June International Tours

Wallace edges out Williams in Lions Test team


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David Wallace edged Martyn Williams for a back row spot in the British and Irish Lions starting lineup for Saturday’s first test against world champion South Africa while prop Andrew Sheridan didn’t even get a spot on the bench.

Wallace helped Ireland win the Six Nations title and has played consistently on tour while Wales flanker Williams has only recently returned from a shoulder injury.

Sheridan, singled out as a key threat by one of the provincial South African teams the Lions beat, won’t be involved. He has lost out to Gethin Jenkins who starts as loosehead prop in the lineup announced on Thursday and Adam Jones is on the bench.

Shane Williams, who won the IRB’s player of the year award for 2008, was also left out of the 22 after a run of poor form but that was no surprise.

“The test team has been picked on form following the six provincial matches,” said head coach Ian McGeechan.

“There were some very difficult calls to make as the players as a group and individually have done everything that we have asked of them and performed on the field.

“It has been 20 years since a Lions team has won all of its provincial matches leading up to the test series so it is very satisfying to be in such a position.”

The Lions have won all six of their warmup games with McGeechan repeatedly making entire lineup changes to try out various combinations before coming up with the 15 he hopes will give his side a winning start in the three-test series.

“There will be some huge disappointments because you can’t hide that. They’re all big international players and they all wanted a test place,” said McGeechan, who is on his seventh Lions tour.

“How they have responded since is very positive.” Lions captain Paul O’Connell said the players had to produce their best performance against the Springboks but, if they did, they would win the game.

“We are going to have to be a little more accurate than we have been,” the Ireland lock forward said.

“We’ve been very good at training and we’ve got to bring that out onto the pitch. It’s happened at times throughout the tour but probably not enough and hopefully we can do that on Saturday.

“We’ve got fabulous players in every position, great pace in the back row and in the back line and a very fit front five, a very good scrummaging front five. We need things to go our way a little bit. If we put together an 80 minute performance on Saturday there’s no doubt that we can win.”

The two teams also face each other at Pretoria on June 27 and Johannesburg on July 4.

While the Lions have already played six times, the Springboks squad have not played a single match and most of have not had any game action for up to five weeks.

Many of the South Africa squad have been together for several years, winning the 2004 Tri-Nations and the 2007 World Cup in France. Coach Peter de Villiers has chosen a predictable lineup although combative back row Schalk Burger is missing with a calf muscle injury.

McGeechan said that prop Euan Murray had been ruled out of the rest of the tour with an ankle injury he picked up in Tuesday’s bruising victory over the Southern Kings and the Lions may have to look at a short-term replacement.

Flyhalf James Hook is back in training after sustaining a neck and head injury after a high tackle in that match.

British and Irish Lions Lineup:

Lee Byrne, Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll, Jamie Roberts, Ugo Monye, Stephen Jones, Mike Phillips, Gethin Jenkins, Lee Mears, Phil Vickery, Alun-Wyn Jones, Paul O’Connell (captain), Tom Croft, David Wallace, James Heaslip.

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

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