Posted by: fiore | April 22, 2009

Beware of the Lions!

So finally the wait is over. Head Coach Ian McGeechan announced yesterday the British & Irish Lions squad which will tour to South Africa from 30th May to 4th July.

British & Irish Lions

British & Irish Lions

The 37 players team (17 backs and 20 forwards) will be captained by Irish Munster skipper & lock, Paul O’Connell, the 10th Irishman who has been given this honour. (The last two winning Lions skippers have both been second rows – Martin Johnson in South Africa in 1997 and Willie-John McBride in South Africa in 1974.)

He’ll lead a team composed of 8 English players, 2 Scottish, 14 Irish (8 from Munster) and 13 Welsh.

Three national captains from the 2009 RBS 6 Nations have failed to make the party – Steve Borthwick (England), Mike Blair (Scotland) and Ryan Jones (Wales). If it’s not a surprise Borthwick’s exclusion, it’s a different story for Blair and Jones, who were both running for the “IRB Players of the Year Award” which eventually went to Shane Williams.

I would have definitely picked Ryan Jones either for Andy Powell or Joe Worsley, and Blair instead of Ellis perhaps.

Anyway here are 4 players to watch: full-back Rob Kearney, who had a very impressive 6Nations, flanker David Wallace (of course!) whose work-rate is tremendous especially with Munster, lock Paul O’Connell who will have a very difficult task at keeping together the team and hooker Jerry Flannery.

Other interesting players I’ll keep an eye on will be Scotland prop Euan Murray, Ireland scrum-half Tomas O’Leary and both fly-halves, Ronan O’Gara and Stephen Jones.

The full squad is as follows:

Fullback

Rob Kearney

Rob Kearney

Lee Byrne (Wales)
Rob Kearney (Ireland)

Wing
Shane Williams (Wales)
Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
Ugo Moyne (England)
Luke Fitzgerald (Ireland)
Tommy Bowe (Ireland)

Centre
Tom Shanklin (Wales)
Jamie Roberts (Wales)
Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
Keith Earls (Ireland)
Riki Flutey (England)

Fly Half
Ronan O’Gara (Ireland)
Stephen Jones (Wales)

Scrum Half
Mike Phillips (Wales)
Harry Ellis (England)
Tomas O’Leary (Ireland)

No 8
Jamie Heaslip (Ireland)
Andy Powell (Wales)

Flanker

David Wallace

David Wallace

David Wallace (Ireland)
Stephen Ferris (Ireland)
Alan Quainlan (Ireland)
Joe Worsley (England)
Martyn Williams (Wales)

Lock
Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales)
Paul O’Connell (Ireland) Captain

Paul O'Connell, Captain

Paul O'Connell, Captain

Donncha O’Callaghan (Ireland)
Simon Shaw (England)
Nathan Hines (Scotland)

Prop
Gethin Jenkins (Wales)
Adam Jones (Wales)
Andrew Sheridan (England)
Phil Vickery (England)
Euan Murray (Scotland)

Hooker

Jerry Flannery

Jerry Flannery

Jerry Flannery (Ireland)
Lee Mears (England)
Matthew Rees (Wales)

Other Interesting Facts

There are 13 players in the party who have played for the Lions before, of which four will be making their third tours – Brian O’Driscoll (2001, 2005, 2009), Ronan O’Gara (2001, 2005, 2009), Simon Shaw (1997, 2005, 2009) and Martyn Williams (2001, 2005, 2009).

Simon Shaw is the only survivor from the 1997 Test series winning tour to South Africa. He will be the oldest member of the party at 35 (01/09/73).

Other players who are making a second tour are – Shane Williams, Tom Shanklin, Stephen Jones, David Wallace, Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, Gethin Jenkins, Phil Vickery, Andrew Sheridan.

Cardiff Blues and Wales wing Leigh Halfpenny will be the youngest member of the tour party at 20 (22/12/88).

Leinster and Ireland wing Luke Fitzgerald follows his father, Des, into the Lions colours. Irish prop Des played for the British Lions against the Rest of the World in the 1986 IRB Centenary game in Cardiff.

David Wallace will be hoping to follow in his brother Paul’s footsteps by winning a Test series in South Africa. It will be David’s second tour, taking the family tour total to four (Richard 1983, Paul 1997 and David 2001 and 2009).

2009 British & Irish Lions Fixtures

2009 British & Irish Lions Fixtures

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