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.
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.
BRENT POPE’S – PLAYER WATCH – MATCH 2
Last weekend as the Lions stuttered to a lacklustre enough win in Rustenburg against the lowly rated Royal XV, just down the road, the rampant Blue Bulls were taking the New Zealand Waikato Chiefs to the cleaners by a record 61 points.
The South African media duly puffed out their chests, proclaimed themselves almost unbeatable and promptly dismissed the Lions challenge without to much sweat. Even their National Coach Peter de Villiers said “what we plan to do is look ahead, past this Lions tour.”
Well Mr de Villiers you had better wise up, as it is now the Lions squad that has the right to strut its stuff, with a highly impressive and emphatic demolition of the disappointing Super 14 outfit the Golden Lions. This was the biggest Lions win since 1974, (and we know what happened then) but in the end the game disintergrated into a bit of a farce, with so many second half substitutions upsetting the general rhythm of the game.
With the hosts having to resort to a brand of catch-up, sevens style of rugby, it ultimately resulted in a host of intercept and soft scores by the visitors, and as a result it was hard to determine the strength of this win. The Lions can still only play what is in front of them, and this win was vital in improving team morale and getting the tour back on track. In fact you could see the likes of Donncha O’Callaghan, Luke Fitzgerald and others sitting in their civvies just dying to get on the field, and this type of attitude means that the Lions players are already fighting for their positions, and competition for places in the test team will ostensibly force the best out of the players,(further boosted by the arrival of the in form Gordan D’Arcy) You even sensed that tour captain Paul O’Connell was gutted not to be part of this meritorious win, and O’Connell looked anxious to get back in harness, and put his own stamp on the captaincy stakes.
Last night the tourists were magnificent to a man for the first 50 minutes at least, when they looked crisp, cohesive and determined to start well. However the Golden Lions offered nothing tangible either in attack or defence, and for large parts while regarded higher than the Royal XV, they looked disorganised and poor, and apart from a few rare sorties into the opposition territory that resulted in one first half try, and possibly should have resulted in another in the second half, they never really tested the Lions.
In the end the Lions were completely dominant in all areas of play. The tourists scrum was particularly powerful, and in England’s Tom Croft the Lions also had an extra jumper at the tail of the lineout. Props Phil Vickery and Gethin Jenkins were not only strong in their basic duties, but also carried very well around the park, while the second-row pairing of Scotland’s Nathan Hines and Welshman Alun Wyn Jones was a good mix of old fashioned power and mobility, with Hines buried in the tight, and Jones ranging around the field.
Perhaps the strongest combination on the park apart from the centres, was the performance of the loose forwards, where Irish interest lay in the credentials of Leinster No 8 Jamie Heaslip and Munster’s David Wallace, (the latter being correctly reinstated to his more comfortable position on the open side of the scrum). Suspended Munster flanker Alan Quinlan will have been sitting at home, and thought “that should have been me” when his replacement on the tour Tom Croft strolled over for a scintillating first half try. Croft had a particularly influential game, showing remarkable pace, a good offloading pass and was tremendous down the back of the lineout.
Wallace also revelled being back at No 7, where at least he got his hands on the ball this week and made some strong runs, while nobody worked harder in the tight than Jamie Heaslip, who’s tackle count was higher than most. In fact Heaslip’s overall display was especially important, given that he showed that he was prepared to do all the dirty work and let the likes of Croft and Wallace to do the running, as a result the triumvirate looked very comfortable with each other, and may yet constitute the first test back row.
Welsh scrumhalf Mike Phillips had a much better debut that Mike Blair with his direct and muscular running, quick clearance and strong defence, he also led a lot of the Lions forays before he unstandably tired late in the second half. His battle with South African test wannabe Jano Vermaak was so one-sided, it never really materialised. Outside of Phillips at scrumhalf the backline was outstanding, Stephen Jones kicked well at goal, and also showed climpes of soft and quick hands, although unlike Ronan O’Gara last weekend he was never under any real pressure and as a result the jury is still out on the best no 10. O’Gara needs to play a game with Phillips so that at least a direct comparison can be made.
Jamie Roberts and Brian O’Driscoll looked a good bet for the test centre pairing already, with Roberts having another strong game while O’Driscoll was sublime both in defence and in his offloads. O’Driscoll relished the extra space and hard grounds, and showed what a class act he is. The only criticism in the centres was that at times the players came up too fast in defence, and it could have resulted in a couple of Golden Lions scores. This type of hard up, outside in defence policy is one of Warren Gatland’s ideals and one that he has used to some success with both Ireland and London Wasps. The idea behind the policy is that in principle it forces the play in close rather than out wide, but it is not without its risks either, and a better team may have made better use of the extra space it can leave.
