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Test clues emerge in Cape Town monsoon

Bryn Palmer | 00:48 UK time, Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Cape Town, late Tuesday evening

So the 100% record in non-Test matches has now gone, but the 2009 Lions can still say they remain unbeaten against all opposition apart from the Springboks.

While there was disappointment at letting victory slip against the Emerging variety in the last play of the game, in the context of the tour it was merely a statistical footnote.

As Ian McGeechan noted afterwards, a "kicking game in a monsoon" in Cape Town is a millions miles away from what they want, and expect, in the dry heat of Pretoria on Saturday.

Hook looked sharp Events at Loftus Versfeld, the venue for the second Test, will have a far greater bearing on how these Lions are remembered than a filthy night at Newlands, although the attitude on display in dreadful conditions spoke volumes for their unity.

Given the major decisions on selection would already have been made prior to Tuesday's game, further options in terms of the Test 22 were hard to decipher.

McGeechan acknowledged that "a few discussion points" would be taken from the game when finalising his plans. Second-guessing the man is a hazardous business, but we might as well have a go.

The coaches were clearly keen to give fly-half James Hook time to make a renewed case for inclusion after his recovery from a head knock, removing Ronan O'Gara just five minutes into the second half.

Hook looked sharp in probing the Emerging Boks' defence for gaps without ever finding a killer pass to release the dangerous runners around him.

But the extra length on his kicking provided some relief as the Lions struggled to escape the aerial bombardment from the hosts, and could be a major weapon from hand and at goal in the rarified atmosphere at Loftus.

A place on the Test bench, given his ability to cover more than one position, appears all but assured, and you wonder if they are not slightly tempted to start him ahead of Stephen Jones.

That would certainly be a bold statement of intent, but a replacement role seems more likely.

He could be joined on the bench by Irishman Luke Fitzgerald, whose substitution with 15 minutes left on Tuesday suggested he is also in the Test frame.

Fitzgerald could be a straight swap for Ugo Monye, although there is a feeling that Rob Kearney may be asked to reprise a left-wing role he has performed for Ireland in the past, assuming Lee Byrne's foot problem allows him to continue at full-back.

Shane Williams flittered briefly into life at Newlands, stepping his way out of the clutches of four would-be tacklers with his first touch of the ball, but thereafter had to be content largely with defensive duties.

They were accomplished solidly for the most part, although he may not enjoy analysis of his role in the hosts' last-minute try, when he appeared to move inside too early, giving Danwel Demas the space in which to dive into the right corner.

If we can be reasonably certain that Matthew Rees and Adam Jones will come into the Test front row, there is no guarantee of changes elsewhere in the pack.

The extra aggression of Nathan Hines, on display at times on Tuesday before his removal before the hour, may be a tempting option in the second row, citing proceedings permitting.

But they would actually lose bulk by replacing Alun-Wyn Jones, who is 5kg, or 10lb, heavier than the Scot according to the Lions' own statistics.

Simon Shaw, at 19st 6lb, would provide extra weight if required, but would the 35-year-old England lock handle what should be a Test of ferocious pace and intensity?

Emerging Springboks coach Dick Muir, who also coaches South Africa's backs, believes the Lions will make two or three changes to their starting side on Saturday, but no more.

"I think they played really well last week, especially the way they finished the game, so it would be unfair for them to make too many," he said.

Muir also hinted that Schalk Burger is unlikely to last the whole game for South Africa on his return to fitness, suggesting Heinrich Brussow, who he replaces at open-side, "will be utilised for a good period of the game" off the bench.

The Boks are clearly desperate to clinch the series on Saturday, and not let it go to a final-Test decider in Johannesburg.

The hope for the Lions is that if they can fix their problems in the scrummage, as they did during the first Test, and defending South Africa's driving maul, there is no reason to believe they cannot aspire to victory.

Certainly McGeechan gives every impression of warming to the task. Asked at the end of his post-match news conference if he was in the mood for change in selection, he quipped: "After five weeks away I am probably in the mood for love!"

If he can script a series victory from here, he certainly won't be short of affection.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Just saw the Hines incident again in slow motion. I can only assume there will be as much outrage this week as there was over Jaco's late tackle in the Kings game.

    Well played to the rest of the Lions, enjoyed the game but the conditions will be v different this weekend.

  • Comment number 2.

    I'm quite surprised at the positive blog slant on the outcome of last night's game. Granted the conditions were atrocious, but both sides were exposed to the elements and the Emerging Sprinkboks were by far the better team. The Lions appeared to be in control in the first half, but just seemed to amble around the park as if in no hurry to go anywhere, there was definitely a lack of focus and commitment. In the second half the ES must have sensed this becasue they "upped" their game and hey ho, thank you very much we'll take the draw.
    For the ES there were a few interesting players coming through and no doubt will make the full side in the near future. For the Lions, Earls did his best and played reasonably well, but will not budge Byrne or Kearney. Shaw made a difference when he came on, but his fitness and stamina are in doubt for my liking. Martin WIlliams and Worsely were the best of the forwards, ever present, while Ross Ford also had a half decent game. On the flip side, Shane Williams IMO will not play for the Lions again this tour. ROG did all that was asked of him and wasn't outshone by Hook, who had a pretty average start. Main areas of concern - too slow at the break down, and no sense of urgency. I can't see the Lions beating the Boks this Saturday a this rate.

  • Comment number 3.

    I think Ford's a chance. We all know Mears won't be seen again, so it's a shoot-out between Ford and Rees.
    O'Gara won't even be on the bench, which is a good thing, but Hayes might be, which is a bad thing. I'd put Sheridan on the bench because Jenkins can cover both sides.
    Kearney has to be the other winger. Monye's had his chance and Fitzgerald isn't in the same class as the likes of Habana.
    If only Geech had the courage to remove the captaincy from O'Connell...

  • Comment number 4.

    The Lions were coasting a bit last night, and lacked urgency. I thought they were outplayed at loose forward, and somewhat lucky to win, the Emerging Boks had the better chances.

    Not many Lions put their hands up for selection. O'Gara was safe, but predictable and slow, Ellis was limited, Fitzgerald and Shane Williams had few chances. Hines is aggressive but is not better at any facet of lock-play than either O'Conell or Wyn-Jones. Best of the bunch were Earls, who won't find a way past O'Driscoll, Roberts and Byrne; and Hook who has looked the best all-round fly-half all tour, but for some reason is not favoured by McGeechan. I think the Lions will go with the same side as last week, except for Adam Jones for Vickery.

    Overall the Lions missed the boat last week, and will find it very difficult in Pretoria. They've not got the potency at forward to get the better of their opponents, and won't find it as easy to create the same space in the backline as last week.

    The Boks will be 20% better because they have got the rustiness out of their system, because the dry, hard conditions will suit them, and because Pretoria is a happy hunting-ground for them.

    I predict a high-scoring game and a 15 point win for the Boks.

  • Comment number 5.

    So that is the last 'warm-up match' over with and its largely as you were I'm afraid.

    For me O'Gara did very little of note (missed a very very easy kick)and now lies firmly behind Hook (the most assured kicker left on tour) for the test. Andy Powell (seems to play exactly the same each game even making the same errors) is going backwards fast. Earls did some good work and so did both Fitzgerald and S Williams the latter doing some sterling work in defence ( not withstanding his mistake for the last try).

    I still think it should be Hines in to start if available.

    Flutey played the best he has for a while although has no chance at a start, the same situation for Earls and in fairness many of the players from last night.

    I still feel that there is a place at flanker open as Williams was steady but no more although I'd still start him.

    Monye is to my mind now out for the 2nd and it is between Kearney and Williams for the spot. On form its Kearney but you never know with Shane he may just do something and he is also good cover at scrum half when Philips (who is gteed to start- not least becuase Ellis is hapless)does those breaks and lying under 5 Boks.

    I have to say the ES deserve a lot of credit for their performance last night and with the right progression we will definitely see a few in the full test side.

    Still hopeful of a 2nd test win, Roll on Saturday.

  • Comment number 6.

    Firstly I dont think we should read too much into the game last night, given the conditions there was never really going to be an opportunity for anyone to shine.

    As for saturday, Bryn you say they may be tempted to start Hook ahead of Jones at fly half, first of all this would negate his ability to cover several positions from the bench, but also he is not a controling fly half like jones and O'gara, if we trail with 20 or 30 to go, then hook comes on to try and open up the game and create something I would think.

    I did thing Martyn Williams had a good game last night, and was very impressed with D O'Callaghan, if anyone is to come into the second row I think it sahould be him, dont think shaw will cope with the pace and altitude on saturday, and as has been pointed out Hined is smaller than AWJ so we would gain no bulk there.

    We also need more power off the bench on sat, so I would start with Williams at 7, and Wallace on the bench, had we had a big back rower on the bench to come on with 10 to go last week we would have won that game, Williams is not an impact player in that way, he doesnt punch big holes in the defence as Wallace can, ans we are severely lacking a world class no.8 Powell is certainly no world class!!

