Brent Popes Lions Player Watch After Lions 26 Western Province 23

By admin · June 14, 2009 · Filed in Brent Pope's Player Watch Blog · Comments Off

Brent Popes Lions Player Watch After Lions 26 Western Province 23.

Despite being somewhat fortuitous to come away with a 3 point win against the Western Province in soggy Capetown courtesy of replacement fullback James Hooks last gasp penalty goal, the Lions management team will  still be pleased at being given such a vigorous hit-out just a week out from the main event. A one sided win for the tourists would have been facile for the Lions preparation leading up to the first test, and would not have allowed Coach Ian McGeechan an opportunity to assess if some of his fringe “test” players had what it takes for the big stage.

 

Coach McGeechan has talked about the need to “put themselves under pressure” in training for the much tighter test matches, and while the game could have gone either way, and probably should have resulted in a draw, once again in the last few minutes the Lions were patient, played the phases well and gave themselves every chance to win. The Western Province did the opposite, turning over two vital scrums in Lions territory, snapping at a reckless 50 metre drop goal in swirling winds and making far too many errors when they just needed to refocus. There lay the difference in the two teams, and the difference between winning and losing. Winning soon becomes a habit and the Lions have it, just.

 

While the Lions continue to experience problems in turning over ball and a mounting penalty count, they did show a willingness to dig in for a win, an early indication that the Lions camp are beginning to gel together as a unit, something that Clive Woodward did not achieve in 2005, when constant infighting between players quickly caused dissention in the Lions camp. Some problems still exist in the Lions defensive policy and they need to be ironed out quickly. It is now common knowledge (by the Springboks) that the Lions defence coach Shaun Edwards and his forwards Coach Warren Gatland, both favour a aggressive in your face defence policy that attempts to shut out the opposition attack from the outside in. This means that players rush up in a banana shape on the outsides more quickly, in a philosophy that aims at preventing teams from trying to get the ball wide. The older and perhaps more traditional way of defending, was what players used to call the “one out or drift defence” where the defender preferred to stay on the inside shoulder of the ball carrier thus pushing the players outwards rather than back in. Edwards and Gatlands policy proved reasonably successful over the years with Ireland, Wasps and Wales, but it definitely has its flaws as well, firstly its success is based around all the players (especially the centres) coming up in an even line to cut down the space.

 

This week the Lions were wrongly penalised for moving up too quickly on a couple of occasions, but in reality the Lions were just too efficient, and while they were actually all behind the last mans feet and legal, the touch judges and referees saw  it differently.  In effect these penalties and those for not staying on their feet a ruck-time just kept the opposition in the game. Ian McGeechan and Paul O’Connell must breach this point of “not” being offside with the media and referees this week, otherwise they will be penalised time and time again.

 

Really this week’s game in Capetown was nothing to do with what the opposition did, but more about a few test positions still up for grabs. Going into this game Ian McGeechan needed to know who his test front row would be, find another partner for Paul O’Connell, finalise the composition of the wings, determine whether Welsh veteran Martyn Williams could usurp David Wallace from the number 7 jersey and copperfasten his out half. In an area where most of the home union teams are struggling, namely in the quality of their props, the Lions are blessed in this area. In all the games to date, the Lions front row has dominated in South Africa, granted the opposition teams are missing their Springbok squad members, but with current South African Captain John Smit now looking like he may be forced to play on the tighthead side of the scrum rather than in his usual position of hooker, the Lions appear to have the early ascendancy in this area.  Scottish strongman Euan Murray made a huge difference when he came off the bench on Saturday, actually forcing two crucial scrum turnover against the head in the last few minutes, while England Captain Phil Vickery was superb around the park and would also offer Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll extra leadership qualities on the pitch against South Africa. Andrew Sheridan has had a relatively good tour to date, but Gethin Jenkins has better body position at ruck time and is a better ball carrier around the park, the only thing that counts against Jenkins is Jonathon Kaplan’s insistence that Jenkins scrums illegally, it may rub off on some of his colleagues. Against this background I still predict a starting frontrow for the first test of Jenkins, Lee Mears and Vickery with Murray to come off the bench.

 

In the second row Scotland’s resident Australian Nathan Hines, a forward who has developed a harder edge with Perpignan this year, has played particularly well in his two outings to date, and may just have edged pundits favourite Alun Wyn Jones to partner Captain Paul O’Connell. Hines does not possess Jones mobility, but can match the bulky South Africans in the tight, while Paul O’Connell carries ball, the decsion of who will play second row ultimately depends on the way the Lions want to play the game or more significantly the way they see the Springboks playing them, namely will it be an open, running game plan or a tighter, mauling one. I sense that McGeechan will say “that he has too win the battle up front first” and if this remains his policy, then Hines may well start.

