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Thursday, 2 July 2009

Lions 3rd Test Team

After a prolonged absence due to lack of an internet connection I'm back to give my opinion on all things rugby, specifically the Lions team for the 3rd Test this weekend.

With this match being something of a dead rubber and the injuries mounting up McGeechan has gone with an interesting selection.

There are four changes in the pack. Sheridan and Vickery come in for the injured Jenkins and Jones respectively while Williams and Worsley replace Wallace and Croft.

Sheridan acquitted himself well as a replacement in the second Test and he should dominate John Smit in the scrums. Fears that Beast Mtwarira will best Vickery in the scrums again should be allayed by the improved scrummaging power afforded by Shaw in the second row.

Martyn Williams will offer more in link play and at the breakdown than Wallace which will be needed after the injury to O'Driscoll who is like a third flanker in midfield. In Worsley the Lions at last have selected a blindside flanker whose defence is strong enough for the Boks unlike Tom Croft who despite constant championing by the English media has only proved what Martin Johnson has said before. He's a hybrid forward stuck between two stools. Too lightweight to be a world class second row and not aggressive enough in the tackle to be a Test blindside.

In the backs Shane Williams and Ugo Monye have come onto the wings with Tommy Bowe being partnered by Riki Flutey in the centre. Luke Fitzgearld is paying the price for his defensive error in the lead up to the first try, however he rarely put a foot wrong elsewhere and this call seems harsh on the young Leinster player considering Williams is out of form and Monye missed two try scoring oppurtunities in the first test.

It's asking a lot of Bowe to play at second centre as he has played there rarely for the Ospreys and never at test level. Perhaps the Lions management are hoping if he gets his hands on the ball more often he can create chances for others as he did earlier in the tour. Kearney continues at full back as do the half back partnership of Jones and Philips. These three players will have to be at their best if the Lions hope to avoid a whitewash.

The Lions management have gone with a 5-2 split on the bench. It's an odd decision that could see Harry Ellis playing on the wing if injuries like last week repeat themselves. The Irish pair of Keith Earls and Gordon D'arcy can feel hard done by to be left out the squad altogether considering the paucity of centres on tour.

There is hope for the Lions in that South Africa have named a very inexperienced side with ten changes overall. Yet some of the changes may not weaken the Boks at all. Wynand Olivier and Jaque Fourie are a very strong centre pairing, perhaps stronger than last weeks centre pairing. Morne Steyn replaces Ruan Pienaar which will strengthen the Boks kicking game and in swapping Spies for Ryan Kankowski the Lions are faced with another freakish athlete at No. 8.
After the heroics of the last two Tests the last thing the 2009 Lions deserve is a whitewash however it seems on the cards. South Africa to win.


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