    I am sure I will get lamented for this now but here we go anyway: the shane williams situation, I would like a stat of the number of times the ball has made it through the hands to each of the wingers, I swear williams has hardly received a pass! Both fitzgerald and Monye have had their try's served to them on a plate by the brilliance of Bowe and BOD, and we saw on saturday that as soon as Monye has anything but a straight run for the line with no one in the visinity he cant score, I am not saying I think williams should start, but i do think people are beeing quite unfairly critical.

    Any comments?

  • Comment number 7.

    Bryn, regarding your comment about Shane Williams missing the tackle on Demas - if you watch again, it was actualy Earls who shot out of the alignment to early that generated the space for the try - Williams was tracking him across ready to execute the tackle when Earls cuts across him effectivley blocking him from the tackle that was his to commit. In addition, anybody else see Shane Williams striping the SA winger of the ball in the first half - certainly not perfect, but worthy of more praise than the views of certain 'analysts'.

  • Comment number 8.

    norwichwelshman i agree with you about m williams i really do, but can someone please explain to me why he played a full game? surely if geech was saving him for saturday he would have switched him for wallace (instead of powell for wallace) sooner no?

    this action would seem to suggest to me that wallace is likely to be starting ahead of williams on saturday

  • Comment number 9.

    So for me Geech has got to make changes for Sat .

    A start for Hook would give us a cutting edge in attack



    (Lee Byrne ? still injured?)

  • Comment number 10.

    My biggest gripe about last weeks team was the lack of variety off the bench. Pretty much all those on the bench were like-for-like replacements for those on the pitch. We had very little chance of bringing on anyone that could change the game.

    Aside from the front row I think the team will be as started last week. I think Monye should be given another go and Philips should be told to cut out the two steps before every pass. Jones will start and Kearney at FB if LB doesn't make it.

    I'd have sheridan on the bench this week as Jenkins can cover both sides. I'd have Shaw on the bench too. Not sure what this lad has to do to get in the 22. He came on last night made upteen big tackles, stole line out ball and turned over ball. He was a bundle of energy! Point in the blog about lasting 80 minutes at altitude may (or may not) be fair but give him at least 20 minutes and he'd leave nothing on the pitch. I was all for POC keeping his place as he's a big game man and I thought he'd do the job in the 2nd row - but he didn't really. Still he'll be there till the end.

    As poor as Powell's been this tour (largely getting turned over too often) he does at least offer something different from the bench. Maybe you take an extreme punt and start him with Heaslip on the bench and say muck this up and you're off (beit before half time or after).

    Ellis wasn't great last night in difficult conditions but does offer quicker ball than Philips and so has to bench in case we need to change it up. A brave man (like me but i'm at home on the computer and not in the Lions coaching team) would put Hook into the 15 - though I think this is unrealistic. He should be on the bench ahead of ROG as his kicking (place and from hand) is better and he's much more inventive than SJ or ROG. ROG has tried, to be fair, but he always gets nobbled when he makes a break and he's like the "Rogador" when it comes to tackling - does he have Spanish blood? Just thought interesting career change when he's finished with rugby down in the bull rings of Southern Spain.

    Otherwise the other two stand out benchers are M Williams and Kearney. That does at least give us the chance to change the game plan if we need to and bring in some inventiveness and energy.

  • Comment number 11.

    My post #10 forgot the Hooker. Stick with Mears on the bench, though it's right he doesn't start after last week. A tough choice but Kearney then drops out of the 22 (if he's not playing due to LB's injury). 5-2 split with Hook covering most positions.

  • Comment number 12.

    For the Demas try, it was actually Earls stepping in from the wing, but both have shaved heads at the moment, so easy to mix up. Williams was defending one in and Earls unsuccessfully rushed in to try and take man and ball, when Williams already had the same man marked.

    Fitzgerald also has a habit of stepping in from the wing in defence - he did it once last night again. Maybe a hangover from the Irish defence system compared to the rush/blitz that Edwards has them playing.

    I'd have Kearney on the wing and Fitzgerald on the bench (Byren being fit of course)

  • Comment number 13.

    I can't help but thinking they have to change the make up of the 2nd rows. Although Vickery was given a hard time by 'The Beast' a lot of this came down to the fact there wasn't enough push coming from the back five. O'Connell is not going to be dropped and I am a big fan of AWJ, but sadly there is a need for a scrummaging 2nd row. To my mind that is a straight toss up between Simon Shaw and Donnacha O'Callaghan. I think DOC did well last night, so will probably get the nod with AWJ on the bench.

    I have been a big fan of Monye's on this tour and feel that some of the criticism he has got is a little harsh. That said, he is in the 'finisher' position so may well have to make way. Sadly I don't think Williams is up to it at the moment and I am still not sure about Fitzgerald either. Kearney to start wouldn't be the worst idea.

    On the Hook side - surely a bench place gives greater options to the way the team will play going into the final quarter.

    Lastly, I hope Jamie Heaslip has a better game on Saturday. I think he will start, but had there been a better showing from Andy Powell last night, he might not have.

    So - 4 changes I would have thought - Rees, Jones, DOC and Kearney in, Vickery, Mears, AWJ and Monye out.

  • Comment number 14.


    Powell had to go off or the game would have been lost. The addage goes (if the opposition) want a scrum, fee kick or penalty from open play ? get the ball to Powell.

    O'Gara, Ellis, Vickery may as well go home now and watch the rest of the tour on TV.

  • Comment number 15.

    As was evident last week in the last 20 - 25 minutes, the way to beat the boks is to move the ball quickly through our backs, using the centres and Bowe to punch oles in their (by last weeks showing anyway) seemingly dodgy backline defence. I would therefore definently start with Williams who, in my opinion is the best linking no 7 in world rugby (and I do include McCaw, who is though much more effective at the breakdown than Williams) in order to get the backline moving from the start. With the genious of BOD and the huge strength and brilliant running lines of Roberts, and with support from Bowe, why wait untill the last quarter of the game. The way to beat the Boks is toi make bold decisions, which was clearly evident in 97.
    Unfortunately for Monye he has to make way i'm afraid. I am a masive Shane Williams fan, and although he hsant had the best of tours I think far to many people are jumping on the band wagon and slaging him off. This is only because of the unbelieavably high standards he has set. If he is not beating 7 players and cartwhealing towards the line whilst supping on a pint of mild whilst also struming the ukeleley he gets clobbered. Saying that, before the first test I did think Monye deserved his chance, sadly he has not taken it. I also rate Titzpatrick, thought he looked dangerous last night, but I would start with Williams because if my mortgage depended on someone finishing an opportunity in a huge presure game I would opt for Shane. And he is still one of a few players in world rugby who can create something out of nothing (I know he hsant done it yet in SA, but form is temporary class is permanent, as a wise old saying once said. Although if Geechs went with Kearney or Fitzpatrick I could see the reasoning behind it.
    As for fly half, theres not much betwen Jones and O'Gara in terms of skill. I like O'Gara's temprament and will to win. Being Welsh he has twice spoiled my weekend in Cardiff at the millenium with bloody drop goals. But he just kicks to much ball away for me. He controls a game well, but we need to make best use of our backs and that wont happen with ROG kicking everything away. In the Grand Salm decider in Cardiff he kicked absolutely everything. I know Ireland won ( I celebrated with their fans into the early hours), but Ireland are not the Lions, and Ireland werent playting SA at altitude that day. We have to keep ball in had as much as possible. So I would start with Jones, as he gets backs going and have Hook and ROG on bench. If needs be ROG can come on and close game off, and likewise if we need something special Hook can come on.
    Its got to be an all Welsh front row, enough said. Adam Jones has been a class player for years, his only downfall was his fitness and he's sorted that out recently. Mathew Rees can run very hot and cold, but on his day can be excellent (lets hope he is on form, best of a bad bunch of hookers im afraid). I migt also be tempted to put either Shaw o'r O'Callahan in second row in place of Wyn Jone, but that would be a close call as I dont think Wynn Jones has done much wrong. I just think both Shaw and especially O'Callahan have but their hands up for inclusion. (Remember Wynn Jones is still only 22, my money is on him captaining the next Lions to Australia, huge potential).

    1. Jenkins (best openside in world rugby)
    2. Rees
    3. Adam "grizzly bear" Jones
    4. Paul O Connell
    5. Shaw / O'Callahan
    6. Croft
    7. M Williams
    8. Heaslip (will be more effective in atack behind solid scrum)
    9. M Philips (best scrum half on tour by miles despite slow delivery but
    Dwayne Peel shoul be there, would get best out of backs)
    10.S Jones
    11.Super Shane
    12.BOD (obvious)
    13.Roberts (Masive talent)
    15.Byrne / Kearney.

    1. Sheridan
    2. Mears
    3. A W Jones
    4. D Wallace
    5. J Hook
    6. O'Gara
    7. H Ellis

    This team, playing the right kind of rugby will win on saturday. I'm not masively imptesed with Boks, and the beast?????? He was hammered by Adam Jones and Euan Murray in NOvember, overated.

    Come on Lions!!!!!