The Lions back three of Tommy Bowe, Ugo Monye and Rob Kearney also enjoyed the freedom of the park, with both Bowe and Monye crossing the try line twice. It is still early days yet, but Tommy Bowe is making every post a winner, with another excellent display of unselfish play. Last weekend Bowe was one of the only standout players against the Royal XV, and this week he backed it up with another game that had him play a hand in almost all the first half tries. Not the fastest player on the field, Bowe works hard on his angles of running and his ability to get his hands through the tackle and offload the pass (an aspect of Bowes play that has improved since his spell with the Ospreys).
Chasing Lee Byrne, Irelands fullback Rob Kearney was desperate to stay in the race for test selection, and while he did not get as many chances as Byrne did last week due to the nature of the game, he was again excellent in the air and in the few times he entered the line he looked deceptive and strong. With Leigh Halfpenny arriving late, Tommy Bowe and Ugo Monye are already on the up and up, and with Luke Fitzgerald still yet to play, the chances of Kearney switching to the wing for a test jersey already looks remote and as a result Kearney will want to keep Byrne firmly in his sights.
Lions first test team based on game 2
Lee Byrne Tommy Bowe Brian O’Driscoll Jamie Roberts Ugo Moyne Stephen Jones Mike Phillips
Gethin Jenkins Lee Mears Phil Vickery Alun Wyn Jones Paul O’Connell Tom Croft David Wallace Jamie Heaslip
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The British And Irish Lions Tour – Heavy Duty Entertainment. The Lions Tour – The Countdown has already begun, The British And Irish Lions Tour to South Africa will happen this June. Thousands of British And Irish Lions fans have already bought their tickets and made reservations to confirm their presence at the event. It will be undoubtedly the biggest and the best sports event of the year.
The Lions Rugby Team is a rugby union team which is made up of players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Initially called the British Isles Team, the name British Lions came up during their tour to New Zealand and Australia in 1950. Since their jerseys and ties had the emblem of a lion, journalists used it as a nickname. Ever since the tour to Australia in 2001 they have been called the British And Irish Lions.
The first tour took place in 1888 when a squad consisting of 21 players from Scotland, England and Wales visited Australia and New Zealand. They won 27 matches against the teams from Victoria and South Australia in the 35-match tour. Three years later after first match tour, the English rugby team was invited to tour in South Africa and today it is a major sporting occasion.
The summer tour of the British And Irish Lions Rugby Team is happening again in South Africa after a 12 year break and the rugby fans worldwide are anticipating an eventful clash between the two giants. Can the British Lions strike the current champs who are also regarded as a stern challenge to the tourists? The British Lions touring squad will be having a well-balanced squad with players from the Six Nations and Guinness Premiership whom will be captained by Ireland???s Paul O’Connell.
The fixtures will be as follows:
30 May – 14.00 hrs Highveld at Royal Bafokeng, Rustenburg
3 June – 14.00 hrs Golden Lions at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
6 June – 14.00 hrs Cheetahs at Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
10 June – 18.10 hrs Sharks at ABSA Park, Durban
13 June – 14.00 hrs Western Province at Newlands, Cape Town
16 June – 14.00 hrs Coastal XV at Nelson Mandela Stadium, Port Eliz.
20 June – 14.00 hrs South Africa at ABSA Park, Durban (1st Test)
23 June – 18.10 hrs Emerging Springboks at Newlands, Cape Town
27 June – 14.00 hrs South Africa at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria (2nd Test)
4 July – 14.00 hrs South Africa at Ellis Park, Johannesburg (3rd Test)
Since rugby is a confrontational sport there have been many unsavoury incidents throughout the past years. However The International Rugby Board will be monitoring the matches through video technology and will carry out necessary punishments for any foul play.
The 2009 British and Irish Lions Tour of South Africa is much awaited with great expectation and is considered to be one of most highly charged and physically demanding contests and the matches will definitely be a thrilling experience for the rugby fans. It will be indeed interesting to see what tactics the British Lions of 2009 will use in the games while Ian McGeechan is coach. It is also food for thought that British And Irish Lions won the last series in 1997 in South Africa when Ian McGeechan was their coach.
