Strongest Lions team unlikely to be revealed until first Test, says McGeechan

2009-06-09 00:00

British Lions coach Ian McGeechan has named a powerful team to face the Sharks in tomorrow night’s clash in Durban, but says his strongest team is unlikely to see action together before the first Test.

The obvious first-choice midfield pairing of Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Roberts will again be in action tomorrow outside favoured halfbacks Ronan O’Gara and Mike Phillips.

Tour captain and lock Paul O’Connell, outstanding on the drive in Bloemfontein, is the only forward who played against the Free State Cheetahs on Saturday when the tourists hung on to win 26-24.

But McGeechan is adamant that he will keep rotating his players before settling on the strongest line-up for the Test.

“We will try and get combinations together but, as a 15, it is unlikely that they will play before the first Test,” McGeechan said at a media conference yesterday.

The Lions coach said it would be grossly unfair to pick a Test team this early in the tour when some of the players have had just one outing.

“I just think that each player should get a genuine go at least twice, to be able to put his own game on the field.”

He said he was not playing tricks on the Springboks by hiding his combination.

“It’s got to be about us,” he said, “about what we want to try and become on first Test day. There are some risks I’m aware of, but I think that the opportunities and the strength we get out of it as a squad far outweigh that.”

The only player missing because of injury is Welsh flank Martyn Williams

Lions team: Lee Byrne, Shane Williams, Brian O’Driscoll, Jamie Roberts, Luke Fitzgerald, Ronan O’Gara, Mike Phillips, Gethin Jenkins, Lee Mears, Adam Jones, Alun-Wyn Jones, Paul O’Connell (c), Tom Croft, David Wallace, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Matthew Rees, Phil Vickery, Simon Shaw, Joe Worsley, Mike Blair, Riki Flutey, Leigh Halfpenny.

Kick-off: 7.10 pm.

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