Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The 2009 British & Irish Lions

British and Irish Lions squad to tour South Africa (from the BBC):

Lee Byrne (28) Ospreys and Wales
Rob Kearney (23) Leinster and Ireland

Shane Williams (32) Ospreys and Wales
Leigh Halfpenny (20) Cardiff Blues and Wales

Ugo Monye (26) Harlequins and England
Luke Fitzgerald (21) Leinster and Ireland
Tommy Bowe (25) Ospreys and Ireland

Tom Shanklin (29) Cardiff Blues and Wales
Jamie Roberts (22) Cardiff Blues and Wales

Brian O'Driscoll (30) Leinster and Ireland

Keith Earls (21) Munster and Ireland

Riki Flutey (29) Wasps and England


Stephen Jones (31) Llanelli Scarlets and Wales
Ronan O'Gara (32) Munster and Ireland

Mike Phillips (26) Ospreys and Wales
Harry Ellis (26) Leicester and England
Tomas O'Leary (25) Munster and Ireland


Gethin Jenkins (28) Cardiff Blues and Wales
Adam Jones (28) Ospreys and Wales

Andrew Sheridan(29) Sale and England
Phil Vickery (33) Wasps and England
Euan Murray (28) Northampton and Scotland

Jerry Flannery (30) Munster and Ireland
Lee Mears (30) Bath and England
Matthew Rees (28) Llanelli Scarlets and Wales

Paul O'Connell, capt (29) Munster and Ireland
Alun Wyn Jones (23) Ospreys and Wales
Donncha O'Callaghan (30) Munster and Ireland
Nathan Hines (32) Perpignan and Scotland

Simon Shaw (35) Wasps and England


Andy Powell (27) Cardiff Blues and Wales
Jamie Heaslip (25) Leinster and Ireland
Alan Quinlan (34) Munster and Ireland

Martyn Williams (33) Cardiff Blues and Wales

David Wallace (32) Munster and Ireland
Joe Worsley (31) Wasps and England
Stephen Ferris (23) Ulster and Ireland

So there we are: 14 Irishmen, 13 Welshmen, 8 Englishmen and 2 Scots.

Some big shocks there. Only 2 stand-offs. Only one 6 Nations captain (Brian O'Driscoll) makes it. There's no place for Ryan Jones or Tom Croft - both of whom would have been ahead of Andy Powell for me. Ugo Monje pips Paul Sackey for a spot on the wing, Keith Earls is a suprise choice at centre and Delon Armitage is wondering why he's been left behind. Harry Ellis looks like he may start at 9 after both him and Tomas O'Leary are selected ahead of Mike Blair. And then there's some huge guys in the pack - Powell, Quinlan and Worsley make it ahead of Jones, Croft and Taylor (who, in fairness, was my wild card pick!). I can't believe Simon Shaw is touring again - the only survivor from 1997 - while Mathew Rees pips Ross Ford and Rory Best for the third hookers spot and Adam Jones goes as an extra prop.

For me, the size of some of these guys provides evidence of how McGeechan wants the side to play. The pack will try to front up against what will be a huge South African pack, while even some of the backs (Jamie Roberts) are huge guys. I think the idea is to beef up the back to allow both Shane and Martyn Williams either to start or to come off the bench to provide a wee bit of flair - something that is considerably missing from this squad. The fact that only two 10s (Jones & O'Gara) are going suggests a conservative gameplan - though that might well come unstuck when the provincial sides target them. Expect we'll have to call up a replacement 10 at some point - Jonny Wilkinson, Danny Cipriani and James Hook should be sitting by their phone.

Prediction - South Africa to win. 3-0. Based on that squad, I don't think we have what it takes. I've been wrong before. Quite often in fact. Maybe I'll be wrong again.


Stephen Glenn 21 April 2009 at 14:51  

Good to see both Luke Fitzgerald and Tommy Bowe have both made it the young Irish wingers were quite outstanding in the six nations.

Malc 21 April 2009 at 14:58  

Not hugely impressed with the squad Stephen to be honest.

Stephen Glenn 21 April 2009 at 14:58  

And yes you have been wrong before...largely where a team full of Irish Celts have been concerned. Here's hoping that trend keeps up ;)

Malc 21 April 2009 at 15:06  

But this one isn't - there are THIRTEEN Welsh boys on the tour... and they finished FOURTH in the Six Nations. Just above Scotland, who contribute 2 players.

gauloises 21 April 2009 at 15:12  

Not madly impressed either. Surprised by Earls and Shaw, and I really think Tom Croft should have made it.

Sam 22 April 2009 at 13:46  

Good points all Malc. I would slightly take issue with your belief that there isn't much creativity in the squad.

A likely Test backline of Ellis, O'Gara, BOD, Flutey & Fitzgerald, Williams on the wing looks pretty good.

I think you're right about the squad being weaker though. Croft, Armitage, Blair, and a third fly half should at the least be there to compete for places & put pressure on likely Test starters.

Don't see the need for Alan Jones or Mathew Rees. Does Ugo Monje really deserve a Lions place at this stage in his career? Ahead of Sackey or that promising (& blisteringly fast) Scottish winger whose name I can't remember! One of the brothers I think.

One thing though. Is this really so different from any other possible team? In other words what team could you really see being good enough to beat South Africa?

Malc 22 April 2009 at 14:01  

I don't agree with your "likely" backline. I think they'll go with Phillips, Jones, Bowe, Flutey, BOD, Williams and Byrne. Within which you see my concern. Though it might be a moot point anyway given they might not see much of the ball.

But I don't see how any changes will really have much of an impact if I'm honest. I'd have taken Croft... and possibly Ryan Jones over Quinlan and Powell, Kennedy over that thug Shaw and we can argue over some flair players too - Blair, Peel, Hook, Cipriani, Wilkinson even (though I do expect another 10 to have to fly out at some point).

On Monye - nope. I had Sackey ahead of him for sure.

Guess we'll see what happens...

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