Archive for Lions Rugby
CONOR WARD takes a look at the Irish touring contingent and their chances of making the side to face the might of the South African when the Test series kicks off on Saturday week
The Lions have been in South Africa for just over a fortnight, but on such a short tour management will soon be looking to piece together their starting Test side. And it’s been a case of varying fortunes for the Irish boys thus far. So without further ado, let’s take a look at their chances at this stage of the tour…
Tommy Bowe – A standout performer on tour so far. His enormous impact in the opening two games yielded three tries, which places the Ospreys man in a very strong position for Test selection at this stage. Bowe is also a popular figure who finds himself in the midst of international as well as club colleagues on this trip. With Shane Williams failing badly to find his form, the momentum is with Bowe and he will be raring to go against the Boks.
Gordon D’Arcy – Despite some damage to his reputation at the tail-end of the 2005 tour (some so-called experts proclaimed that D’Arcy would never wear a Lions jersey again), McGeechan and co have seen fit to call on his services to enhance their midfield options. Forget the rumour and idle gossip – a player of D’Arcy’s calibre belongs on a Lions tour. That said, D’Arcy has too much ground to make up to get in contention for a Test place having belatedly joined the party. Jamie Roberts, with one star turn after another, should have the inside centre berth nailed down now.
Keith Earls – The Limerick youngster’s tour got off to the worst possible start as he endured a torrid opening period against the Royal XV, apparently suffering from a bad case of nerves. Against that backdrop, his classy early try against the Cheetahs on Saturday was all the sweeter. That score was a good demonstration of Earls’ fine footwork. Even with all his talent though, it’s difficult to see a player of such limited international experience playing anything more than a backup role in a physically grueling test series.
Luke Fitzgerald – Was done no favours by his selection out of position at inside centre in an overall lightweight backline which struggled against the Cheetahs. At least he survived the game competently enough and, to their credit, management gave Fitzgerald his head on the wing against the Sharks in Durban. The Leinster livewire didn’t disappoint as he struck for a try in a decent all round display. He has the requisite quality for the Tests and is now knocking on the door.
Rob Kearney – With his form little more than average going back as far as the Six Nations, Kearney doesn’t make a strong case for selection ahead of consistently excellent Welsh full-back Lee Byrne. Kearney didn’t feature against the Sharks, as another classy display from Byrne now means he’s indispensable in the plans for Saturday week. Kearney will need to pick up his form and be ready to rumble if called upon later in the series.
Brian O’Driscoll – All-time great O’Driscoll had to be virtually nailed on for the number 13 Test jersey ever before a ball was kicked in anger on tour. Now vastly experienced – a Grand Slam winning captain and playing on his third Lions tour – O’Driscoll is worth his weight in gold. Although he’s not the captain, O’Driscoll is arguably the most important and influential member in the squad. For my money, he’s still the best player in the world at thirty. His partnership with Jamie Roberts was again top class against the Sharks. Together, they carry much of the Lions hopes on their shoulders. O’Driscoll’s attacking prowess, defensive doggedness and cool head will all be needed if the Lions are to somehow upset the odds.
Ronan O’Gara – Kicked his goals and notched a nice try in the opening game, but that was not enough to mask a poor team performance. O’Gara display against the Sharks was more assured as he released his backs well at times and showed the kind of variation that comes with a player of his experience. Overall, the Munsterman has kicked with authority in his two outings. Stephen Jones also stepped up to the plate against the Golden Lions however. As things stand, it’s a very tight call between the two.
Jamie Heaslip – Rivalled only by Sergio Parisse as the best number 8 in the Six Nations, and having gone on to play a crucial role in Leinster’s Heineken Cup triumph, Heaslip was always the prime contender for the Test spot. Andy Powell’s erratic display against the Cheetahs at the weekend has done nothing to upset that either. Heaslip was heavily involved and very impressive against the Cheetahs, capping the display with a late burst over the whitewash. McGeechan and co will surely now bank on his talents against the Boks, though they will provide the most arduous challenge of his career.
Donncha O’Callaghan – Always gives huge work-rate and total commitment, but his performance against the Cheetahs was hardly of the head-turning variety. Although he nailed down a test place in New Zealand four years ago, the Lions would surely be better served by the more rounded skills of Alun-Wyn Jones this time around, and O’Callaghan would in fact be doing well even to make the bench.
Paul O’Connell (Captain) – Obviously guaranteed to start, but the Lions want to be careful about placing too much faith in his ability to damage the Boks up front. I don’t recall the occasion when he stood out and dominated against a full-strength Southern Hemisphere pack. Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha are actually both bigger men, they have vast experience, and certainly won’t be living in O’Connell’s shadow. He will bring leadership and intelligence, but the reality is that the Lions forwards are hugely up against it.
