Lions team for first Test

After weeks of speculation, and the discussion of several connotations by rugby fans and analysts across the globe, the wait is finally over.

Ian McGeechan has named his 22 man squad for the first test against South Africa on Saturday, with few raised eyebrows following the tourists’ 6 match unbeaten run in the run-up to the tests.

The key areas of contention were those of the openside flanker, and left wing positions, which will be filled by David Wallace and Ugo Monye respectively.

Wallace continues his family’s fine Lions tradition, and will be hoping to emulate his brother Paul in securing victory against the World Champions South Africa. Monye, meanwhile caps a remarkable rise to fame with his selection ahead of Luke Fitzgerald and Shane Williams on the wing.

Alun Wyn Jones partners captain Paul O’Connell in the second row, with Donncha O’Callaghan providing cover from the bench following a dynamic performance against the Southern Kings on Tuesday.

The Welsh combination of Mike Phillips and Stephen Jones will hope to continue in it’s prosperous form on Saturday, and with Jamie Roberts and Brian O’Driscoll in the centres, the Springboks have a combatitive three-quarters to contend with. The backline is completed by Lee Byrne at fullback.

Meanwhile, in the pack, Tom Croft starts at 6, despite not even being included in the original touring squad, and the back row is completed by Jamie Heaslip, who fended off a late charge for the number 8 shirt from Andy Powell. The front row consists of three time test capped Gethin Jenkins (2005) and Phil Vickery (2001), and Lee Mears at hooker.

Two notable omissions from the squad are Shane Williams – the current IRB Player of the Year, and Andrew Sheridan. Welsh prop Adam Jones has been preferred to Sheridan as he can cover both the loose and tight head positions.

Coach Ian McGeechan highlighted how difficult the decision was,
There were two notable omissions from the match 22 with no place on the bench for winger Shane Williams, the 2008 world player of the year, or England prop Andrew Sheridan.

“The Test team has been picked on form following the six provincial matches,” said Lions head coach Ian McGeechan.

“There were some very difficult calls to make as the players as a group and individually have done everything that we have asked of them and performed on the field.

“It has been 20 years since a Lions team has won all of its provincial matches leading up to the Test series so it is very satisfying to be in such a position.

“The entire squad and the management have worked hard to create an outstanding team environment. Everyone has done this very professionally and it is fair to say that I would not change anything that we have done so far.

“There’s no doubt South Africa are probably the best team in the world at the moment, they’re very talented, have a settled coaching team and play quite a varied game, from strength and power to subtlety and speed – we’re under no illusions how good they are.”

Meanwhile, captain Paul O’Connell heaped praise on those not selected, “The way the guys have reacted is great, a tour hinges on moments like this and Test selections,” he said. “It’s not only how the Test players react to to selection but how the others react to not being picked.

“This is the big start of the tour, the atmosphere in the squad is what’s going to be carry us through the next three weeks – it’s been good so far.

“I’d imagine it’ll be an emotional changing room (on Saturday), something we’ve spoken about is how special is it.

“At the start of the tour we’d have said we’re proud of our club and proud of our country, but this is the greatest jersey we can pull on.

“We’ve got great pace in the backline and a very fit front five. There’s no doubt we’ll need things to got our way, as any tour does, but if we put together a good 80 minutes, no doubt we can win.”

What do you think? Is this the team to bounce back from heartache in 2001 and 2005?

British and Irish Lions team to play South Africa in the first Test in Durban on Saturday:
L Byrne (Wales and Ospreys); T Bowe (Ireland and Ospreys), B O’Driscoll (Ireland and Leinster), J Roberts (Wales and Cardiff Blues), U Monye (England and Harlequins); S Jones (Wales and Scarlets), M Phillips (Wales and Ospreys); G Jenkins (Wales and Cardiff Blues), L Mears (England and Bath), P Vickery (England and Wasps), Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales and Ospreys), P O’Connell (Ireland and Munster, capt), T Croft (England and Leicester), D Wallace (Ireland and Munster), J Heaslip (Ireland and Leinster).

