Month: June 2009

Lions vs Springboks 2nd Test Teams

SCOT MAKES THE BENCH SHOCKER

Well done to Ross Ford who probably showed enough in his game on Tuesday to sneak on to the bench. Monye ruthlessly punished for missing his chances on Saturday. It’s all on the line now. Apart from Ellis, it’s a pretty strong bench too. Sorry to see Hook miss out as I think he’s looked sharp and welsh “wizard” Shane Williams is given one last chance…

Lions: Kearney, Bowe, O’ Driscoll, Roberts, Fitzgerald, Jones , Phillips,  Jenkins,  Rees,  A Jones, Shaw, O’Connell, Croft, Wallace, Heaslip

Replacements: Ford, Sheridan, Wyn Jones, Williams, Ellis, O’Gara, S Williams

Schalk “Cheese” Burger has been brought back in for the impressive Broussow, otherwise the frontline team remains pretty much as is.

South Africa: F Steyn (Sharks); JP Pietersen (Sharks), A Jacobs (Sharks), J de Villiers (Stormers), B Habana (Bulls); R Pienaar (Sharks), F du Preez (Bulls); T Mtawarira (Sharks), B du Plessis (Sharks), J Smit (Sharks), B Botha (Bulls), V Matfield (Bulls), S Burger (Stormers), J Smith (Cheetahs), P Spies (Bulls).

Replacements: C Ralepelle (Bulls), D Carstens (Sharks), A Bekker (Stormers), D Rossouw (Bulls), H Brussow (Cheetahs), J Fourie (Lions), M Steyn (Bulls).

Hines Gets 1 Week Ban

Scottish Lion big Nathan is once again in the headlines for a dangerous tackle. Can’t have been that bad as I didn’t even notice it but according to the BBC breaking news he will serve a one week ban, taking him out of the second Test vs South Africa. Doubtful he would have been selected ahead of O Callaghan or Shaw who now seem to be front runners to take over from Wyn Jones. The team announcement has been moved to tomorrow.

A Scot With Killer Instinct?

Not rugby related, but good luck to Andy Murray as he kicks off his Wimbledon campaign today. Al played his brother once in a junior tournament in Inverness we think. Humpings all round. Back with Lions etc tomorrow. Heard rumblings in the Sunday Times that ex-Bristol man Richard Hill and shatterer of our World Cup dreams Marcelo Lloffreda are interested in the vacant Edinburgh post… also the SRU are re-creating the Director of Rugby to supervise development and hunt for Kiwis with Scottish grannies, but hopefully not interfere with the national team.

Shaw Sliding Towards Test XV?

What with Donnacha and Nathan both starting here. Could be a fun game, but it’s still pretty obviously the dirt-trackers. Hopefully Hooky and Blair get another run from the bench…

British & Irish Lions versus Emerging Springboks on Tuesday 22nd June

15. Keith Earls (Munster/Ireland)
14. Shane Williams (Ospreys/Wales)
13. Riki Flutey (London Wasps/England)
12. Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster/Ireland)
11. Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster/Ireland)
10. Ronan O’Gara (Munster/Ireland) Captain
9. Harry Ellis (Leicester Tigers/England)
8. Andy Powell (Cardiff Blues/Wales)
7. Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues/Wales)
6. Joe Worsley (London Wasps/England)
5. Nathan Hines (Perpignan/Scotland)
4. Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster/Ireland)
3. John Hayes (Munster/Ireland)
2. Ross Ford (Edinburgh/Scotland)
1. Tim Payne (London Wasps/England)

Replacements:
16. Lee Mears (Bath/England)
17. Phil Vickery (London Wasps/England)
18. Simon Shaw (London Wasps/England)
19. David Wallace (Munster/Ireland)
20. Mike Blair (Edinburgh/Scotland)
21. James Hook (Ospreys/Wales)
22. Ugo Monye (Harlequins/England)