 

The wing positions have almost sorted themselves out as well, even before Tuesday afternoon’s match, with Ulster and Ireland’s wing Tommy Bowe quickly becoming the player of the tour to date. Bowe, often chastised in the media prior to Irelands Grand Slam winning season has been one of the world’s most improved players this year. Strong and with an ability to offload in the tackle (courtesy of a season with the Ospreys), Bowe makes up for a lack of real top end speed with excellent lines of running, intelligence and an ability to finish well and pop up in the best places on the park. On the other wing Luke Fitzgerald still has a chance if he gets a start on Tuesday, but England’s Ugo Moyne seems to have done enough now, with another excellent display on Saturday. Moyne looks a little awkward at times, with a slightly ugly running style, but he is deceptively quick, and has improved his kick and chase game and defence immeasurably on this tour.

 

The back row has now become the most difficult area for McGeechan to select from, especially who to start at no 7. Presuming that McGeechan does not opt for both Wallace and Williams to start on the flanks which would be foolish, then Tom Croft and Jamie Heaslip are sure to be selected at No 6 and No 8 respectively. Martyn Williams is perhaps a better link player than David Wallace, and is a better forager on the ground, while Wallace is the more dynamic player with the ball in hand, and clears out the opposition better than the Welshman at ruck time. With the Lions likely to use the likes of Jamie Roberts and Brian O’Driscoll to crash the centres, then they need a player on their shoulder to continue play over the gain line, and that player is Wallace. But if the Lions do not win at least 50% of the first phase possession, then Williams may be the more valuable acquisition given his better reading and play at the all important breakdown area.

 

Unfortunately while Stephan Jones did not have a great game, his Welsh combination with scrumhalf certainty Mike Phillips will probably see him start ahead of the improving Ronan O’Gara, with James Hook’s extra versatility keeping O’Gara off the bench. While Tuesday’s last chance saloon match is still an outside chance for some players like Fitzgerald and perhaps O’Gara to stake a claim, it would seem that most of the team is already in ink.

 

My starting XV for the first test.

Lee Byrne

Tommy Bowe

Brian O’Driscoll

Jamie Roberts

Ugo Moyne

Stephen Jones

Mike Phillips

 

Jamie Heaslip

David Wallace

Tom Croft

Paul O’Connell

Nathan Hines

Gethin Jenkins

Lee Mears

Phil Vickery

 

 

 

 

 

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Lions Rugby – Conor Ward takes a look at the Irish Lions on Tour to South Africa.

By admin · June 12, 2009 · Filed in Lions Rugby · Comments Off

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…

BACKS:

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.  

FORWARDS:

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.

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Haka vs British & Irish Lions “The Original”

By admin · April 3, 2009 · Filed in British Lions · 25 Comments »

Haka!

Duration : 0:1:34

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2009 British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa

By admin · April 2, 2009 · Filed in British Lions Tour · 1 Comment »

This video features Ian McGeechan, the Head Coach of the British and Irish Lions Rugby union team and Gerald Davies, 2009 Tour Manager. It was recorded Friday 6th June at a press conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

Duration : 0:3:31

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Lions – Stephen Jones

By admin · June 1, 2009 · Filed in British Lions · Comments Off

Exclusive footage from the adidas Lions photoshoot with comment
from Stephen Jones on the upcoming tour to South Africa

Duration : 1 min 24 sec

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Lions Tour of Australia

By admin · April 5, 2009 · Filed in Lions Tour · 2 Comments »

Sky Sports opening sequence for the 2001 Lions Tour

Duration : 0:0:29

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Jason Robinson: British & Irish Lions vs Australia. 1st Test

By admin · April 5, 2009 · Filed in British Lions · 11 Comments »

Lead up to the first test at the Gabba, June 2001. Martin Johnson piddles over the Al Pacino “Inches Speech” that everyone rattles on about. And then the first half demolition job starts. Jason Robinson in 3rd yards of space, finishes off an excellent cross field move.

Duration : 0:1:50

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Fitzpatrick Try, All Blacks vs British Lions 1993 Eden Park

By admin · April 4, 2009 · Filed in British Lions Tour · Comments Off

Sean Fitzpatrick scoring for the All Blacks in their 30-13 win over the British & Irish Lions in the 3rd and deciding test at Eden Park in Auckland in 1993 All Blacks 1. Criag Dowd, 2. Sean Fitzpatrick (c), 3. Olo Brown, 4. Ian Jones, 5. Robin Brooke, 6. Jamie Joseph, 7. Michael Jones, 8. Aran Pene, 9. Jon Preston, 10. Grant Fox, 11. Inga Tuigamala, 12. Lee Stensness, 13. Frank Bunce, 14. John Kirwan, 15. John Timu British & Irish Lions 1. Nick Popplewell, 2. Brian Moore, 3. Jason Leonard, 4 …

Duration : 0:0:28

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2º half NZ All blacks-48 VS British Lions-18

By admin · April 4, 2009 · Filed in British Lions · 25 Comments »

highlights of the second half

Duration : 0:9:20

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All Black Tries Lions Tour 2005 and Tri Nations 2005

By admin · April 2, 2009 · Filed in Lions Tour · 25 Comments »

all blacks highlights of last year and a few clips of other great tries from other years

Duration : 0:3:18

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