  • Comment number 16.

    forgot to mention Powell in my list- who as previously stated should never NEVER NEVER have made the Lions especially when the likes of Ryan Jones is playing.

  • Comment number 17.

    I really got to laugh here at some of the comments you are making. Everybody seems to have it for Paul O'Connell since he was made the captain ahead of BoD and Ryan Jones. First of all i feel that BOD plays a better game and is more focused when he is not the captain (As seen when he with drew drom the captains role at Leinster last season). He is no dought the best 13 in the world again no for that. Then there is the Ryan Jones debate !! Well there is no debate because Ryan Jones lost his form and rightly was not picked for the travelling tour. I also feel that S Williams should never have being picked on his form, Don't get me wrong i think Williams is world class when he is in form but his last season was so below par he should not have being picked to travell. I feel alot of the rant is coming from the Welsh on here and the ridiculas comments,
    Another comment Ronan O'Gara is 3rd choice behind Hook !!!! This really makes me laugh.. Last night against the ESB in the first half (Besides his easy miss pen) O'Gara totally controlled the game and lions looked very sharp for that, How many times did he take ball in to contact and come away with a penalty, free kick or at least possession for M Williams to take on. I feel that O'Gara linked up with Fitzgerald very well and that both players knew what the other was about to do all the time.. On the other hand in the 2nd half last night when Hook came on the ESB totally got in controll, Hook carrying ball where he should never have gone only with some players on his back and then he lost possession, He gave away 3 penalties in 15 mins for not releasing. The only positive i saw from Hook was that 1 marvelous kick to find touch but then you see Earls kick one better just after him !! So should O'Gara be 4th choice behind Earls too....
    Again i feel this blog is being too biased towards Wales because you got see O'Gara staring on Saturday with either Philips or Ellis with S Jones on the bench.
    I don't think there will be too many changes all around but definitley the Welsh front row of Genkins, Rees and Jones. I feel he might stick with th 2nd row but would like to see Donnacha O'Callaghan come in and join O'Connell and the only reason being is because they know each inside out with playing for Munster and Ireland. Back row no change only to see Williams coming in around the 60mins mark, Halfbacks Philips and ROG, Centers no change, Bowe on one wing with probably Kearney starting on the other and with Byrne 15 if he is 100% fit, If not Kearney at 15 and toss up between Fitzgerald / Monye at 11.

  • Comment number 18.

    Thanks for your comments folks, keep em coming.

    Haven't actually seen the Hines incident no 1 - is it a bad one then?

    Agree with no 3 that Ford had a decent game last night - by my reckoning the Lions hit 11 out of 13 on their own throw at the line-out - but the chat is that Mears will be on the bench on Saturday, with Rees starting.

    No 6 I don't think Hook should necessarily start on Saturday, but I just wonder whether it's the sort of selection that would appeal to Geech. Jones has linked well with Roberts and BOD so far, even if his kicking wasn't great last Sat. Don't think the Lions have to go for broke yet, but am expecting them to try to run the Boks off their feet again.

    No 7 I'd have to see the Emerging Boks try again. Watching it live in the stadium, without seeing a replay, it looked like he cut across Earls, but apologies to Shane if it was the other way round.

    Re No 8 Andy Powell appeared to be limping slightly as he went off, hence why Wallace replaced him rather than Williams. Unfortunately for Martyn, I think the fact he started at all, and then played the full game, means the best he can hope for is a place on the Test bench.

  • Comment number 19.

    South Africa have gone I believe for a 5/2 split on their bench, suggesting they dont intend to let their backs see much of the ball, I would say we need to do simmilar to counter that, meaning hook must be on the bench to coverpositiond, dont forget also that phillips at a push can cover centre, as he did against the sharks I believe.

    I have read somewhere a suggestion of giving Monye one more chance, I am sorry but we only have one shot at this! He had his 2 chances on saturday when he fluffed his opportunities! I maintain you look at the tries that have been given to monye and fitzgerald, you see that williams has been given nothing to play with, comes down to playing most of his games with O'gara, who has had an obsession with kicking this whole tour!

    My team for sat;
    15 Byrne (if fit)
    14 Bowe
    13 BOD
    12 Roberts
    11 Williams - I await the abuse!!!!lol
    10 Jones (had a poor game sat, but the SA back row Burger/Smith/Spies will use O'g as a carpet)
    9 Phillips
    8 Heaslip (invisible last week, but no alternative)
    7 Williams (Wallace is a better impact player than Williams, think geech will go with wallace though sadly)
    6 Croft
    5 POC
    4 AWJ
    3 Jones
    2 Rees
    1 Jenkins

    16 Ford
    17 Sheridan
    18 DOC
    19 Wallace
    20 Powell (not played great we all will admit, but with 20 to go could punch some holes)
    21 Ellis
    22 Hook


  • Comment number 20.

    Having watched the game last night then having to rush off I have not seen the replays of the final try, I maybe wrong (they do look alike) but it appeared as if Shane Williams was picking the inside man up and Keith earls was marking the winger, therefore, ealrs came in too early off his man allowing the space, therefore, it maybe time for all the press to stop picking holes in Shane Williams' game. He has not sparked on this tour but ultimately he is a world class finisher and I believe he would have scored twice in the first test. Surely there is no-one better to bring off the bench on Sat if the game is close??

    I also think this tour has shown how far Andy Powell has to go to be a world class player, running straight into contact and being defensively 'shy' is not the way forward!!!!!

  • Comment number 21.

    Regarding Powell. Anyone involved with Welsh rugby scene would have been aware of him for years. Burst on to scene at Newpor years ago before diapearing. Ive been willing him to have good game all tour, and apart from a few glimpses he's been disapointing. Shame Ryan Jones couldnt continue with 2008 form, as on his day is best No 8 in Uk by far. Hasn't helped that he's been playing at 6 for Wales though.

  • Comment number 22.

    paceywinger - The point of having Hook on the bench is that he offers a different game plan than ROG and can also cover centre and full back giving more freedom to pick a wild card as the last back replacement. On his day, ROG is a fantastic player and I wouldn't mind either Jones or him starting on Saturday. However, I would have thought that for either player it is start or don't play.

  • Comment number 23.

    Comment number 10!!!!!! What!!! I'm just going to get my readers....

    "Ellis ...does offer quicker ball than Philips"

    !!!!!!!! Harry Ellis gives the slowest ball from a ruck i've EVER EVER EVER EVER seen. No wonder Dupuy is ahead of him at Leicester. I can't believe he hasn't learnt his lesson. Even the great Stuart Barnes alluded to it last night, saying "its been a common trait of English scrum halves down the years". Gomarsall was another one.

    If Ellis gets on at scrum half at least I won't need to pause the game on my Sky Plus if i need a slash during a ruck!

    Monye must play because the other offer NOTHING BETTER. Fitzgerald is just run-of-the-mill, Shane Williams, much as i like the guy, is trying too hard and isn't as quick as Monye and clearly suffering from a lack of confidence.

    Hook must play ahead of Jones and O'Gara, although neither of those 2 are worth having on the bench as all they would do is kick for the corners to close a game out, which we won't be in a position to do.

  • Comment number 24.

    Thanks Bryn, another excellent post.
    Prior to the gane, I think we got the starting Test XV exactly right, based on form and ability.
    I'm not convinced that we have 6 better players waiting to replace the scapegoats from the w/e. If we do make changes, it will be ensure better match-ups, especially in the front row.

  • Comment number 25.

    What you want from an out half is some who can release the players outside him like BOD and Roberts and James Hook doesn't offer that outlet. He may get the headline long range kicks but as an out half he can't control the game anything like Jones or O'Gara. He spends too much time running diagonals. If he was good enough he would in the Welsh team at out half instead of Jones but he is not.

    Fitzgerald has to come in on the left wing. We needs someone with some gaa skills on the wing like Bowe.

  • Comment number 26.


    Its not Welsh bias against ROG/ He is a great player. But his kicking game will not be needed on saturday. No point kicking for touch against lineout containing Botha and Matfeld. we need to get backs moving from the off, that is clearly our strength!!!

  • Comment number 27.

  • Comment number 28.

    Didn't see the game last night so I can't really comment, but it was a bit-part team that played well against what was written up to be a very talented team of youngsters. I'm disappointed at the negativity on here, I think that get the front row, line-out and scrum right and we'll win - our backs are better than theirs in both attack and defence by a distance. I'd go for this team:

    Mears (he had a real off-game Saturday, but his throwing is the best of the lot, and he's better in the loose than Rees)
    Adam Jones (should have started last week)
    AW Jones
    O' Connell
    Martyn Williams
    Stephen Jones
    O' Driscoll


    Sheridan (if fit, if not Vickery or Payne)
    O' Callaghan
    Fitzgerald or Shane Williams

  • Comment number 29.

    I do believe I was watching a completely different game from some people, how anyone can say that Earls had a good game is beyond me - I did not see him catch a kick all night and was partially at fault for the try at the end, you can see him trying to take out the centre instead of moving wide, yes he scored the try, but does that really mean we have to heap praise onto him? I tohught the two starting props were poor, its a shame Euan Murray had to go home, as he would have enjoyed scrumaging against the beast, I don't really rate the props brought in. Ross ford however had a good game, he carried the ball well, had a good lineout and tackled well, he probably won't get in the lions team though which is a shame.

