

  • Comment number 70.

    When at last something was asked of Monye, he dropped it...... quelle surprise !!

  • Comment number 71.

    bit harsh to be singling out Monye after that 1st half performance from the pack. We're getting nailed at the breakdown yet again.

  • Comment number 72.

    This has nothing to do with your chromosones or your nationality, you just have not got a scooby luv

  • Comment number 73.

    Red scorpion,
    Who is Steve Willaims and I did not know Cockerill had a role on this tour?!!

  • Comment number 74.

    Just watching the Lions /Kings game. How oh how did Mike Blair get picked over Dwayne Peel as the back-up scrum half????? He is totally out of his depth.........

  • Comment number 75.

    I'm afraid I am yet to be impressed by Monye or Earls.....!!!!

  • Comment number 76.

    Fitzgerald gone way down the pecking order after a very poor defensive display, Monye not much better.

  • Comment number 77.

    wow hang on a sec fearrua fitzgerald has made some awesome hits! look at the footage from the 1st half he takes out a huge guy in the build up to monye's missed tackle and rog's try saving tackle.

  • Comment number 78.

    Fair comment WillyGilly1990, maybe got caught up in the moment, saw him go awol a couple of times near the end.

  • Comment number 79.

    may have just done enough:
    monye, rog, o callaghan
    didnt really do enough:
    powell (needed a big performance if he wanted to challenge for the no 8 shirt), murray (through injury though not really his fault, why where they playing at a beach and not a rugby stadium btw?)
    why is this guy on the tour:

  • Comment number 80.

    ROG was ok except for a few poor kicks, a lot depends now on the extent of Hook's injuries. Big Donncha gave his all but I thought Shaw was immense.

    Simply have to agree about Blair, a shocker. Leaving Ellis on the bench and thereby avoiding injury says it all.

  • Comment number 81.

    Great to see us get another win in what I could see from the live text was a very bruising encounter.

    Wondered if anyone can help - I was hoping to listen to commentary whilst at work (tut, tut I know!) but upon looking for it on 5live & 5live sports xtra could only find 20/20 cricket (no home nations playing while this game was on BTW!!!!!) and Royal Ascot!. Not that I am against covering different sports, but surely BBC could transmit the commentary to people not near a Sky (Grrr..) TV??. Or do SKY have rights to commentary as well??..

  • Comment number 82.

    ahhh thats why... i screaming at the tv for geech to throw ellis on, (who's status on the tour is questionable, but he's still better than blair). him staying on the bench makes sense now. blair really hasn't done anything to justify him being called up, for dear sake stringer would have been a better choice!

    also i'd like to add fitzgerald into my 'didn't really do enough' category, he played well, made some good hits and decent runs but i still feel monye is ahead of him... only just though. today monye really justified his status at winger by scoring a try that wasn't created by tommy bowe, and by not having just to run in and score.

  • Comment number 83.

    I'm sorry to say but watching the game I still feel Monye is poor in defence and not really a player to turn a game around with sheer genius. I think you need Shane Williams for that with maybe Fitzgerald on the bench. BLair was appalling and should never have gone there. Peel would have been a better choice as he can make things happen. Ellis is still too hot headed for my liking. Andy Powell spent too much time running sideways.......

  • Comment number 84.


    Armitage,foden,t evans,tait,strokosh,care,cueto,easter/guest -- none of these come close to being good enough to making the tour, MAYBE there was an outside chance cueto might have made it but Monye, Bowe, Halfpenny, Williams, Fitzgerald all much better players.

    Don;t know what madness your talking about POC he is a trojan workhorse even game he plays! Vickery is there because Geech is loyal to old friends, he's been no where near as good as Murray or A Jones this year.

    Keith Earls is a youngster and was without question one of the best players in the Heiniken Cup and Magners League this year, admittedly this is a higher level but if players show such potential than they can obviously only develop if challenged to up their game. He is one for the future.

    And what jive you talking bout Yapp? He's not even on the tour!!

  • Comment number 85.