Lions Tour News – Little Matter Of Lions Tour Series Win On O’Driscoll’s Wishlist. It has been a victorious spring for Irish teams that seemingly could not win the ultimate prizesAfter a decade of near misses, the national side finally won the Six Nations and won it in style, sweeping all of its games for a Grand Slam, the first since 1948.
On Saturday, Leinster, the team based in Dublin, at last won the European Cup, beating Leicester, 19-16, in a tense final in Edinburgh.
Other Irish teams had won the competition before: Ulster in 1999, Munster in 2006 and 2008. But Leinster had been a serial semi final loser until they hammered Munster, the reigning champions this year.
Leicester, in contrast, were appearing in their fifth European Cup final — although only two had ended in triumph.
The only two players in the Leinster team with any experience of a European final had earned it in Leicester shirts. In the 2007 final, Shane Jennings started and Leo Cullen, now the Leinster captain, played 30 minutes as a replacement. But Leicester were undone by London Wasps, and after the defeat the two men returned to their native soil.
The fact that Leicester were in Edinburgh at all after a generally mediocre season suggested to be proof that they knew how to win.
In the 2nd semi final, they beat Cardiff in a prolonged penalty shootout. The club had spent much of their English league season trailing the leaders, but ended it by defeating London Irish in the playoff final a week earlier. This was a team that operated well under pressure.
The early pressure on Saturday came from Leinster. Brian O’Driscoll, the Ireland captain, put Leinster ahead with a drop goal. Julien Dupuy leveled with a penalty for Leicester.
Johnny Sexton, a 23-year-old who had come on after 20 minutes in the semifinal after the veteran Argentine fly half Felipe Contepomi suffered a season-ending injury, increased the lead with a prodigious drop goal from halfway. He then added a penalty. The youngster seemed to be playing without fear.
But Leinster had to build their lead in three-point increments because they could not turn steady pressure into touchdowns against a swarming Leicester defense. D’Arcy was stopped inches from the line after Sexton had made the initial break.
The first time that Leicester attacked, Leinster wobbled. After 33 minutes, with the line in danger, Stan Wright, a prop forward from the Cook Islands, tackled the Leicester fly half Sam Vesty even though he did not have the ball at the time. Wright was sent off for 10 minutes.
While he was off, Leicester scored 13 points. Dupuy booted a penalty. Ben Woods crashed through the depleted defense for a try. Dupuy kicked the conversion and added a penalty early in the second half.
At full strength, Leinster re-established their domination. Leinster have often been derided as too dainty, too reliant on their talented Ireland backs — O’Driscoll, D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald and Shane Horgan — and too soft in the forwards. On Saturday, Wright and the other prop, Cian Healey, and the Australian flanker Rocky Elsom hammered Leicester backwards.
Elsom was named man of the match. “I would say that he is the best player I have ever played with, and I have played with many good players,” O’Driscoll said at the post match news conference.
Sexton missed a long-range penalty, but Leinster at last broke through with a try by star forward Jamie Heaslip who powered his way over the line. Sexton kicked the conversion to level the scores.
The final was played the day before the British and Irish Lions flew to South Africa to begin their tour. O’Driscoll was captain on their last tour, to New Zealand in 2005, but was injured in the opening seconds of the first test. He will almost certainly start the Test Matches in South Africa.
But on the day when the Lions was announced they were calling up James Hook to replace his fellow Welshman, Leigh Halfpenny, who was hurt in training last week, O’Driscoll gave the Lions’ management a brief scare.
Just after the hour, O’Driscoll got up from a heavy collision clutching his shoulder. He went to play on the wing, his arm hanging at his side. Five minutes later, he suddenly jinked past three defenders on the left wing, forcing a penalty from the Leicester defense.
With the pressure on, Sexton took the kick. He did not strike it well, but the ball hooked just inside the far post and flopped over the bar. Leinster led. As he turned to run back, Sexton pulled a face that suggested both relief and disbelief.
Leinster could not quite pen Leicester back for the last 10 minutes, but they avoided making any mistakes in their own half. This time, Leicester could not find a way to win.
Experience and history are important, but sometimes winning is simply a question of playing better than your opponent.
At the end, a joyful O’Driscoll was interviewed on the field and happily milked the applause from Leinster’s adoring fans.
“I’ve played for this team for 10 years,” he said. “I’ve loved every minute playing for them. I love Leinster.”
O’Driscoll was captain of the Ireland team that broke through in the Six Nations this year. It has been a pretty good season for him.
“Just one competition to go; a little Lions series will cap it off nicely,” he said.
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!