    Shane Williams isn't getting a chance to get into the tour, he isn't shown enough of the ball, the backs are not getting enough quick ball to him to exploit his pace and its crippling his chances, he was very good in defence however. Harry Elis had a poor game from the back of the rucks, he was too slow in getting the ball away, and on a number of occasions was turned over whilst waiting to set more forwards up instead of giving the backs wuick ball, he was better in open play however.

  • Comment number 30.

    I see some are still singing the praises of O'Gara over Hook and Jones. No doubt he is a fanatstic player but let's be realistic, he can only play fly half.... Hook, with his versatility, is a shoe in for the bench. As for starting, the worrying sight of a forward going straight through him without even losing speed last night should serve as a awrning as to what the Boks would do to him! Also, I remember after Saturday's game so many people on here saying Jones must go as he missed a real sitter of a kick.... by the same reconing, what have they to say about the kick IN FRONT OF THE POSTS last night??!!

  • Comment number 31.

    I agree that ugo monye should have scored one try last week, However there are inconsistencyies being applied to other wing contenders for 2nd test. Shane Williams stepped in when Emerging Sprinboks scored on left wing last night and did very little else, Fitzgerald missed 2 easy tackles and kicked badly, However reports state they were both excellent. Test Rugby is won mostly up front and this is where Lions have to step up the intensity. Picking a mobile pack that turns up late to breakdown is flawed so get Shaw & Adam Jones in tight five and ask Heaslip to turn up in back row and we have a real chance.

  • Comment number 32.

    I think Mears will stay with Adam Jones and Jenkins either side of him. Hook will be on the bench - O'Gara's captaincy last night was a sweetner for being dropped. Bowe was unimpressive on Saturday - Kearney was great. Earls on the bench is a gamble but he could spice things up - he's very quick. Martin Williams is looking good for his age and his experience and abilty to just be everywhere out-trumps Wallace, who should be on the bench. Sheridan is injured and mentally frail. Vickery - sorry mate: thus Payne or Hayes on the bench. Hines is a liability - always has been, and will continue to give away penalties - O'Callaghan must be on the bench, although I'd be tempted to get Worsley in there somehow - probably not.

    1 Jenkins
    2 Mears
    3 Adam Jones
    4 AW Jones
    5 O' Connell
    6 Croft
    7 Martyn Williams
    8 Heaslip

    9 Phillips
    10 Stephen Jones

    11 Monye
    12 Roberts
    13 O' Driscoll
    14 Kearney
    15 Byrne


    16 Rees
    17 Payne
    18 O' Callaghan
    19 Wallace
    20 Ellis
    21 Hook
    22 Earls

    It's all much of a muchness, really - we'll find out in a few hours.

  • Comment number 33.

    Re James Hook,
    I dont understand the good reviews he is getting from people on this forum! I thought he played ok yesterday, but not anywhere near well enough to warrant inclusion in the starting 15!! He made a couple nice little half breaks, yes, but as far as the bread and butter duties as a fly half I thought he was fairly average. And yes he has a big boot, but at altitude so does everyone else! I dont think its worth starting with him for the extra few yards we would get on a penalty attempt.
    Having said that, if we go 15 points down with 25 mins to go, get him on off the bench, yet another of our back line who can cut the bocks to bits!

    As to who to start at 10...... I really dont know. I honestly think its a coin toss. I suspect ROG hasnt done enough to displace Jones. Theres not allot in it anyway, I will be behind whichever, just as long as they dont miss their penalties!!

  • Comment number 34.

    Keep size and power in the backs so

    Up front no one is notcing that Paul OConnell is not playing well, Steve Borthwick syndrome comes to mind, so put in more abrasive players. BOD to captain

    Jenkins (covers both sides of scrum)
    A Wyn Jones

  • Comment number 35.

    NorwichWelshMan - agree on DOC, made twelve tackles, missed none. Worsley made 16, also missed none!!!! Could well start. I have a terrible feeling ROG won't start, even though as a Munsterman I would love to see him out there. It will be a tactical, not a form decision - ROG is better at winning this year than Jones, and is on better form. But I think Geech prefers Jones' game, and can't argue with the subjective preference of the coach, it is what it is.

  • Comment number 36.

    How can you say Shane Williams isn't getting a chance, he has started 4 games and come on in 2. Played more minutes than most on this lions tour. He is off form and is lucky to make the tour after such a quite 6 nations.

  • Comment number 37.

    I know the conditions were horrendous but please can we change the law that says you can't kick to touch from outside the 22 to you can't kick full stop from outside the 22 apart from grubber kicks or chips over blitz defence. Its getting ridiculous now and I'm sure I'm not the only one fed up with Rugby becoming dominated by kicking.

  • Comment number 38.

    Firstly James Hook ... There is a reason he wasn't originally picked for the tour and also why he's not ahead of Stephen Jones in the national side. The game last night went south when O'Gara went off. No control in the conditions. O'Gara's penalty miss must have been a slip although there was no replay for some strange reason. For me Jones/O'Gara to start or on the bench for Saturday.
    Front row ... All Welsh
    Second row ... I'd go with O'Callaghan to replace AWJ (too similar to O'Connell but not as good) with Simon Shaw on the bench as impact. I have to laugh at the negative POC comments. Both he and DOC have been the dominant lock pairing in the northerm hemisphere for the last 5 years at least. What more do people want from him? How many times does he lose possesion or get turned over? Never. Offloading isn't always the right option. I don't remember Martin Johnson as being great with the ball either.
    The lineout is a combination of thrower, jumper and lifter. If one of these is out then the jumper will look bad. Lee Mears was inaccurate last week and therefore the locks look bad to those who don't see beyond the obvious. On balls that O'Connell called to himself he won.
    Back row ... Same as first test.
    Half backs ... Philips is too slow for me but the best of a bad lot. Jones or O'Gara both will do a good job.
    Backs ... Roberts / BOD no argument. I'd go for an Irish back three of Fitz, Bowe and Kearney. RK is better under a high ball than Byrne and I think we'll see lots of that at altitude.

  • Comment number 39.

    Are you people serious, i mean were ye watching the same game that i saw. this is ridiculous.
    Hook is a liability, he is..... seriously, did you not notice how the game lost all its shape when he came on, did you not notice that he would run half the width of the pitch without going forward removing all space for his team mates,
    Did you not notice that he would telegraph his passes so much that who ever received them would get absolutely smashed and then turned over,
    Did you not notice his terrible kicking to touch

    Shame on you all, especially the third commenter (fabuniquemembername))with his insanely anti-Irish bias, Im sorry rodge isnt British, but that must mean hes not a good rugby player, its not like he has even won the heineken cup twice or won say 3 triple crowns or a Grandslam, no.... to do that he would have to be British citizen wouldnt he!!

  • Comment number 40.


    "How can you say Shane Williams isn't getting a chance, he has started 4 games and come on in 2. Played more minutes than most on this lions tour. He is off form and is lucky to make the tour after such a quite 6 nations. "

    I dont think people are refering to his lack of game time when talking about opportunities. Generally he has not received the ball in any space. On some occasions this has been his fault, but most of the time its not. Again, people are refering to his "form", but he hasnt done anything wrong. Are you seruiously implynig that he wouldnt of finished off all four of the tries that money has scored???? (im not gona start slating monye for the sake of it because I think he's had a good tour and deserved to start the test, but he didnt take his chances. And I know many will disagree, but shane would have scored one if not both those tries). And refering to his 6 nations form as being poor is just plain wrong. Yes, he wasnt as good as 2008, but that was a truly out of this world amazing season for him. He still scored 2 tries (I think, correct me if im wrong) and created a couple of others. Some players have the potential to do something special, there arent many of the about, I'll say it again form is temporary class in permanent!!!!!!!

    Come on Lions, whoever is playing in first 15

  • Comment number 41.

    Firstly,the coaching staff will look back on this tour regretting not to take a 'proper' scrum-half..Phillips is good but only offers strength and goods breaks but takes 2/3 steps before he passes and thus can't allow the backs to operate to their full potential..Sringer has the best pass in world rugby and Dwayne Peel is a complete scrum-half..One of these players should of made the squad or at least of been drafted in after Tomás O Leary's injury...
    Another problem is the selection of O Connell as captain..Whenever he has captained Ireland in the past,he has always underperformed and this has also happened on this tour and thus he is not playing to his full potential as one of the best locks in world rugby..BOD should be captain after what he has achieved this year as irish captain,and the fact that he has previous experience at captaining the Lions..
    Lions Team for Second Test:
    15. Byrne (if fit,otherwise Kearney)
    14. Bowe
    13. BOD
    12. Roberts
    11. Kearney (Fitzgerald if Byrne isn't fit)
    10. O Gara (Jones can't kick)
    9. Phillips
    8. Heaslip
    7. Wallace
    6. Croft
    5. O Connell
    4. Shaw
    3. Jones
    2. Rees
    1. Jenkins

    16. Ross
    17. Hayes
    18. O Callaghan
    19. Williams
    20. Ellis
    21. Hook
    22. Fitzgerald (Earls if Byrne isn't fit)

    ROG isn't having his best tour but his place kicking has been very consistent and this is necessary for a lions test match..O Gara is one of the best pressure kickers currently in world rugby. The tightest call is for the no. 7 shirt.I would give it to Wallace to start because he can keep bashing up the south african pack and i feel that williams would be a better replacement to bring on with about 20 minutes remaining as the play breaks up.This is where martyn williams is at his best.