    Taranfen I agree about Blair but how can you saw that Ellis is too hot headed when Phillips is starting? Phillips is the best SH there but he is also a notorious hot head! much more so than Ellis

    I would rather have seen Stringer go instead of Peel to be honest, Peel can't even get a place in the starting line up with Phillips away with the Lions Cooper has been starting and he is shocking!

  • Comment number 86.

    Just read Jenni69 again, what a load of cobblers.

  • Comment number 87.

    "The Lions also survived a major let-off in the 35th minute when wing Human surged into the Lions 22 and stepped inside Monye, only for O'Gara to make a crucial last-ditch tackle."

    The above is a quote from the BBC match report, Monye missed the man completely and the mighty ROG saved the day. Did you ever think you would see such an event ???

    I thought SuperG and Co. said he couldn't tackle !!

  • Comment number 88.

    I usually don't get involved in the "You say X so you must be from Y" because I don't believe it to always be relevant. But as a proud irish person I am just wondering when certain Irish players (for example ROG, although not solely him) will receive the praise that is rightly due them. Irish teams have featured prominently in nearly every Heineken cup final since its conception, and an Irish team has won 3 out of the last four years. Not all the players are Irish I know, but especially with the Munster wins, the best praise delivered to them was for their fans or their "heart", with other suggestions that the better team lost rather than a good team winning. Ireland win the Grand Slam, after admittedly underperforming at the World Cup, and again, historical references are made, but still rumbling in the background is the suggestion that maybe Wales were more impressive, they just lost it rather than Ireland winning it.
    Irish players feature in this Lions tour on merit. Yet, with exception of BOD, and maybe now Bowe, any match up of Irish versus any other player for a test spot always seems to fall down on the side of the latter. Players such as ROG get mauled in the press, which i find hard to justify when you study his record. His game is not without flaws, but other than Chris Paterson, I cannot think of any player I would rather have kicking to win a match, 30 seconds to go. His place kicking is superb, and he is a player who time and again has proved himself and ended up on the winning side. I do not believe this to be a coincidence. His experience and record should surely merit him at least a test start.
    I am sure this reads as a very biased account, and I am not suggesting that every Irish player should play, or even that the Irish team has the best players in every position. But sometimes simply stating that your Celtic friends across the water can boast some fine players, who perhaps would beat out a few English or Welsh players on merit and not only if there was a flood/ TB outbreak/ English- Welsh walkout, would be nice to read.

  • Comment number 89.

    ah here I cant effin call it, too many tight calls....saffers as good as full strength as the words of Jimmy Magee...its a bit of a ding dong, could be a swing and a miss but here goes


    AW Jones
    Paul O'Connell
    hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm croft

    Adam Jones
    Martyn Williams
    Steven Jones

    They are all good players playing well, if this team doesnt do it it will be because they dont perform to potential not because they are not good enough to start with

  • Comment number 90.

    If Saturday's first Test were to come down to penalty kicks and lets face it, it may well do so. Would you in all honesty, and not just because you already have your mind made up, would prefer Stephen Jones or Ronan O'Gara to take that/those important kicks. Even the Welsh would have liked to see ROG face up to the late penalty (Wales v Ireland), he would have scored.

    Points mean prizes, scores on the board. Every which way it must be O'Gara ahead of Jones, with Hook on the bench if fit, but there are apperently some serious concerns about him. Murray almost certainly out of the tour. Are there any replacements left, if one is coming also send for LEAMY. He can genuinely cover the back row.

  • Comment number 91.

    Pity about Murray and Hook. I think both had a chance to feature on Sat.

  • Comment number 92.

    The breakdown today was horrendous for the Lions, but should concentrate their minds as to where the game will be won on Saturday. I worry about Croft's physicality, though his football sense may carry him thru.
    Just heard Monye complain about cheap shots by the Kings today- well he better expect that and more on Sat!
    I've a hunch that McG will start with ROG on Saturday to employ a kicking game to pin the Boks in their own half and bring on Jones with 20 mis to go when the game will hve loosensd up.

  • Comment number 93.

