Posted by: Eoghan | June 18, 2009

Sowee. I’ve been an absentee bloglord :(

But if I remember rightly I have an important function to fulfil for this blog. And that is to discuss the rugby! (I know, I know, try to contain the excitement).

Since I last wrote a lot of water has passed under this particular bridge, most notably Ireland’s first Grand Slam in 61 years and Leinster’s first Heineken Cup title. If I talked about them now having been nowhere to be seen at the time you might reasonably accuse me of only commenting with the benefit of hindsight but I did gamble on both at the time… and won 🙂
Anyway, we can play catch up later. Right now the next big event is the announcement of the Lions XV for Saturday’s first Test against reigning world champions, South Africa.

So here’s my head on the chopping block and my prediction for who will be named.

15 Byrne
14 Bowe
13 O’Driscoll
12 Roberts
11 Monye
10 Jones
9 Phillips
1 Jenkins
2 Mears
3 Vickery
4 Wyn-Jones
5 O’Connell
6 Wallace
7 Williams
8 Heaslip

Bench:
Sheridan
Ford
Shaw
Croft
Ellis
O’Gara
Kearney

Now this is not to say it’s necessarily the team I’d select but rather what I think we’ll hear tomorrow.

The close calls are 3, 6, 7, 10 & 11. I think Monye will get it for the finishing he’s demonstrated so far, form-wise Fitzgerald is next and rep-wise Williams although no spark on tour so far.
At outhalf Hook’s injury makes it a straight shoot-out between Jones and ROGJ. I reckon the Welsh heavy management will be prone to remember the Lions v Lions mauling all those Wednesdays ago. In fairness SJ is a sturdier defender.
Blindside would have been Ferris’ but for the injury. He was a beast, quick and opportunistic in his displays on tour. Croft looks pacey but flimsy and I never see him emerge to pats on the back from a ruck, ball in hand or having effected a turnover. The breakdown has been the disaster area of the tour so far. For the Boks Broussow, the turnover merchant, is in. Scrums gone well, lineout’s been fine, but the ruck is X-rated viewing from a Lion’s POV. So we need two openside’s. Wallace plays his best from 7 and we’ve yet to see his top level on this tour but these guys are smart enough to move around the back row depending on the situation. A bit of a risk, a bit unorthodox but combined with Wyn-Jones selection it makes sense.
Alun Wyn-Jones has played well given the chance and, although not rated the bruiser Bakkies Botha is, he has a physical dimension to his game. That said I have him in mainly for the lineout. O’C, W-J and Heaslip = 3 lineout options, which is plenty.
Murray’s injury makes Vickery’s selection very probable. He’s a Wasp, like Geech, Gatland and Howley as well as a one-time tour captain and has two RWC final’s worth of experience on the tank. He’s rucked well on tour and scrummaged none too badly.
Sheridan and Shaw are the pack impact grunts. Hopefully Croft can run into some 60th minute holes. ROG and Kearney allow a change-up to a tactical kicking control game. ROG for his nous whereas Kearney’s distance off the left-peg makes him a FB and wing replacement, backline versatility required on the bench with Hook’s absence.

My one concern is that the bench doesn’t make me automatically think IMPACT but in fairness you pick your XV to do that job really.

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Responses

  1. Well I got everything bar Croft right in the starting XV but more or less completely misjudged the forwards bench they’d pick, didn’t have one of them! 🙂 Still I did call Kearney for the three-quarters replacement slot as well as the easy-ish halfback subs.
    I’d love to think the Lions have something very special up their sleeve (especially for the breakdown) but experience tells me there’ll be more than a few pingings and referee interpretation issues, these Boks know what they’re doing on the floor.
    First 20 minutes are crucial. I expect the somewhat rustier South Africans to concede a couple of line breaks or half breaks as well as a little bit of yardage in the initial collisions. The key will be whether the Lions can cash in some points before the backlash. They will have to be utterly ruthless and really bust a gut to make sure the man in possession has support on his shoulders the whole time for passing options, offloads, to clear the ruck immediately, etc…
    There’ll be some cheap shots as well and our fellas need to make sure they play their cutest, most professional game as well. Count of the South Africans to continue where Tuesday’s opposition left off, albeit with a little more subtlety.


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