Scotland A-Team Wins, Lions Almost Do

Some good games at the weekend there including a solid result for Andy Robinson’s A Team which saw the Scots win their first piece of silverware in years. Rumours of Ruaridh Jackson’s kicking game going AWOL were put to rest with his kicking from tee easing the Scots into a solid lead before some sloppy play at the breakdown let the French back in. Eventually though a nifty wee offload from Ben Cairns put Richie Vernon over the line to seal the victory, and the trophy. Some of the players (like captain Chris Cusiter) will have done their chances of a return to full national honours no harm. Congratulations to the whole squad and coaching staff.

Next up for Robinson is Fiji in the autumn, and his job truly begins. But for now, most of Scotland’s players find their seasons at an end – time for a holiday.

Apart, of course from the doughty Scots holding up the tail end of the Lions squad, who may yet have a role to play. A great – if wildly inconsistent test match on Saturday saw the Lions blown off the park in the first half, only to run back on and do the same to the Springboks for most of the second half. What a difference a scrum makes, and Euan Murray must consider himself very unlucky to pick up an injury at the exact moment his services are required. The bulk of Hines could also be used in the second row. Mike Phillips did little wrong apart from going the same way too often but Blair could be lucky and see the bench in the remaining Test matches. The Lions could definitely have won that test match, but can they win the next one? The challenge will only increase as the Boks aim to plug the holes in their defence left by our centres and will probably leave their front-line troops on the pitch until the game is definitely won, rather than until they think it is won.

Jackson Gets The Nod at 10

Young Glasgow flyhalf Ruaridh Jackson has been handed the 10 shirt for Scotland A’s crunch decider against France A in Romania. Victory would see the Scots take home the IRB Nations Cup and add a first piece of silverware to Andy Robinson’s shelf at SRU HQ. Two of Robbo’s new “finds” Joe Ansbros start, with Ansbro moved to the wing to allow Ben Cairns to continue his partnership with in-form Alex Grove – keeping the likes of Rob Dewey and Nick De Luca out of this crunch encounter.

Scotland A Team to face France A: Jim Thompson (Edinburgh), John Houston (Edinburgh), Ben Cairns (Edinburgh), Alex Grove (Worcester Warriors) , Simon Webster (Edinburgh), Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), Chris Cusiter (Perpignan) CAPTAIN, Kyle Traynor (Edinburgh), Scott Lawson (Gloucester), Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Craig Hamilton (Edinburgh), Al Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), Kelly Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Alan MacDonald (Edinburgh Rugby), Richie Vernon (Glasgow Warriors)

Replacements: Andrew Kelly (Edinburgh), Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors), James Eddie (Glasgow Warriors), Calum Forrester (Glasgow Warriors), Rory Lawson (Gloucester), David Blair (Edinburgh), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh)

Some Lions Factoids

In honour of what we hope will be a great test match today, some Lions ‘did you know’ facts in relation to the first Test side announced today, courtesy of the Lions press department…

David Wallace is all set to follow in the footsteps of his elder brother Paul by playing against the Springboks for the British & Irish Lions in a Test match.

Back in 1997, Paul was one of the shock inclusions in the Test pack to take on the reigning world champions. Twelve years on it will be Munster flanker David’s turn to tackle to current holders of the Rugby World Cup.

Paul made his debut in a 25-16 victory at Newlands, Cape Town, while David’s big day will be at the ABSA Stadium in Durban this weekend. He will be one of 10 Lions making their Test debuts in the starting line-up.

It will be only the fourth test between the Springboks and the Lions in Durban and Paul O’Connell’s men will be looking to make it 2-2. The Boks were 7-3 winners in 1924 and then triumphed 3-0 in 1962.

Martin Johnson’s side clinched the series at King’s Park, now the ABSA Stadium, in 1997 when they won the second test 18-15. Five penalties from the boot of Neil Jenkins and a drop goal from Jeremy Guscott clinched a famous victory – and series triumph.