Replacements: M Rees (Wales and Scarlets), A Jones (Wales and Ospreys), D O’Callaghan (Ireland and Munster), M Williams (Wales and Cardiff Blues), H Ellis(England and Leicester), R O’Gara (Ireland and Munster), R Kearney (Ireland and Leinster).

14 thoughts on “Lions team for first Test

  1. Maybe Powel and S.Williams should have been on the bench, if the Lions are down a score or two with ten minutes to go, these would have been my choice to bring on. Unlucky M.Williams, but I’m sure he’ll have a run on come Saturday.

  2. Well done to The Rugby Blog selection panel. Got the starting XV spot on.

    Pretty happy although worried that the scrum could be underpowered. Don’t think we’ll make too many inroads on their lineout so getting a good foothold in the scrum will be crucial. Thought we may look to dominate a bit more. I hope Wyn-Jones jumps against Matfield but don’t think he will. We also need to make good use of Croft, although not easy at the tail against Juan Smith.

    Think we’ve got the edge in the backs if Mike Phillips plays well.

    Not too much game-changing stuff on the bench, pretty much like-for-like. Martyn Williams is the only one who might offer something different. Think it’s the right call to start with Wallace though.

  3. Agree with Stuart’s comments.

    Our pack will need to gain ascendancy in the scrums which i think they will do but where we’ll struggle (and we’ve all known this from the start) is the lineout. We have to compete for their ball and be secure on ours. Big pressure on Lee Mears who will need to have the game of his life.

    If Mike Phillips can get close to Du Preez and disrupt his service slightly and Stephen Jones nails his kicks, both in open play and from penalties, we may be able to frustrate the Boks enough to keep the score low. Any wayward kicks will result in drop goal attempts from Steyn so we also need him to have an off day!


  4. I like it, the most excited I have been since 2001!

    The only starting XV gripe, I would have picked a 2nd row partnering of Hines and AWJ, with Shaw on the bench. Would have been nice to have had a Scot in the 22, and Hines has undoubtedly played better than O’Connell in my opinion. Finally, I can’t see any merit in having Rees on the bench, nor Ford. 1 key job, throw in straight. If you can’t throw in straight you would be expected to at bring something else to the field. Neither do, neither should be on tour (granted you have to have one of them on the bench, I probably would have gone with Ford as he is a bit lardier).

  5. Have to say, on paper, it’s a very good team. Still concerned the pack is too lightweight, but as long as we commit to the breaks downs, secure ball, compete and win our line outs and scrums, this could be a very close game. Definitely think our backs are better and so hoping they’ll be able provide us all with a very entertaining game on saturday. Not sure why Rees and O’callaghan have been picked over Ford and Shaw/Hines, but I’ll put my trust into the selectors choices. So bloody excited!!!

  6. Gethin Jenkins can play tight and loose head but I can’t say I’ve ever seen Adam change sides though I stand to be corrected.Gethin has a supercharged engine so hardly ever comes off the more likely scenario is Adam on for Vicary at about 55 minutes in.

    Otherwise on form that side is about it with Martyn Williams probably the unluckiest player not to start . It could be argued that the bench lacks impact Powell ,Sheridan and Shane could give some different options at least to change a game Hook too if he was fit.

    Heres hoping anyway.

  7. Nugget the most unfortunate player on 3rd rock from the sun. can’t believe it, hope Geech has thought it through.
    Vickery plays both sides as does Jenkins.
    Can’t have any nationality in the side because we ‘OUGHT’ to I agree Hines was on the verge of selection but not because he’s the sole representative!?!?
    Shaw did his level best last game but let’s remember who He is……………….
    the current thread seems to be about No2, if you can go back to my post about May, I picked at hooker an other with on the bench any one from 3rd Div or above!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    That’s how bereft of 2’s we are.
    but saying all that ROAR Lions.

  8. Man this is exciting. For me the biggest game since the 2003 RWC final.

    You have to feel good about the back line. Jones has something to prove in my book (and I hope he does) but is the right choice. 11-15 looks strong with true world class at every position. Would have been nice to see Earls on the bench to roll the dice in the later stages.

    Hate to end on a negative note, but can’t help feeling like we are clear underdogs. It’s going to take something special, a real step up from what we’ve seen so far. Just as we thought in 97…

  9. If Earls get’s anywhere near a Lions test jersey then I’m switching my allegiance to baseball.

    Enormously overexcited.