David Wallace – After a slow start on tour, Wallace staked his claim properly against the Sharks with a huge all-action display in which he repeatedly made ground for his side. Easily talented enough to mix it in the Test match cauldron, his ball-carrying attributes will be a big asset to the Lions. With the might of Smith, Burger and Spies lying in wait, the Lions will need Wallace to take the fight to them. One of only a few players in the squad who could strike some fear into the Boks defence, it would be hard to see McGeechan overlooking him now.
A word on Stephen Ferris: His injury is just an awful awful shame, not just for himself but for the squad as a whole. Ferris was having a fabulous tour until he was agonizingly cut down in the middle of a great run. His brutish physical strength and searing pace off the mark made him the standout contender for the number 6 jersey, but now we can only think of what might have been. Let’s wish him the best in his recovery and hope to see him back in that kind of form next season.
Shanklin faces nervous Lions wait as Ireland’s Gordon D’Arcy may still end up in the Lions Rugby squad as soon as it emerged that an injury to Wales centre Tom Shanklin possibly will see him miss the tour to South Africa.
Shanklin injured his shoulder late on in the Cardiff Blues Magners League victory against the Newport-Gwent Dragons last night. He was taken for an X-Ray after the game and will now have an MRI scan to consider the extent of the damage.
The injury is thought to be a dislocation of the shoulder.
A Lions statement said: ‘The Cardiff Blues medical panel will with a bit of luck have a more thorough update available by the weekend.’
Ex-Wales international Bob Norster, who is currently the Cardiff Blues chief executive, added: ‘He has taken a severe whack to the shoulder, they are now assessing him and getting him down to the hospital for an X-ray and we will be aware of a bit more later on.
‘We will make a correct assessment in attendance with the medics.’
D’Arcy’s absence from the initial squad came as a shock to the South Africans, whose trainer Pieter De Villiers had rated the 41-times capped Ireland international the finest inside centre in the world.
D’Arcy’s form for Ireland in the concluding part of the RBS 6 Nations, and his robust performance for Leinster in their Heineken Cup semi-final success over Munster on Saturday also designate him a strong contender.
Scotland centre Max Evans, Wales’ fly-half and inside centre James Hook and Wasps player Josh Lewsey, who has retired from international rugby, are others who could enter the frame.
But the Lions Rugby Team will be keen not to see one more member of the original touring party exit the squad. Shanklin is the second member of the original Lions Tour party named by Ian McGeechan to go on the doubtful list in recent days.
Alan Quinlan faces a disciplinary hearing over an incident involving contact with the face of Leinster second row Leo Cullen during that Munster defeat to Leinster on Saturday and must avoid a long suspension to retain his place in the touring group.
Quinlan’s Munster team-mate Tomás O’Leary is definitely out of the Tour after breaking his leg during Munster’s Magners League game against Llanelli in April.
A stand-in number nine has up till now to be called into the squad, although Scotland captain Mike Blair is the favourite to get the thumbs up
The Lions Rugby Team Selection has been
made and the interest levels are rising to
stratospheric levels not least in South Africa where
Springboks coach Peter de Villiers has expressed
shock that the captains of England, Scotland and
Wales have been left out of the Lions squad.
Lions coach Ian McGeechan chose a 37-man squad
but left out Steve Borthwick, Mike Blair and Ryan
“The one thing that surprised me was that the
leaders of three home nations weren’t included in the
squad, de Villiers told BBC Radio 5 Live.
The guys that play under those guys respect them.
He added: Those are the guys that can stand up in
meetings and try to resolve small niggles and things
that can evolve on a long tour like this.
De Villiers also believes that the decision to appoint
Ireland Lock Paul O’Connell as Lions captain ahead
of regular Ireland skipper Brian O’Driscoll could be
costly. Any chance here that they are trying to make
the mood in the camp sour?
Brian O’Driscoll was the captain of the last Lions
team, even though he got injured, and he was the
captain of the most successful Six Nations team this
year. That’s a second big surprise.
Additionally, De Villiers was sceptical of
McGeechan’s decision to pack his team with
physically imposing players who could combat the
If McGeechan wants to sit down and try to match
the Springboks then I think that is the wrong thing,
If he wants to say ‘this is our strength, this is how we
want to play the game, these are the people who can
do the job for me’ then I can justify any selection he
But I will not sit down and say ‘they are going to do
this, so I should do this’. I am more focused on what
I want to do and I will find the talent and the players
to do the job for us.
The Lions Tour 2009 tour officially begins on 30
May. The Lions Rugby Tour fixtures start with a
game against a Highveld XV with the Tests against
the Springboks starting on 20 June.
The quest for Lions Rugby Tour Tickets has begun
with lots of rugby mad fans already rushing out to
buy their Lions Rugby Jersey 2009!
Lions Rugby Team – Who are the likely contenders for the Test team in South Africa? Who will be the Lions Rugby Team captain? Read on and add your personal choices in the comments.