They say that winning the first Test in any series is vital and the statistics back up that statement. This will be the 13th series played between the Springboks and Lions in South Africa and the side that won the first Test has gone on to take the series nine times previously.

The 1891, 1896, 1974 and 1997 Lions all won the first Test and then the series, while the Springboks did the same in 1910, 1924, 1938, 1968 and 1980. The odd years out were 1903 and 1962, when the first games were drawn, and 1955.

In both 1903 and 1962 the Springboks went on to clinch the series’ while in 1955 the Lions triumphed in Johannesburg before sharing the series 2-2.

The breakdown of the countries and clubs from which the Lions Test team is drawn is as follows. In the starting XV, there are 6 Welsh, 5 Irish and 4 English players. In the 22 those numbers rise to 9 Welsh, 8 Irish and 5 English.

On the club front, the Ospreys have four in the starting XV and five overall. Cardiff Blues, Leinster and Munster have two each in the starting line-up, while Munster have two more among the replacements and the others one more each.

For three players in the Lions 22 for Durban it will be their first chance to face the Springboks. Ospreys and Ireland wing Tommy Bowe, Leinster and Ireland No 8 Jamie Heaslip and full back Rob Kearney have yet to meet the world champions.

On the other hand, England prop Phil Vickery will be packing down against them for an 11th time. He has a 50% record to date and will be hoping to go into credit with a sixth win at the weekend.

Scarlets and Wales outside half has scored 60 points against South Africa, but yet to taste victory in six outings. He made his debut against the Springboks in Pretoria in 1998 when he came on as a replacement in Wales’ record 96-13 defeat.

Lions Test Team To Face South Africa

British and Irish Lions: Lee Byrne, Tommy Bowe, Brian O’ Driscoll, Jamie Roberts, Ugo Monye, Stephen Jones, Mike Phillips, Jamie Heaslip, Paul Wallace, Tom Croft, Paul O’Connell, Alun Wyn Jones, Phil Vickery, Lee Mears, Gethin Jenkins

Replacements: Matthew Rees, Adam Jones, Donnacha O’ Callaghan, Martyn Williams, Harry Ellis, Ronan O’ Gara, Rob Kearney

Pretty much as expected although not maybe as we might have hoped, with the exception of O’ Callaghan on the bench. Shaw and Hines are unlucky to miss out.

So that’s a Jones count of 3, a Phil and a Phillips, a Rob and a Roberts, two Toms, two Pauls and two Jamies, one Ugo and one Gethin on which the hopes of these small islands are pinned. And of course not a Scot in sight, but other than Nathan we can’t really complain based on form shown…

And just for balance, here is the South African team:

South Africa: Francois Steyn; JP Pietersen, Adrian Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez; Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, John Smit, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Heinrich Brussow, Juan Smith, Pierre Spies.
Replacements: Gurthro Steenkamp, Deon Carstens, Andries Bekker, Danie Rossouw, Ricky Januarie, Jaque Fourie, Morne Steyn.

In announcing the team, Geech also mentioned that Euan Murray’s injury should keep him out beyond the tour, so they may look for a replacement. Unlikely to be a Scot though, so our representation back down to 3. Hooky is still in with a shout if he recovers from his head knock.

If They Let Me Pick The Lions

I probably still wouldn’t put any Scots in there, save for Big Nathan – the only man to step up his game on tour so far. With the Springboks picking the Beast in the front row, its a real shame Murray is not fit as he was starting to come onto a game, and he really took the Beast to the cleaners in the autumn if I remember correctly.