  10. Sounds a bit drastic Stuart. Hell of a commitment given the number of games they play, and let’s face it, the only game in the world more boring than cricket.

  11. Think they’ve made the right selection in the backs, although only because Phillips and Jones are the best we have available, not because they are world class.
    As for Shane Williams, sorry, but he had a very poor 6 Nations and has not recovered his form thus far. I wouldn’t have selected him for the tour and, frankly, he’s not even good enough for the midweek side, let alone the Test side.
    Lions possible advantages over the Boks:
    1) scrummaging low (but only if the ref is interested in applying the laws relating to scrums)
    2) the throw to Croft at the back of the lineout (if Mears brings his best throwing arm to the party)
    3) Jones’ goal-kicking (and O’Gara’s if he replaces SJ)
    4) O’Driscoll
    5) Byrne
    Boks possible advantages:
    1) the lineout (with the possible exception of the tail)
    2) distribution from half-back
    3) Du Preez’s box-kicking
    Shalk Burger is a big loss for them. Broussow looked good against the Lions, but he wasn’t up against Wallace or Williams, if I remember right?
    Lastly, whoever wins the place-kicking duel will probably win the game.

  12. Scoreline was close, but SA won the battle easily. Scrums (pre Adam Jones) were the game decider. While Ugo M was very close a couple of times, I think Luke F creates more opportunities. and is probably a better kicker. I hope Phillips limits his use of the short side in the second test.
    Should we have taken the three pointer rather than Phillips go himself, with 11 minutes left? he didn’t seem to even look at O’Connell.
    Steven Jones should leave the kicking to wing to someone else.
    Could Croft play second row for last 20 minutes, and have another impact backrower on the bench.?
    Lots of questions for the esteemed management structure to ponder.

  13. As I said yesterday: “only if the ref is interested in applying the laws relating to scrums.”
    Well, he wasn’t, was he? He let the SA loosehead bore in on Vickery the whole first half and penalised Vickery instead! Not only did it cost the Lions field position, SA were able to kick 9 points from the resulting penalties.
    A big problem in top level rugby union is that no refs have played front row themselves and thus have no idea how to ref the scrums. Not much we can do about that but can I make one suggestion? When the scrum is within 20-25 metres of the touchline the ref should stand on the openside, leaving the touch judge to ref the short side. Otherwise, as things stand we have the ref standing on the blind side, relying on a touch judge 50 or 60 metres away to see what’s going on on the open side (international pitches are 70m wide). Just a thought.
    Des, sorry, but I think FitzG would have been out of his depth today. Monye and Bowe are still the stand-out wingers. I thought all the Lions backs looked good, except for Byrne too often running into contact when he could have kicked (maybe he was told to play that way) and Phillips’ still woefully slow delivery from the breakdown. Only way for Jones to leave the kicking to wing to someone else is for ROG to play instead. This also applies to the goal kicking. Unfortunately, this will make the centres less effective as Jones is willing to play much closer to the gain line than ROG. So, some tough selection decisions in the offing, none more so than at 2nd row where the Lions were utterly outclassed.

  14. The Doc is exactly right about the scrum the “Beast” was in fact beastly with his boring in and pushing upwards rather than straight and forwards. I take the point about never playing in the front row but I haven’t either and if I and everyone with me could see what was going on why couldn’t an alleged international class referee.Take those penalties away or better still reverse them and you can work out what effect that might have had on the result.

    It would be harsh to blame Vicary for the refs failings but still the front row that finished the game had more bite about it than the one that started . Mears didn’t show up at all and his major plus point of accuracy of throwing in at the lineouts went for a burton too , I’m afraid Brian Moore’s too small comment proved right.

    Plus points were thelast 20 minutes ,if they can start like that next week then there is a chance. THey made more try scoring opportunities overall , but didn’t take them all due to cute Sprinbok defending . A pity about the two penalties that were missed too.

    Overall the South Africans looked like what they were a well drilled and settled international side , the LIons appeared to have just as talented indiviiduals if not more so particularly in the backs but haven’t got the “team ” experience to match.

Comments are closed.