  • Comment number 42.


    Agree with most of what youre saying. Bur kearney is not better than Byrne under high ball. Granted theres not much between them, but Byrne is better. Plus he's a better counter atacker, and I dont think theres anyone better in world rugby at putting up the high ball, chasing and collecting it as well. That would be very usefull at altitude. (Watch Wales v Ffrance grand salm game 2008 as one example from many)

  • Comment number 43.

    Finbar_omahony - Hooks kicking from hand was pretty good last night. As mentioned above, he offers something that O'Gara doesn't in that he plays a different type of game. He won't start the 2nd test, but could well be on the bench to offer something different as Jones and O'Gara are similar players.

  • Comment number 44.


    Don't get me wrong I'm a big fan of Byrne his counter attacking is as you say better than RK, but I stand by what I say about both under a high ball. It might all be a mute point anyway as last I heard Byrne is a big doubt for Saturday with his injury.

    With regards to Shane Williams, I do admire the way he hasn't let his head drop even though his form hasn't been up to his previous standards. I don't however think he's done enough to make the test squad.

  • Comment number 45.

    edgroves- its a fair point that hook offers something different from ROG/Jones, and could be a decent impact, but he really doesnt have anywhere near the same control as the other two. Put Hook on the bench and you run a big risk, think about what happened to Byrne in the last test! If Jones/ROG were to be injured in the first 20....we would be in big trouble.

    The game against the Boks needs to be controlled precisely. Jones didnt do that well enough at the start of the last test, but Im sure he has learnt from that. Either Jones or ROG will run things well, if its Hook on the bench for impact we just gotta pray the starter doesnt get injured early!

  • Comment number 46.

    edgroves - Yes i agree he provides a different style, but is it a good style.
    Any style that is so selfish that negates the attack of those around him in the off chance he makes a break himself!!! its incredible.
    If he played in the test the centers (our only real attacking threat) would never see the ball because hook would be flat on his face being turned over.
    His kicking from hand was not that good, i think he may have made one good touch, and several average touches. And all others was simply a massive thump down the middle of the field without thought or reason behind it.
    not even giving our runners an opportunity to run onto it.

  • Comment number 47.

    Bryn - you clearly now nothing about wing play. Shane Williams was not at fault because Earle was defending on the wing for that last attack. Earle's fault entitirely. Retrack your statement please because it influences people who read your article. Shane Williams had an excellent defensive game.

  • Comment number 48.


    O'Gara and Jones do control game better on the whole, and certainly on this tour. But remember Hook was starting fly half for wales in grand slam year 2008, and controlled the game very effectively against England in 2007 championship and against Australia in same year. Just examples I know, he doesnt do it consistenly, but on his day can equal Jones and O'Gara.

  • Comment number 49.


    How many tries did Wales score in 2008 grand slam with hook at 10??? Ive lost count!!!! millions. probarbly more than ireland have ever scored with O'Gara at 10!!!!!!

  • Comment number 50.

    Shane Williams is a class act but when things are not going your way on tour then sometimes you can't change that. I'd agree that Byrne is a must at Full Back, i'm a big fan of Kearney but i'd keep him on the bench as cover wing and full back.

    Valid point by powerRugbyG, with Jones/ROG in relation to an early injury to either during a test would mean Lions would lose the capacity to control the game if Hook came on as replacement out half.

  • Comment number 51.

    i've not read all of the comments so i'm not sure if this has been raised or not but what about Earls for left wing on saturday? i know he's generally a centre or full back but he seems to have the attributes and certainly is on better form than the other contenders based on his last 2 performances. i'm suggesting it as much because none of the other wingers have really put their hands up to grab the spot (if we assume Monye will be dropped which i think is almost certain).

  • Comment number 52.

    "probarbly more than ireland have ever scored with O'Gara at 10"

    Really.....would think not! Either that or Wales had such an amazing six nations that I have somehow had to block out of my memory hundreds of points!

    There is no doubt at times in a Welsh side he has been great at 10. He has however struggled to control any of the games he has been at 10 for with the Lions. First choice next Lions tour...quite possibly, not first choice now, or second in my opinion, but a definite impact option, and with his ability to play in center, quite a possibility for the bench.

  • Comment number 53.

    Re 37 - Fair point on the kicking - it is dull for the most part. However the Kiwis and to his credit (not that I have a huge amount of positive stuff to say on him this tour) Earls show that you can use it to counter attack, pick holes and make ground. In time teams will learn this more.

    The main problem is the breakdown. From ref to ref, game to game the interpretation varies enormously. Last night there was an ESA player lying on his stomach waving a hand at the ball in the ruck infront of the ref. They need to go back to the old rules. Hands on until the third person arives to make it a ruck - and only then of you're on you feet and not leaning on the tackled player. Also for heavens sake - I know it may put the odd Mavis off letting her son play rugby but bring back the boot! No greater lesson learnt - I know from bitter experience and it gives quicker ball to the scrum half with fewer obstructions to delivery.

  • Comment number 54.

    To be honest, the team selected last Saturday was what I would have selected, barring Adam Jones and Martyn Williams on for Vickery and Wallace respectively.

    I think most posters are getting the selection right for the second test, I don't think there will be many changes, though I would offer this:

    1. Gethin Jenkins
    2. Lee Mears (think he had an bad day at the office but still the best hooker on tour, personally I would have replaced Flannery with Rory Best)
    3. Adam Jones (shoe in for this one. Hope that the referee actually pays attention to the Beast in this test though)
    4. Alun wyn Jones
    5. Paul O'Connell (pity he's the captain)
    6. Tom Croft
    7. Martyn Williams (McGeechan will pick Wallace due to Burger's, inclusion. Last week I though Wallace seemed to clutter mid-field when we had the ball and took the wrong options when he had it - especially when he had Roberts and BOD outside him)
    8. Jamie Heaslip (hopefully he will be playing in a pack that has some parity with the opposition this week, and we will see him making some yards)
    9. Mike Phillips
    10. Stephen Jones
    11. Rob Kearney
    12. Jamie Roberts
    13. Brian O'Driscoll
    14. Tommy Bowe
    15. Lee Byrne (if fit, if not Kearney at 15, Monye at 11)


    16. Matthew Rees
    17. Andrew Sheridan (Phil Vickery if Sheridan is injured)
    18. Simon Shaw (tempted for a burst from him on the last 20)
    19. David Wallace
    20. Shane Williams (named as Scrum Half rep, counter-points Phillips visceral style as he will be moving quick around the break down)
    21. James Hook (as he can cover 10, 12 and 15, tempted to have him start but we will need Jones' control)
    22. Ugo Monye (just forgot how to finish last week - if Byrne injured though he starts with Fitzgerald on the bench)

  • Comment number 55.

    Welsh fans need to let their Shane Williams bias drop - he has been consistent for the past 6 months: consistently off form.
    It looks like the management will pick Kearney at 11 if Byrne is fit but they should pick Fitzgerald.
    The only other positions really in question are:
    1) outhalf - they will stick with Jones and, on balance they probably should; I hope Hook is on the bench because O'Gara is not a good sub.
    2) second row - they will stick with the two who started last weekend (although I can see the argument for giving Shaw a run)
    3) openside - looks like they will stick with Wallace and that Williams may be carrying a knock (otherwise, I think Wallace is probably a better impact sub for a test against SA in terms of his ball carrying)
    The other positions aren't really open for any debate: all Welsh front row (huge mistake not to have brought Rory Best and huge pity Murray is injured), Heaslip is the only good no.8 (even if he had one off game behind a back-peddling scrum on Saturday), O'Callaghan and Hines are liabilities.

  • Comment number 56.

    I suspect there will be very few changes to the Team from last week. Jones will rightly come into the front row but Mears will get a 2nd chance. No other changes to the pack from last week - Shaw on the bench. The game will be played at altitude so it won't be 100 mile an hour stuff and strategic kicking will be the order of the day. O Gara though not brilliant to date on tour is the man for this job. He has also played often enough with the BOD to get the best out of him. Shane Williams not the form player but in a one off pressure game like this one give him the shirt and I gurantee he will deliver. Byrne at fullback & Kearney on the bench.

  • Comment number 57.

    I am sure that it was Keith Earls that missed the tackle at the end of the game not Shane Williams, he came flying in and left a man clear on the wing, cause i am sure in that situation its a man for man.

  • Comment number 58.

    I see that Paceywinger (no.17) has got his anti-Wales-pro-Ireland hat on spouting rubbish. It's probably because he can't accept how good the Welsh players are (with the exception of Rees, Powell and Henson of course).

