Players blogs providing an insight into team and camaraderie - while not openly criticising Sir Clive Woodward, it is evident he got it completely wrong on the lions tour to NZ. From the get go players felt like two teams rather then one squad, from everything from training to travelling as pointed out in Martyn Williams blog.
A credit to munsterfans.com contributors for updating one thread with Tommy Bowe, Rob Kearney and Martyn Williams' blogs.
Interesting news this week - Neil Jenkins taken on as "kicking coach". Had O'Gara, Jones or Hook missed more then the measly one a piece this might seem more appropriate. To the author it seems a bit like a job for the boys approach. I may just be too cynical, the Irish Province Munster have over the last two seasons always brought a former player in a non coaching role to big European Heineken Cups away matches. Declan Kidney introduced the policy to help remind the younger players of the tradition they play for. Kidney has won 2 Heineken cups with Munster, and guided Ireland to it's first grand slam of the professional era, so I think I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on his methods! Jenkins kicking was instrumental to the Lions series win in SA in 1997 - an untried or tested full back at the time, his deadly accuracy with the boot was the difference in the test games. Ironically it was a debutant Percy Montgomery (then a centre) whose now flawless kicking ability was not yet refined in '97 and ultimately cost SA with inaccuracy.
McGeechan not ready to play Test 15 together.
Whether this is a smoke screen or not, I think the starting test 15 will play together over the next two games, but the coaches just do not realise it yet, due to some positions being tighter to call then expected. PO'C is a certainty, and I think it would be a silly move to bet against BO'D to start in the centre (injuries permitting of course). Despite a shaky end to the Cheetahs game I don't think Lee Byrne has been removed from the 15 shirt either. From the games so far I would say my 15 would look like this*:
2- Mears - although I'm still not 100% sold and would like to see Ford play another full game. ( Rory Best where are you ?!?!?)
3 - Sheridan for his scrummaging power - with Vickery to replace him on 60 mins if he can stop giving away penalties.
4 - Simon Shaw - strange call yes? But his overall bulk will be needed to quell the power of Botha & Matfield in the opening exchanges. Wyn-Jones to replace him early 2nd half.
5 - PO'C. With Shaw on from the start O'Connell can carry more ball and hopefully set up a platform to release the backs - if only he learnt to pass in Ard Scoil Rís!
6 - Ferris, outstanding so far, very physical on the fringe area and has shown he can attack with pace. His off load versus Italy in the 6 nations shows he can play a continuity game as well.
7- Martyn Williams - the out and out scrounger, he will give a few penalties away at the breakdown, especially with the Lions not interpreting the refs well, but his ability to slow down the opposition will be vital.
8 - Heaslip - his athleticism wins him the spot over Wallace, but it's close. I think Powell has shown that he is too on dimensional and would be of no challenge to the man monster Spies.
9 - Phillips - crabbing along in his best Tomás O'Leary impression makes you think how much Howley must bemoan the loss of the Munster and Irish scrum half.
10 - Jones his physicality will win him the spot over O'Gara. If the Irish ten plays a good game Wednesday he will take the bench spot. If the test game is tight I would much rather a cool headed O'Gara to come on and pin the 'Boks into the corners.
11 - TBC - I would prefer Luke Fitzgerald or Monye on recent showings but will wait until next Sunday to make a call. I think the over persistence with trying to get Williams his form back is now embarrassing.
12 - Roberts - if Flutey can prove his fitness he takes the bench over D'Arcy for me, but for now I'd love to see the medical student run hard and straight into the Springboks backs.
13 - Brian O'Driscoll, with Roberts taking up a lot of the 'Boks backrow and back line I think O'Driscoll can exploit the extra space with his re-newed sense of skill. I will admit, I thought he was done prior to Christmas, but the 2nd half of the season he has played the rugby of his career. To top it off with a Lions series would befit a man of his talent.
14 - Tommy Bowe - what a difference a year makes? Playing for the Ospreys has turned him into a medium skilled winger into a top class distributor and link man- just watch the rout last Wednesday and see how many of the tries his hands were involved in.
15 - Lee Byrne - one knock on not withstanding one of the best 15's to ever play the game of rugby. Hopefully he can maintain that in the tests.
* team open to changes over the next two games. Author accepts he will not be 100% correct and that opinions with readers may vary. Author also doesn't care.