My choice at present ( I am never 100% decided and I am even more fickle with my team selections than Eamonn Dunphy!)
1. Gethin Jenkins (Wales)
2. Jerry Flannery (Ireland)
3. Ewan Murray (Scotland)
4. Donnacha O’ Callaghan (Ireland)
5. Paul O’Connell (Ireland) Captain
6. Ryan Jones (Wales)
7. David Wallace (Ireland)
8. Jamie Heaslip (Ireland)
9. Mike Blair (Scotland)
10. Ronan O’Gara (Ireland)
11. Shane Williams (Wales)
12. Ricky Flutey (England)
13. Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
14. Ugo Monye (England)
15. Lee Byrne (Wales)
16. Matthew Rees (Wales)
17. Adam Jones (Wales)
18. Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales)
19. Denis Leamy (Ireland)
20. Mike Phillips (Wales)
21. Stephen Jones (Wales)
22. Luke Fitzgerald (Ireland)
Martin Williams ?
PLEASE ADD YOUR CHOICES AND EXPLAIN WHY I HAVE GOT IT ALL WRONG.
Off to a very good start – hopefully a good sign not only for this team, but also for Lions Rugby generally. Or do you reckon they’ll get a lesson at Loftus from the Blue Bulls with their released Springboks? What is the local (well at least Saffer) view of how Mitchell is settling in as coach?
Thanks for any insights.
I’m a Lions fan.
No doubt it is a good start but there are a few areas for concern. They walloped Griquas 49-11 in Kimberley which was a huge result and a helluva performance. Kimberley is not an easy place to play; the turf is like concrete and it is fast, conducive to tries and the Lions, with a questionable defence, kept the Griquas quiet. Griquas were also installed by many as potential outsiders for the Currie Cup. It is Union that has made huge strides in the shadows of the ”Big 5” in recent seasons, just missing out on the playoffs last season.
But, aside from that, they then proceeded to concede 63 points over two games against the Pumas and Leopards, the teams who regularly contend for the ”wooden spoon”. This still highlights the Lions’ defensive frailties and it came against the competitions weakest opponents. During the game against the Leopards, the Lions found themselves cruising at 36-10 only to fall apart and rapidly concede 26 unanswered points and find themselves at 36-36 with 15 minutes to go. Granted, as is typical of their never-say-die attitude, they got it together and blitzed the Leopards for 17 unanswered points and came out 53-36.
Now, with all due respect to these 3 teams, they are not the Sharks or Province. The Lions will not easily score against these teams and any kind of defensive collapse will be the death of them. I’ve been a Lions fan all my life and every season we are touted as the one to watch, only for it to go to hell, so my days of counting chickens before they hatch are over. The Lions will be the real deal if they find themselves in a final. The Union is also in turmoil at the moment. Their sugar-daddy investors pulled out, leaving them with a massive hole in their budget.
The next Bok coach will have a lot of work to do with regards to defence. If John Mitchell can’t fix the Lions defence, I would not want him anywhere near a Bok set-up. I’d like to see the entire Stormers/Western Province coaching staff be looked at with regards to Bok jobs. They don’t score many tries, but you won’t score many against them either.
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I currently play rugby in America, and im wondering if it is possible to play rugby for a team like the british and irish lions, or possibly like the All Blacks if you are not originally from that country
Hey Andrew when we are all at it, you have a very narrow minded opinion about NH supporters. Just because you feel the need to have a go at someone over what they claimed weather right or wrong dont go brand the rest of us. Btw if your talking about Riki Flutey being one of England’s best then dont flatter yourself butty cos he aint. Now that is a typical SH attitude … "oh he was born in the SH so he must be better than most NH players …" go take a lie down for yourself will ya boy.
Now to answer your question. Some countries have certain rules about this. For example Isa Nacewa playing in Ireland at Leinster, born in New Zealand, wants to play for New Zealand but cant because of the system in place, as he played one game for Fiji a few years back. Its really the Sports governing body in each country that essentially decides if a players can be capped at International level. Also Ronan O Gara moved to Ireland a few months after he was born to Irish Parents – not American born. If thats the case where we are from the location of our birth then im from Waterford …… I aint.
@Andrew – How am i a hypocrite eh? Dont go using terminology if you dont understand the meaning butty. The word your looking for is petty or childish. You have just proved why SH folk are so cocky. If Hape was one of the best in England as you claim then he would be the 1st to come to mind …… he wasnt obviously. Btw im Irish so can you tell me what Leinster players (Or Munster for that matter), if they were not in Ireland would be on the starting 15 of SH teams at International level?? Il give you a clue …… NONE!!!!!!
with no weapon to hand
English rugby players believe they are lions, so it would have to be pretty equal, as far as they are concerned
the Lion. the english man will shoot himself for a quick death.
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