    As I said in yesterdays postings, O'Gara had a good kicking game last night given the conditions, but showed what alot of people have been saying, which is that he cannot control the game with ball in hand. And whilst I am not bringing up this O'Gara vs Jones debate again, I notice that all of those O'Gara supporters who slated Jones for his 2 missed kicks last Saturday, have gone quiet after his miss early in the 1st half. The conditions weren't great, but they were not as bad as they were later in the game. That kick was far, far, far easier than the kicks Jones missed. Why are you not slating O'Gara then? Though I have a feeling that O'Gara is going to start on Saturday. I think everyone will agree that it will be either O'Gara or Jones to start, Hook on the bench.

    Hook cannot control the game, but will make a better impact from the bench than both Jones and O'Gara.

    Powell just showed what everyone thought, not good enough for the test team. Showed slight glimpses of how dangerous he could be in previous 2 outings, but so disappointing (as he was in the 6N).

    The left wingers have not shown enough quality to shine. I think Shane Williams gave his best performance on tour so far (which was not great by the way). He played decently defensively, and kicked reasonably well. He also showed how dangerous he could still be. He side-stepped about 4 players in a small space, which not many players can do, and that can get you tries out of nothing. So is he worth a gamble?

    Whereas Fitzgerald played quite well, and made a good run. Unfortunately, he was one on one with quite some space and he couldn't even side step the player, which would have put him through for a try. He had another opportunity to go past a player whilst defending, but couldn't side step him either. I'm not having a go at Fitz and I feel he and Williams have suffered from poor service and very limited opportunties in terms of ball in hand, but it shows that maybe Williams would give the Lions team that little bit extra finishing power.

  • Comment number 59.

    Nobody seems to be talking about the penalties conceded.
    If DOC hadnt conceded a needless penalty in the last few minutes last night, the ES would not have been able to draw. The first test was lost mainly due to penalties conceded (albeit some down to refs interpretation of the laws. Did we ever get an understanding of whether Vickery was right or wrong from the ref following the match?). If the Lions have any chance on Saturday, then conceding penalties MUST STOP!
    Go LIONS!

  • Comment number 60.

    re ianrushfanclubmember - well you actually made a decent point on the number of tries, but you ruined it by exaggerating.
    Yes wales scored loads of tries in the 2008 six nations, but the only reason for that was that you had an inform shane williams,
    I think you would find that even a puppy with a sore head could play at 10 and have shane williams run in 4 tries against italy.

  • Comment number 61.

    You know what I dont understand is people are all talking up Hook, Shane and Fitzys chances and also saying we need a bench with impact and versatility or choose people on form.

    Did you all watch Flutey last night, his form is great, he showed his versatility and made a massive impact. Im not say start him but Id have him on the bench moving Roberts out to wing to run lines off Flutey and BOD near the end.

  • Comment number 62.

    RE: Lambo68 #32

    Most importantly, where is Tommy Bowe?

    Lets get rid of the negatives first: The whole forward pack was poor on saturday. Jenkins and Croft werent as bad as the other mainly because Croft scored two tries and Jenkins was the best of a bad bunch (front row). The back line was good with only dissapointments Monye and Jones (for the second game in a row). Im a big fan of both players but neither played well enought to keep their place. In Jones' case there is no one better, hook may be more exciting but is no better. Its no coincidence that Jones played 10 four years ago and also starts for Wales. Monye is a fantastic athlete but just isnt switched on enough - yet! Tommy Bowe wasnt poor, he had no ball, the only time he had it was crash balls into a midfield of De Villiers and the back row.

    From the warm up games and performance in the first test the team i would play is..

    15. Kearney - class when he came on, should be rewarded for that.
    14. Bowe - Along with B O'D and JR best players on tour.
    13. O Driscoll
    12. Roberts
    11. Fitzgerald - Desereves a chance, should have been Armitage, could have been halfpenny.

    10. Jones
    9. Phillips - could and maybe should have been Care.

    1. Jenkins
    2. Rees
    3. Jones - should have been Murray
    4. O Callaghan - He is frustrating, awkward, tough, aggressive. Usually the opposition think so to. He is also a fantastic line out technician. If he plays i feel he will also get the best out of O Connell.
    5. O Connell
    6. Croft
    7. Williams/Wallace - i honestly think they contribute the same in different ways
    8. Heaslip - theres no one better, should have been Ferris

  • Comment number 63.

    right okay here it is willygilly's eagerly anticipated 22 for saturdays match...

    i'd first like to discuss a number of issues; first of all james hook - many of you are including him in your 22 because of his ability to slot in anywhere on the back line. full back, centre and out half. in my opinion kearney's ahead of him in full back terms (assuming byrne starts), and our centres are far to good for hook to slot in and 'hope for the best' (anyhow if roberts or bod has to come off i reckon the tour is essentially over). accordingly hook's variety shouldn't get him into the 22 and he can only really be considered as a 10. there will almost certainly there will be changes compared with last week, as many players didn't do enough to show themselves as worthy contenders for a test place. geech's selection will be interesting though. despite what many are saying only few places are certain (i count those of byrne, bowe, bod, roberts, phillips, heaslip, poc and jenkins) few players last night really did enough to prove themselves worthy, although it is logical to suppose at least 1 or 2 is likely to feature on saturday. it will not be easy. even though the lions will be going in on the back foot, i have every confidence that they will be fired up and well prepared for the occasion. the truth is the test series is far from over and there is nothing stopping us form winning those games... as it says in those nike (or was it addidas) commercials 'impossible is nothing'... no matter who puts dons that shirt on saturday we must support and stand by them regardless...

    1. jenkins
    2. rees
    3. a jones
    4. poc
    5. aw jones
    6. croft
    7. williams
    8. heaslip
    9. phillips
    10. rog
    11. fitzgerald
    12. roberts
    13. bod
    14. bowe
    15. byrne

    16. mears
    17. vickery
    18. doc
    19. wallace
    20. ellis
    21. s jones
    22. kearney

    i won't lie guys i'm feeling a hell of a lot less confidant about this 22 than i did last week... fitzgerald is my wild card, as i can't see monye starting again, and s williams has a big chip on his shoulder...

  • Comment number 64.

    Time for the selectors to show their metal and take some tough decisions. Saturday's team should be:
    1 Sherridan - lets get the scrum sorted guys
    2. Ford - In the absence of Rory Best he is the best alternative
    3. Hayes - Murray would have got my vote but unfortunately even a half fit John Hayes is better than the alternative & offers line out possibilities
    4. Shaw (with DOC backing him up from the bench - not some overrated 'lightwieght'
    5. POC (has earned his place)
    6. Croft (well deserved!!)
    7 Wally (only real possibility on last nights non performance of his competition)
    8. Heaslip
    9 Blair (surely there are better scrumhalves sitting at home than this lot)
    10. ROG (we need a controlling outhalf)
    11 Fitzy
    12 Rikki Flutey (unlucky he didn't start againgst the golden Lions which made others look much better than they really are)
    13 BOD (enough said)
    14 Tommy Bowe (Lions best player so far)
    15 Kearney (solid dependable with a great kicking game - lets play more in the BOK'S half)


    16 Mears
    17 Vickery - covers both sides
    18 DOC
    19 Hines (some solid back row cover!!)
    20 Ellis
    21 Earls - lets get some real pace off the bench!!!
    22 Moyne (Ickle has been the most pampered man on the tour but its still 4tries to nil in Ugo's favour!!)

    Most of the rest of the squad should stick to 'wendyball' - that's what Squareplant teaches best!!!

  • Comment number 65.

    Since when has Shane Williams had a big chip on his shoulder...?
    Have I missed some reportage of him criticising other players, saying he is better than everyone, sulking, or saying anything other than "I've done all I can do, so fingers crossed"?
    What nonsense.
    That said, no-one else in the squad seems to have a chip on their shoulder either. I think they all want teh Lions to win first and foremost, as do the fans (I hope).

  • Comment number 66.

    P.S. I'm actually in favour of starting with the same team as last week, bar a Jones/Vickery swap. I've fluctuated on the Monye point and I think it's harsh on the bloke. He was well tackled and they'll have been working on little things like that (i.e. how to hold the ball, keep low, etc)

  • Comment number 67.


    my exageration was my poor excuse for humour!!!

    you ssem to be making a good case for shane's inclusion!!!


    I would have both hook and ROG on bench. Hook as utility cover and at no 10 for last 15 minutes or so if wee need something different and ROG to cover Jones if he's injured early. As ive stated before, there's not much between ROG and Jones, its just that ROG's tendancy to kick good ball really gets on my nerves, especially with the backline we've got. I was screaming at TV yesterday due to the numerous times he did this. Yes I know conditions were bad, I would just like him to take a few more risks and trust those outside him more.

  • Comment number 68.

