Some surprise omissions from Lions squad

2009-06-19 00:00

THE IRB Player of the Year, elusive Welsh wing Shane Williams, yesterday failed to make the British Lions team to face the Springboks in the first Test at King’s Park tomorrow.

The slippery, side-stepping Williams has failed to make any impact on the hard South African fields and coach Ian McGeechan yesterday named the heavier, in-form Ugo Monye and Tommy Bowe as his wings.

Williams has not even made the bench, with Irishman Rob Kearney covering wing and fullback.

Following all the pre-tour hype, South Africans will also be surprised that England strongman, loosehead Andrew Sheridan, has also been overlooked.

Sheridan was punted as the player who would expose John Smit in the scrums, but he has failed to make the 22. Smit will be up against Gethin Jenkins who outscrummed Jannie du Plessis in the Sharks game.

The Lions, as expected, will start with 11 of the Lions who impressed against the Sharks. The only changes are on the two wings, at flyhalf — where Welshman Stephen Jones is preferred to Ronan O’Gara — and at tight-head, with veteran England prop Phil Vickery selected ahead of Adam Jones in the only switch.

The tightest decision was probably in the back row where McGeechan opted for David Wallace ahead of open-side flank Martyn Williams, who recently returned from a shoulder injury.

McGeechan would not speculate on individual players who were unlucky to miss selection.

“There will be some huge disappointments. They’re all big international players, a talented group, and they all wanted a Test place. How they have responded is very positive.”

He said his selection has not been influenced by the Springboks.

“The Test team has been picked on form following the six provincial matches,” said McGeechan “It has been 20 years since a Lions team won all of their provincial matches leading up to the Test series, so it is very satisfying to be in such a position.”

Captain Paul O’Connell also praised the positive response from the players who had been omitted.

“They have been very supportive of those selected and that spirit and attitude will carry through the series,” he added.

O’Connell was in positive mood: “We’ve got fabulous players in every position, great pace in the back row and in the backline, a very fit front five and a very good scrum.

“We need things to go our way a little bit. If we put together an 80- minute performance on Saturday, there’s no doubt that we can win,” said the Lions captain.

 

Team (15-1): Lee Byrne (WAL); Tommy Bowe (IRL), Brian O’Driscoll (IRL), Jamie Roberts (WAL), Ugo Moyne (ENG), Stephen Jones (WAL), Mike Phillips (WAL), Jamie Heaslip (IRL), David Wallace (IRL), Tom Croft (ENG), Paul O’Connell (IRL, capt), Alun-Wyn Jones (WAL), Phil Vickery (ENG), Lee Mears (ENG), Gethin Jenkins (WAL)

Replacements: Matthew Rees (WAL), Adam Jones (WAL), Donncha O’Callaghan (IRL), Martyn Williams (WAL), Harry Ellis (ENG), Ronan O’Gara (IRL), Rob Kearney (IRL)

Kick-off: 3.00pm. Referee: Bryce Lawrence (NZ)

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