Sunday, July 05, 2009

Reflections on the Lions tour.

Commentators have been dumping much of the blame for the 2-1 series defeat to the Springboks on the selection errors for the first test. OK, I know there's nothing more nauseating than an 'I told you so' - but I did. The criticism is justified. The management team seem to have done a brilliant job maintaining morale and motivation, so let the praise be lavished. But lets not pretend that it wasn't wrong selections for the first test that blew it.

My team was based on the twin prop power of Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones. When Adam came on as a replacement in the first test, the game had gone. When he went off in the second test the game looked very winnable. While the two Welsh boys were on together, the Springboks were on the back foot. Nothing against Phil Vickery, and I'm really pleased that he did well yesterday. I also had Martyn Williams in for David Wallace. Not sure this would have made much of a difference, but Williams showed his class yesterday. I also had Fitzgerald in for Monya, who despite his power and potential, failed to ground chances in the first test that Bowe and Williams would have succeeded with as well as Fitzgerald. Pleased for Monya, who looks a real star for the future, that he scored a cracker yesterday to redeem himself.

My 'hindsight' team for the first test would have just one change from the team I wanted - Simon Shaw for Alun Wyn Jones. Shaw was rightly brought on to provide more ballast, but no-one could have predicted his massive contribution. The team I recommended be picked was, Byrne, Bowe, Fitzgerald, Roberts, O'Driscoll, Jones, Phillips, Jenkins, Mears, Adam Jones, O'Connell, Alun Wyn Jones, Croft, Heaslip and Williams. If they had listened, the Lions would have won the series.

They would still have won but for an almost unbelievable stroke of bad luck - losing both props and both centres to injury in the middle of the second half. The Lions had perhaps six irreplaceable players, and four of them went off injured at almost the same time. But it might not have mattered if the correct team had been selected for the first test. And I don't like this whinging that we would have won if Burger had seen the red card he deserved. That would have been a 'Pyrrhic' victory. I thought the eye gouging incident spoiled a great tour. Lots of mummies and daddies will be sending their kiddies out to play with a round rather than an oval ball as a consequence of the moronic comments of the Springbok coach. If the South Africans care anything for the world game they should sack the coach, and up Buger's ban to six months.

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