    I don't know whether this has been said before, Shane Williams was not to blame for last minute try, the 2 outside men were SW and Keith Earls on the outside. If BP has any rugby knowledge he will know that in your 22 you've got to take man on man, SW went for the inside man, unfortunately KE came in off the wing to take the same man leaving the winger a run in, if he had stayed out he would have made the tackle, this is not SW fault it was KE fault. With regards other comments, PV passed it McGeechan to blame for his selection unfortunately, AWJ to stay second row, work rate far higher than POC, who is smashed back every time he carries the ball, Lions should be looking for seconday runners off him if he plays, DW to stay back row, MW second half. Harry Ellis wot a joke, too slow in thought, cant get in Leicester team, only attribute he has is speed. Unfortunately Mike Blair appauling, Phillips need pressure from within, to push him, at present, next sharpest scrum half is SW. ROG sorry defence not good enough, JH to be on bench

  • Comment number 69.

    Ah, redscorpion... that's a very good attempt at trying to wind up Wales supporters... but it's been seen through. Nice try though ;-)
    ha ha (excellent!)

  • Comment number 70.


    agreed. if anyone can find any examples of shane's "big chip on his shoulder", could you show me please!! Met him a couple of times, couldnt hope to meet a nicer humble'r guy.


    you must have the power of mind reading and have been reading his most inner bitter thoughts. Must say he's hiding it well though!!

  • Comment number 71.

    re ianrushfanclubmember
    note : INFORM Shane Williams, pay special attention to the word INFORM

    not the poor excuse for a winger who hasn't scored a single try on this tour,,, yes NOT 1 TRY

    Other players have not scored a try either, but you dont hear every jones, williams and thomas crying for them to be included

  • Comment number 72.

    We must not be confused by the tactics of the S African comments.

    Brit Lions playing to their maximum in a monsoon against Boks who will not represent their country in the upcoming test(s) is a recipe for ruin. They could reveal all the plays and get themselves injured.

    That seems to be what the provincial SA sides have been trying to do;

    It was a miscalculation that the young Boks drew level - but otherwise all is retained for the Test(s.

    Lets see now what happens;

  • Comment number 73.

    Flutey - can't agree there, the wingers never see the ball when he plays. To bring him on and put Roberts on the wing would be an insult to the big man and the dullest thing that's happened on this tour.

    Kearney - not on the wing - he's an excellent full back and that's where he should play. Reference to more grunt needed in the 2nd row did anyone notice who packed down behind Vickery on Saturday - it wasn't the man most people seem intent on replacing.

  • Comment number 74.

    BIGCOALTIT - Ahhh - I would never try to wind up my welsh buddies!! - I just didn't want everyone looking at the tour through 'one eye' and a bad one at that. I just think my selection would have the best chance!! Regardless of selection I'LL be cheering for the predators on Saturday

  • Comment number 75.

    First test musings ...

    I think it's very easy to blame the players on the pitch for what happened in the first hour, but in my mind the blame lies with the poor selection. The scrum was too lightweight and management made the mistakes of 2005 in trusting players who are frankly past their sell by date at this level.

    I know there was talk of not trying to take on the Boks up front, but actually you have to ... if you lose the physical battle then you lose the game, period. What compounded the problem was their lack of courage in making the changes when necessary. I don't think the same mistake will be made again, but we're 1-0 down because of it.

    I think the performance of the backs was very encouraging and if we can gain a platform I fancy us to level the series.

    A quick word in defense of ROG, you don't win a grand slam and two Heineken cups by not knowing what you're doing. With no. 10 there is no where to hide and ROG is a stalward at the position. I'll agree he's no Jonny Wilkinson in the tackle, but he does his share and I'll bet his career lasts longer too!

  • Comment number 76.

    "not the poor excuse for a winger............."

    bit harsh. shane is an exception. its like saying U2 are a poor excuse for a band because they're latest album has flopped!!!

    Have faith my friend (the old star wars quote might be apt for me here " your overconfidence is your weaknes........your faith in your frinds is yours" Im not a friend of shanes but as a welshman think of him as a friend to the nation).

    If shane is given any game time in saturday o'r next saturday's test I absolutely guarantee you all will be forgiven by everyone, even the irish who seem to have something against hum (croke park 2008 perhaps????) For it is written in the books that he shall smite the Boks, and then on the 7th day he will rest!!!!! amen

  • Comment number 77.


    Vickery was going sideways and up, not back. He couldn't take the hit plain and simple ... bad day at the office ...

  • Comment number 78.

    If Simon Shaw wasn't going to last a full game, it's probably because when he is on his work rate is way above the other front five. Each time he has been on the pitch he has made numerous covering tackes that the back row should have been making and if a few of the backs had his handling and off load, the Lions wouldn't have been one down.
    When he comes on there is a noticable difference in the drive coming in set and and open play.

  • Comment number 79.

    Geech should start a rendition of Men Of Harlech before the game. Heck, it worked in 'Zulu'.

  • Comment number 80.

    As an Englishman, I'm behind Shane Williams, hope he starts on Saturday. I thought he had a good game last night, ripped the ball of the ES player and wasn't at fault for their try. I was hoping Andy Powell had a good game last night, plenty of aggression which we need against the Boks, but no good if you turn it over every time. Wondering what else Shaw has to do to be picked, hasn't put a foot wrong and can match any of the Boks for power. We need powerful players to get themselves on top of Botha and Smit, stop them steamrollering our backs. If we can subdue those two, we'll also have Matfield under control, and a half-fit Burger is definitely better than a fully-fit one!

    Unfortunately the 3rd test ref is Stuart "one-eye" Dickinson, so a win on Sat and the series comes down to the last test, either way we're in trouble.

  • Comment number 81.

    One thing I've found shocking about this squad is the lack of handling skills for a lot of the younger players. There is no attempt to keep the ball flowing around the pitch. The All Blacks and the England WC winning team made contact when they had to, not by choice.

  • Comment number 82.

    Surprised at the attacks on Monye, defensively he has been superb, his positioning is spot on, he hasn't dropped a high ball and he's a very strong tackler who is quick to get to his feet to secure turn overs. All of this was demonstrated in his cameo yesterday, Williams by comparison has flaws in all of the above. Monye did little wrong in not taking his chances in the test and his failure to score had more to do with superb defense. I also don't recall him ever being turned over in the tackle, a regular occurrence with Williams.

    My main point is that in the second test the Lions will have to earn the right to cause mayhem in the backs. In the first test they did it because the boks ran out of steam,in the second test they will have to learn the lessons and get parity (at least) up front from the start. Changing 1 prop won't do it, Shaw and Sheridan should play from the start with the aim of wearing down the boks tight five and securing the quality ball the backs will need. Jenkins and AWJ coming on in the second half to press home the advantage.

  • Comment number 83.

    Hines banned for a week - is there any truth that The Simon Shaw fan club of all Sky presenters and pitchside analysts were the reasons behind the citing? Incredibly unbalanced promotion of their favourite chum Shaw last night, quite nauseating actually.

    Keith Earls - excellent break on him, real pace off the mark and eye for a gap. What a shame his basic skills are so mediocre then. I counted I think one catch out of about six last night, plus the other foul ups on tour. May be a rough diamond, time will tell.

    Shane W - if he plays will get pummelled, precisely as he was in 2005. The build up for his debut in the second test was huge, his performance was not.

    Lions pack of Jenkins, Rees, Adam Jones, Shaw, POC, Croft, Heaslip, Wallace then. Um, am I the only one to be petrified at the prospect of that pack lining up against the boks at altitude?

  • Comment number 84.


    Dont at all agree with your selection, but then as a welshman why would I! lol However your attitude is what is needed by all supporters of the lions, regardless who geech decides will play they will have my backing!

    Oh and to the people on some blogs who are talking about an end to the lions.......PLEASE!!! stop talking utter pish!

  • Comment number 85.

    For all u self inflated Wales people...
    Sick to death of Wales players did this and that...what did they do this year? Sweet Fanny adams...
    There is 1 Welsh player good enough for the Irish team at no. 12..
    That's it..Byrne would keep the bench warm while kearney plays rugby !!

  • Comment number 86.

    yea okay comment 65 and 70 read the article entitled 'i gave it my best shot' about your friend s williams, thats what suggests to me that he has a big chip on his shoulder. the very language and words he uses seems to me that he doubts his own ability...

  • Comment number 87.

    ROG shouldn't be near the test team after that performance, for a start he was horrific in defence, got brushed off regularly. Secondly his game is wrong for it, he's your prototypcial kicking 10, which facing a dominant SA pack and lineout is not what the Lions need.

    Jones at 10 with Hook on the bench.

  • Comment number 88.

    The BBC and sky for that matter is so anti Irish. I could hear the British press sharpening their pencils at half time on saturday calling for POC's head. Indeed I would say there was antipathy amongst fans as well. The reporting on this match and blogs sums it up really.

    I thought ROG was very good and Hook (although I rate him generally) effectively threw victory away through inexperience and lack of control.

    People slate both ROG and Hayes which is frankly bizarre given the amount of trophies to their names, two heineken cups, grand slam triple crowns, magners league. Jones was given his chance and he didn't take it and ROG should start for sure. I am astounted that Irish rep in the Lions is weak given Irish success in Europe over the last two seasons.

