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The possible Lions Test squad

2009-04-20 15:32

Johannesburg - Expect a pack of strong, aggressive scrummagers and some good lineout forwards, backs who are solid but probably not electrifying and a solidity which is a byproduct of the methodical and comprehensive planning of British and Irish Lions coach Ian McGeechan when he announces the side for the tour to South Africa on Tuesday.

Also expect more Irish players and less from Wales following Munster's demolition of the Ospreys a week ago and a leaning towards present form rather than historical deeds of greatness.

One of those who could fall by this approach is last year's IRB Player of the Year, Shane Williams, who has not been a shadow of the 2008 try machine this year.

Wales captain Ryan Jones is another who seems to have peaked at the wrong time, and other great names such as Jonny Wilkinson - injured since September last year - Gavin Henson, devastating at his best but also injured and with an average season behind him, and even Scotland scrumhalf Mike Blair may not be read out to join the squad.

Williams, however, might be saved by the lack of flair and penetration in the backline. His combination with Wales fullback Lee Byrne could secure a place after a not so great season.

The Lions selection process has not been a smooth exercise. There are a number of injuries which, coupled with the lack of form of some players previously regarded as certainties , will see McGeechan and his co-selectors still debate the final eight or so positions on Tuesday morning.

Most of these vacancies will be behind the scrum. Up front the Lions will be able to call on a tight five that could be a considerable improvement on the 1997 pack that boasted the great Martin Johnson.

The 2009 squad will have Paul O'Connell, his Irish lock-mate Donncha O'Callaghan and Alun-Wyn Jones to provide some bulk and agro. Andrew Sheridan and Gethin Jenkins are two more than solid looseheads who will exploit the dearth of good Springbok tightheads, and on the right hand of the British scrum Adam Jones, Scotland's strong man Euan Murray and veteran Phil Vickery will provide a formidable challenge.

The Brits don't have a high opinion of South Africa's current crop of scrummagers, and they will no doubt try and exploit this with good front rowers who can dominate rather than disrupt as they did on tours gone by when the Boks were still the scrumming leaders of the world.

The big Bok runners like Pierre Spies/Ryan Kankowski, Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and even tight forwards such as Bismarck du Plessis and Victor Matfield will play a role in the type of loose forwards selected as part of the Lions' combination. Joe Worsley should, for that particular reason, be in the side.

There are a number of wings who would do well on the hard South African fields, too many solid if somewhat unimaginative flyhalves that could see McGeechan bring only two instead of the expected three, and solid rather than impressive centres where Riki Flutey, Jamie Roberts and Gordon D'Arcy could get the nod with Brian O'Driscoll.

The Irish captain is playing a more flat but equally effective game, and has added to his and his team's armour with the way he now fulfills an extra loose forward's role at the point of breakdown.

The side will be selected by McGeechan. There will be input from his coaching staff but his will be the decision on who goes and who stays.

The Lions Test XV could look something like this:

15 Lee Byrne (WAL), 14 Tommy Bowe (IRE), 13 Brian O'Driscoll (captain) (IRE), 12 Riki Flutey (ENG), 11 Shane Williams (WAL), 10 Ronan O'Gara (IRE), 9 Mike Phillips (WAL), 8 Jamie Heaslip (IRE), 7 Joe Worsley (WAL), 6 Tom Croft (ENG), 5 Paul O'Connell (IRE), 4 Donncha O'Callaghan (IRE), 3 Euan Murray (SCO), 2 Jerry Flannery (IRE), 1 Gethin Jenkins (WAL)

Replacements: 16 Lee Mears (ENG), 17 Phil Vickery (ENG), 18 Alun-Wyn Jones (WAL), 19 David Wallace (IRE), 20 Tomas O'Leary (IRE), 21 Stephen Jones (WAL), 22 Luke Fitzgerald (IRE)

There are many, many more to select from, but McGeechan's remaining 14 players - if he picks 36 instead of 35, which he is expected to do -will probably include a number of the following players: Adam Jones, Geordan Murphy, Ryan Jones, Martyn Williams, Gethin Jenkins, David Wallace, Keith Earls, Tommy Bowes, Delon Armitage, Harry Ellis, Marcus Horan, Leigh Halfpenny, Stephen Ferris, Mark Cueto, Ross Ford, Tom Shanklin, James Hook and Nathan Hines.