So here is the team that I would pick – the real one will be announced tomorrow:

15 Byrne – Big boot, great countering and a fearless pair of hands.
14 Kearney – Competition with Byrne for place at the back has brought back the old attacking Rob Kearnery who we missed in the Six Nations. Stick him on the wing, though I suspect Geech et al will go with Monye.
13 O’ Drsicoll – Along with Roberts, the first two names on the team sheet. Still slower than he used to be, but showing all the fire and skill of old. Useful at the breakdown too.
12 Roberts – Not a bad time to find the form of his life. Hopefully his shoulder holds up. Already showed signs of a partnership with BOD in a couple of games, hopefully they are now fully ready for a searching test of it.
11 Bowe – Sorry for writing you off initially Tommy, I stand converted. Folks got excited about Halfpenny and Earls being selected, but Bowe is the find of the tour so far.
10 Jones – O’Gara is a reliable option but Jones has sparked the attack more successfully so far on tour. Understanding with a Welsh (7) 9 10 12 axis could be important. Pity Hook got injured when he did, would have liked to seen him in form to compete here.
9 Philips – I don’t like how he always piles into rucks but so far the only one in decent form
8 Heaslip – Powell has played much better since some adjustments were made to his personal tactics, but Heaslip has still been the more solid player.
7 Williams – need someone to compete on the floor and his link play with Philips and Jones could be key. Wouldn’t be disappointed if they put Wallace in though.
6 Croft – Pierre Spies like pace and agility, could be just the ticket going forward. Great option in the lineout too.
5 O’Connell – Needs to step up his game to prove he is worthy of the mantle Lions captain. We suspect he is, but he needs to prove it.
4 Wyn Jones – Hines is probably too knackered having started the last two games, otherwise I might well have stuck him in. Shaw is pushing hard too but Alun just edges it for his lineout skill. Does leave the second row a little short of grunt though.
3 Vickery – Murray made a bit of a late surge in the scrums then picked up an ankle injury. Could yet feature but for now Vickery is the outstanding candidate.
2 Mears – near faultless in the lineout and showed up well in the loose. A bit lightweight against a guy with the same name as a battleship but Ford hasn’t taken his chances.
1 Jenkins – pushed hard by Sheridan but Jenkins workrate in defence is phenomenal, and offers a bit of cover for tighthead too.

Bench: Rees, Jones, Hines, Wallace, Blair, O’Gara, Fitzgerald

Missing Hook on the bench here – where’s the magic spark? For this I would be tempted to slot Blair on the bench, but I doubt this will happen and they will go with nuggety Ellis. Fitzgerald has looked sharp and pacey so far and offers cover in a few positions. Nathan is unlucky not to start but fatigure from playing back to back should see him rested (much as I am sure he would hate that). Flutey is another bench option, I don’t think now is the time to throw Keith Earls into the maelstrom of test rugby. Monye would be unlucky to miss out but in reality he will probably make Geech’s test team,which will probably also see Shaw on the bench rather than Nathan.

Who would you pick? Be back tomorrow to see what Geech thinks of my selection.

Broussow Gets Second Crack At Lions

The Cheetahs flanker Heinrich Broussow, who almost single handedly buggered up the Lions perfect tour record, has been given a late call up to the Springbok squad as cover for possibly injured Schalk Burger. He may yet have to fight for a place behind utility forward Danie Roussow but hopefully the extra B in his name will give him the edge he needs.

Over in the Lions camp, Shane Williams has been hit with a stomach bug. As he has not travelled for the match against the Southern Kings – Tommy Bowe is in his place as cover – this will leave the Lions scrum half options severely limited today – especially if Mikey Blade fails a fitness test this morning. Time to parachute crazy Chris Cusiter in methinks.

The injuries are starting to tell a little (Flutey’s knee, Kearney’s dead leg, practically everyone’s shoulders) but the hope is still that most players will be available for Test selection, the result of which should be announced on Wednesday. As a reminder, so far Ferris and Halfpenny have left the party, Ryan Jones should never have joined it due to being concussed and O’ Leary, Shanklin, Flannery and Quinlan were left at home what seems like so long ago!

UPDATE: Ugo Monye will join the team, and Shane has recovered sufficiently to take his place on the bench.