    I think O'Callaghan should start and so should Fitzgerald. I am afraid M. Williams should be given a go over Wallace

  • Comment number 89.


    Having a chip on ones shoulder and doubting ones ability are not the same thing!

  • Comment number 90.

    what? having a chip on ones shoulder can be defined by the phrase doubting ones own ability... they are exactly the same thing!

  • Comment number 91.

    My appologies, I should not have been so quick to jump in there.

  • Comment number 92.

    Bryan as a reporter, it may advised if you watch the game to see who stepped in for the ESA to score, it was Keith Earls on the outside and Shane was defending inside him. So as for Shane stepping in too early to let there winger score, I think not. While I'm on the subject of Shane all this rubbish about him being out of form, lets see him with half the ball the other wingers have had, and we'll see who's out of form.
    For the loions to win we need a fast paced game, which means the other welsh Williams needs to start. It's too late to say we need to change Saturday afternoon after we've lost!

  • Comment number 93.


    two grand slams in 100+ plus years of rugby and its gone to your head!! Us welsh have always been a bit deluded when it comes to rugby, now the irish (not all of you, just the glory seeking bandwagon jumping variety)seem to have joined us at the table. your coment regardin how many of the welsh team would get into yours is hilarious, keep it up. Irish rugby is on a high now, and good on you, I had a great laugh down in Cardiff for the decider this year with you, but calm down mate, dont let it go to your head or you'll be spouting a lot of rubish about your team!! oh dear to late!!!!

  • Comment number 94.

    RedScorpion post 64

    Have you been having a dab of some colombian marching powder?

    Your starting team for the 2nd test is bizarre to say the least. I know it's the point of a blog such as this for people like us to agree and disagree, but your team selection is hard to justify in several places. Your front row is completely wrong for starters. People seem to think that Sheridan is god's answer to scrummaging. I myself an English, and have watched Sheridan hospitalise a couple of aussie props in the past, but more recently he was done over in the autumn international against Australia, and the fact that he has a sore back means that he is a potential liability for the test. It is widely known that Sheridan is the strongest member on tour, and this would undoubtedly help in to hold a scrum up, but his height is an issue. Either way it is inconceiveable that Jenkins will be dropped. He is a fine scrummager himself and his workrate around the pitch is exemplary.
    Having Ross Ford as starting hooker is again lunacy. His throwing in the line-out is as haphazard as everyone else, yesterday he was looping the ball into the line-outs in an almost hopeful manner. He was only called into the tour due to an injury to Flannery so I can't see him displacing Rees or Mears. The loosehead position will surely go to Adam Jones. Although he was playing against a tired SA pack when he came on, he is another renowned scrummager, and his force at ruck-time is well regarded. He hits hard and his fitness has improved so as I see it, the front row will be an all welsh affair, with probably two out of Rees, Vickery and Sheridan on the bench.
    The second row will stay the same. As I said in another blog yesterday, McGeechan picked the pack he did for the first test because he knew that trying use Lions grunt against SA grunt would be a waste of the type of players we have. Instead he opted for a mobile pack who could hold their own at set-piece (obviously that didn't go entirely to plan with Vickery and the Ref's efforts combined), but in the loose we could see that our forwards had the edge in terms of fitness, and equally our backrow performed well at ruck time, in comparison to what we saw in the warm-up games where we turned over massive amounts of ball to the opposition.
    I believe we should stick to the same sort of style, i.e a mobile, athletic and technically good pack, and hence I see the only changes coming with Adam Jones at Prop, and possibly Rees at hooker.
    I see the backline staying exactly the same. No-one's come close to rivalling Phillips. Blair has been given a shocking lack of opportunity, but that's life and he wouldn't offer anything different to Ellis on the bench. The management should also stick with Jones at fly-half, a) because he is the best defensive fly-half, b) because he has the best understanding with our centre pairing, and c) because ROG and Hook haven't done nearly enough to displace him.
    Your crazy if you want to replace Roberts with Flutey. Admittedly Flutey was one of the bright stars in the game last night, but the lack of game-time with BOD would be a huge concern, and besides, Roberts has already proven how dangerous he can be against the Boks. Nothing needs to be said about Byrne and Bowe, Kearney is also excellent and is a great man to have on the bench, the only questionably position is on the wing. Monye deserved his first test start, and didn't have a great game. But I am tired of hearing people call for Shane Williams to be given a chance. There's been so much chat about how he hasn't seen the ball and would certainly have converted Monye's opportunity but we will never know if that would have been the case or not. Neither him nor Fitz put their hands up last night to stake a claim, so it looks like Monye will keep his place with Williams on the bench.

    So that's my starting team sorted, the bench will include Sheridan, Mears, Ellis, Hook, Kearney, S williams and M Williams. I understand that doesn't include a second row sub, but if needs be then Croft can slot in at 4 or 5, as he has done for Leicester. Thoughts on all that?

  • Comment number 95.

    Funny how people keep saying that they support all members of the lions team and then go out and slag of keith earls because he *might* have been at fault for a try but theres no way that king shane williams could ever have made a mistake. Having looked at other sites to try and find other angles I say one which showed both williams and earls rushing but then williams stopped, leaving earls a little stranded, he did make a mistake as well in chosing his man but he must have thought williams was going to take the other guy so its hard to critise him. Other than that I think earls played very well, despite the odd moment, and if the lions lose this weekend they might throw him on in the final test (bench) and tell him to go mad.
    As for shane, i've never really rated him and i wouldnt even put him in my list of top 10 back 3 players in the world. I admit he has had one or two very good seasons but this year he's been very very poor and shouldnt be on the tour never mind the team. As for those who say its because he's not getting enough ball, then why doesn't he go looking for it like Bowe?
    Similarly I've got no idea why shaw is in SA, he must tell good jokes or something because he's the biggest donkey in world rugby, narrowly beatting the equally useless worsley. Shame hines is gone as he was playing well, but i guess it was dangerous.

    1. Jenkins
    2. Rees (even if I think his lineouts are a bit dodgy)
    3. A.Jones (simply for his performance when he came on in the 1st test)
    4. POC (is doing the unseen work for his team)
    5. A.W.Jones
    6. Croft (in the absense of ferris, but needs to do some ground work, not just supporting runners)
    7. Williams (just edges it because he links well with the backs and can win more ball)
    8. Heaslip (a poor mans pierre spies but the best we've got in the home nations)

    9. Phillips (no other option)
    10. Hook (He's not as good as S.Jones or ROG but for the type of gameplan needed to defeat the boks he's the most likely to suceed at it)
    11. Fitzy (in form, despite the odd defencive lapse)
    12. Roberts (proved himself to be world class on this tour)
    13. BOD (replace the B with a G)
    14. Bowe (superb form)
    15. Byrne (if injured Kearney - both fantastic)

    16. Ford (size)
    17. Sheridan (scrum)
    18. DOC (to help POC)
    19. Wallace (covers all positions)
    20. Blair (not on form I admit but give him a pack going forward and he might do something)
    21. S.Jones
    22. Kearney

  • Comment number 96.

    Shane W pummelled in 2005? I think the running amok against SA 'in' SA last year is more recnt. Was he pummelled then?
    I think the Boks will be relieved he's not playing. But I'm sure they'd under-estimate him if he does play, which would be perfect for the Lions I think. We need a few distractions. If they have to man-mark Shane like they were man-marking BOD last Saturday, then there will be gaps aplenty for the superior Lions back line.
    No-one in SA team needs man-marking... not even Brian who, much as I love the guy, was getting very stroppy and frustrated. We need more of that. De-Villiers was their only shining light.
    Hey - did anyone notice Botha threaten to hit BOD on the floor? Talk about not picking on someone your own size. And then he didn't do it. I'm sure BOD will willing him to try it next game (just not too hard...) and get him sent off. What a pillock!

  • Comment number 97.

    Lads any idea when the team is going to be announced? Suspense is killing me

  • Comment number 98.

    When ever ye try to defend Shane Williams its always last year last year, I think last year may have been the exception rather than the rule as to Williams ability.
    I don't particularly remember him being consistently brilliant and having a bad year this year, it seems more like being consistently average and having a blinder last year.

  • Comment number 99.


    I think redscorpion7 was trying to wind up the large welsh contingent on this blog with his team selection.

  • Comment number 100.

    59 CouchNeep

    Actually it was Monye that gave away that penalty. Probably another reason why he should be out of the test side. Last 2 minutes all they had to do was keep defending, let them have the ball if necessary and let them make the mistakes on a terrible night for running rugby, but Monye came in off his feet. ES gained 20 or 30 metres for a 5 metre line out and a couple of phases later scored the try.

    O'Callaghan to be fair to him was doing a great job at the breakdown as he had all night. He was on his feet and contesting the ball. When the ref blew, he got up absolutely bewildered and obviously asked the ref what the hell was that for. The ref said the winger (Monye) came in off his feet. O'Callaghan must have been furious, there was absolutely no reason for Monye to do that especially as he couldn't get it right and offered nothing to winning the ball anyway.


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