Lions team to face Sharks

The fourth tour game this Wednesday sees the Lions run out against the Natal Sharks in Durban. McGeechan’s policy of mixing up his selections has continued as Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Roberts renew their fruitful partnership in a team with only four survivours from Saturday’s 26-24 defeat of the Free State Cheetahs.

Traditionally, the Lions coaches have opted to pick their Test side for the Saturday match, in this case against Western Province, the week before the first test to improve team continuity. However, with McGeechan picking almost sure starters in Paul O’Connell, Brian O’Driscoll, Jamie Roberts and Lee Byrne for the Natal match, it looks like the Test side will not get a run out as a XV prior to the first test.

Paul O’Connell (who packs down with his third second row partner in Alun Wyn Jones) leads the side, with Luke Fitzgerald, Shane Williams, and Lee Byrne all backing up following the narrow defeat of the Cheetahs on Saturday with fit again Riki Flutey making the bench.

The successful back-row combination of Tom Croft, David Wallace and Jamie Heaslip get another chance to lay down a marker for selection. However, McGeechan’s tinkering continues in the half backs, with Mike Phillips and Ronan O’Gara starting for the first time together. Meanwhile, in the front row, Lee Mears hooks between the two Welsh props, Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones.

McGeechan’s selection has kept everyone guessing, however, the unflappable Scot is throwing caution to the wind.

“We will try to get combinations together but as a XV it is unlikely they will have played as a XV before the first Test match,” McGeechan said.

“That is not a problem because everyone is doing the same things at training, we are working at the same things and everyone knows exactly what their role is meant to be.

“It has to be about us and what we want to try to be come the first Test. There are some risks, I am aware of that but I think the opportunities and the strength we get out of it as a squad far outweighs that.”

What do you think?

Lions team: L Byrne (Ospreys & Wales); S Williams (Ospreys & Wales), B O’Driscoll (Leinster & Ireland), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues & Wales), L Fitzgerald (Leinster & Ireland); R O’Gara (Munster & Ireland), M Phillips (Ospreys & Wales); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues & Wales), L Mears (Bath & England), A Jones (Ospreys & Wales), A-W Jones (Ospreys & Wales), P O’Connell (Munster & Ireland) (capt), T Croft (Leicester & England), D Wallace (Munster & Ireland), J Heaslip (Leinster & Ireland).

Replacements: M Rees (Scarlets & Wales), P Vickery (Wasps & England), S Shaw (Wasps & England), J Worsley (Wasps & England), M Blair (Edinburgh & Scotland), R Flutey (Wasps & England), L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues & Wales).

7 thoughts on “Lions team to face Sharks

  1. The big question is whether POC will make the tests even though he is the captain. In his appearances to date he has dissapointed and the likes of Hines have outshone him. Unless he pulls it out the bag on Wednesday I think AW-J and Hines should be the second row.

  2. POC has played in two “weaker selection ” sides and was the best forward in the first and one of the better ones in the second (with Ferris) a bit early to write off the tour captain not in Ciaran Fitzgerald class yet .Having said that Wyn Jones and Hines were very effective last Wednesday.

    Shane gets another chance in a better side the management are as desperate to see him find form as he is by all accounts.

    Flutey covering outside half so ROG to get a full run out , suggests the same for Stephen Jones on Saturday with Jones and O’Gara mix and matching for the tests . Phillips will start the tests so he needs to play with O’Gara at some time.Bowe probably the best chance to otherwise get into the backline.

    All the front rowers have gone well of the hookers Mears has found the line-out jumpers more consistently some (well Brian Moore not the biggest hooker himself ) say his size is against him.

  3. And there’s me thinking it was the cricket season. Did you back the Derby winner tho’ Uncle Mat? I got that all wrong, but the Oaks winner won, even with my tenner on it

  4. With a solid defence a must for the strike runners out wide it’s gotta be Fitzy to start the first Test. LF to make Shane Williams look like Shane from Boyzone tomorrow night. A hero indeed and a Lions Legend in the making. Get that into ya!

  5. Throw in Euan Murray at tighthead and Martin Williams at Openside and that’s your starting pack. Replace the two wings with Monye and Bowe and that’s your backline.

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