The team will be announced at 2.30pm SA time and the announcement will be screened live on SS1.

SAPA

Comments
  • gam vannie kaap - 2009-04-20 18:27

    The bok machine to look as follows 15) S Tereblance 14)J Nokwe 13) J Fourie 12) J de Villiers or Adi Jacobs 11) JP Pietersen 10) M Steyn 9) F du Preez 8) P Spies 7) Juan Smith 6) H Brussow 5) B Botha 4) V Matfield 3) Beast 2) John Smit 1) J du Plessis. The bench 2 comprise B du Plessis, H van der Merwe, D Rossouw, Schalk Burger, R Pienaar, F Steyn, B Habana . I hope Pieter Div is reading this article. I will put money on the table that the aforementioned side will kick butt, since it got the right balance and experience. And for goodness shake Pieter Div, we cannot afford to play WITHOUT a reliable goal kicker - if 3 points r up for the taking we should capitilize.

  • Steph Australia - 2009-04-21 07:47

    Morne Steyn is not a reliable goal kicker people, he has kicked on average below 60% and that is not international standards. Wake up and smell the roses he is not a good kicker under pressure and I am a Bulls supporter but the guy stinks as a kicker.

  • Jonathan - 2009-04-21 08:24

    I disagree. Although Tereblanche is playing good rugby he wont out place Janjes. 15)Jantjes 14) JP Pieterson 13)J Fourie 12) J De Veilliers 11)O Ndungane 10) R Pienaar 9) F Du Preez 8) P Spies 7) J Smit 6) S Burger 5) V Matfield 4) B Botha 3) J Du Plessis 2) J Smith (c) 1) Beast. The bench will have to include puke watson as he is playing good rugby, kockott as he is the second best number 9 in the country and the forwards will be the likely suspects with Steyn the last backline bench warmer

  • pfs in CT - 2009-04-21 08:26

    Sorry for pointing out a small (i am sure it just this) typo, but Joe Worsley is NOT from Wales, he is as English as they come.... This team - if they can gell in time - will at current form seriously kick butt, but the Bokke should be able to cope on the form they achieved end of last year. That is if we do not make the same brainless choices like (inexperienced) Rose when we sit with a number of better players.

  • gam vannie kaap - 2009-04-21 10:51

    I dont care who plays flyhalf as long as he can secure us 3 points every time the opportunity presents itself. If Morne cant kick, who else should Pieter Div consider? Ruan is brilliant with ball in hand, but he is not a goal kicker and thats a HUGE problem. B James might be another option, but we all know Pieter Div is not going to consider overseas players. That leaves us with the conservative M Steyn. From all the flyhalves in the country he is also the best tactical kicker and he is reasonably solid on defence. I cannot say that of the other flyhalves in SA. I rest my case Mr Steph Australia. The Lions are going to play a conservative game and the Boks wont get the chance to easily score tries. DONT LET HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF. We all know what happenend on the last Lions Tour

  • Anonymous User - 2009-04-21 10:51

    I suppose saying Joe Worsely comes from Wales is like saying Paul O'Connell comes from Scotland!

  • gammie vannie kaap - 2009-04-21 10:58

    Jonathan. Who will handle the goal kicking duties and your proposed test team. Surely not Ruan! He couldnt even do that for the Sharks. The Boks will lose if they think they can win the Lions with an expansive game plan. Ruan can replace M Steyn in the last 15 mins of the match to provide us with better attacking options. Without a reliable Kicker we we will loose. The success of the world cup team was also based around a good goal kicker. When will SA supporters learn?

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