Munster lock Donncha O’Callaghan captains a new look Lions against the Southern Kings tomorrow, with suggestions hinting that those starting may have missed out on selection for the first test on Saturday.
Ian McGeechan appears to have dropped a Test team hint by resting a number of players from Saturday’s match against Western Province. Despite assertions from the coaching team that the Test team will be decided after Tuesday’s game, the exclusion of many first choice players suggests that the team is already nailed down.
But McGeechan insisted: “I’ve been up front with the players from the word go. They know we will not be picking the Test team until this final game is finished.”
Simon Shaw partners O’Callaghan in the second row in what could be a battle for the number 18 shirt. Nathan Hines meanwhile gets an opportunity to impress at blindside flanker, with Joe Worsley switched to openside. Andy Powell backs up at number 8, suggesting that he’s lost his fight with Jamie Heaslip for the coveted Test spot.
Meanwhile, in the front row, Andy Sheridan looks to have lost out to Gethin Jenkins for the loose head berth, but both Sheridan and Euan Murray – who starts at tight head – will be keen to show their worth in order to make the bench. Similarly, Ross Ford gets another opportunity to push his claim for the Test team.
The backline is also somewhat experimental. Riki Flutey starts at 13, to make room for Gordon D’Arcy at 12, who makes his first start of the tour. Meanwhile, Keith Earls switches from 13 to fullback, with Shane Williams and Luke Fitzgerald filling the wing spots. Mike Blair will hope to shake off injury to play at scrum half, whilst James Hook gets another opportunity at fly-half.
Can anyone in this team push for a Test spot? Is selection for this game a poison chalice? As always, let us know your thoughts.
Lions team: K Earls (Munster & Ireland); S Williams (Ospreys & Wales), R Flutey (Wasps & England), G D’Arcy (Leinster & Ireland), L Fitzgerald (Leinster & Ireland), J Hook (Ospreys & Wales), M Blair (Edinburgh & Scotland); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks & England), R Ford (Edinburgh & Scotland), E Murray (Northampton & Scotland), S Shaw (Wasps & England), D O’Callaghan (Munster & Ireland) (capt), N Hines (Perpignan & Scotland), J Worsley (Wasps & England), A Powell (Cardiff Blues & Wales).
Replacements: M Rees (Scarlets & Wales), A Jones (Ospreys & Wales), T Croft (Leicester Tigers & England), D Wallace (Munster & Ireland), H Ellis (Leicester Tigers & England), R O’Gara (Munster & Ireland), U Monye (Harlequins & England).