    I believe the key to beat South Afica,is at the breakdown,and the lineout.Win quick ball at the breakdown gives our talanted backs time and space to score tries which they will.Win good lineout ball,but as to be quick ball,gives our backs time and spce to do the job on south Africa.Jones to start at 10,because he can controls the game better than OGara.I like Shane he is the best winger we have when on form,but at the moment he,s not playing too bad but not that good.i ask a question would Argentina leave out a Maradona.when only bringing normal form.NO because these guy,s have the ability to turn a game in a second where other players can,t so i would start with Shane and Bowe as our wingers.

  • Comment number 94.

    I keep chuckling at SuperGedwards traditionally one eyed description of Adam Jones as a 'ruck animal' or a 'ruck monster'. Does this mean he stands off rucks, normally at stand off, and allows the opposition backs huge gaping holes to exploit while he takes a breather and waddles non-commitally towards them? Or the way he's never making the first hit at the breakdown or the second. If he's shuffled across the pitch, he may make the fourth at best.

    Is this the definition of a 'ruck animal' or a 'ruck monster'? I really can't remember seeing a forward less committed to The Physical but, presuming that is your definition, he was tremendous at all the above today.

    Real shame on Murray, bigger shame if Vickery gets injured now. Indeed, if Mears, Vickery, Croft, Heaslip, Phillips or BOD get injured, we really are in deep trouble . . .

  • Comment number 95.

    To all these people who are saying that ROG should be in on his goal kicking ability: do you really think that's all a fly half needs to make it at test rugby level??? I find it bizarre that people are comparing ROG and Jones based only on JUST their place kicking. Utter hogwash if you ask me! Fair enough, if you can justifiably argue that ROG has all-round attributes superior to Jones. Then, I'll be willing to accept your argument as a valid one, if not quite along the same lines as I'm thinking. But if you just say to me, and I quote:

    "If Saturday's first Test were to come down to penalty kicks and lets face it, it may well do so. Would you in all honesty, and not just because you already have your mind made up, would prefer Stephen Jones or Ronan O'Gara to take that/those important kicks."

    ...then I can just come right back at you with: what happens if Saturday's first test does NOT come down to penalty kicks??? It won't come down to penalty kicks if you are picking your test fly half just because he can kick a ball over some posts (I'd argue bread and butter for a fly half anyway!) South Africa will romp through and knock up 50 odd points if your selection criteria is as simple as that.

    I, personally, would go with Jones to start for the first test. I think he's the best of a pretty mediocre bunch. This year's fly half selection is fairly poor - no stand-out, world class players to choose at 10. However, at least Jones knows how to boss a game and doesn't let the pressure get to him too much. He can also kick - that's for you people who jump at the word "kick" and he links up well with Phillips who will be starting at 9 and Roberts who will no doubt be 12. Now surely that is a more plausible argument for selection than "he can kick - quick, better pick him!" No?

    Rant over.

    Test 22 for Saturday:

    1 Jenkins
    2 Mears
    3 Vickery
    4 O'Connell (c)
    5 Wyn-Jones
    6 Croft
    7 Williams
    8 Heaslip

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

    16 Ford
    17 Sheridan
    18 Shaw
    19 Wallace
    20 Ellis
    21 Hook/O'Gara
    22 Kearney

    Please let that be the squad. Would at least stand a chance against the big, physical, quick, cunning, experienced, powerful, strong, durable, determined, vicious, mental, clever, tight-knit, world class, blah, blah, blah... South Africans. :P


  • Comment number 96.

    Second Test against South Africa 1997, Lions 18 S.Africa 15..... five penalties from Jenkins and a dropped goal. Also in the 1st Test Jenkins kicked 5 penalties, Lions won 25-16.

    Need say no more.

  • Comment number 97.

    Read my post again. I don't think you quite understood it.


  • Comment number 98.

    I have re-read your post and i think that you described it best yourself when you said "Rant over"

    Just double checked the 1997 Test stats and was a little surprised to note the number of team changes over the course of the series.

  • Comment number 99.

    say what you like about geech but i still think he may throw something of a 'hail mary' at us tonight. the positions 11, 10, 7, 6 and 3 are so tight i reckon we may see an outsider coming along... does anyone know what time the announcement is due to be made at?

  • Comment number 100.

    12o'clock on Thursday.


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