June International Tours

Monye is a ‘proven finisher’: McGeechan

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The British and Irish Lions have selected a team which is mainly predictable for the first Test against South Africa in Durban on Saturday but they also answered the questions about the team’s loose trio, the lock partner for captain Paul O’Connell and the flyhalf.


The team generally looks like a strong unit with big, physical forwards and a backline which will be built around the conservatism of their halfbacks Stephen Jones and Mike Phillips and the ability to create opportunities wider out.


Jones has been preferred at flyhalf to Ronan O’Gara, which sets up something head coach Ian McGeechan has been harping on from the start of the tour – combinations.


He will be partnered at halfback by his Wales team-mate Phillips, while the big, exciting Jamie Roberts will be on the inside of the great outside centre Brian O’Driscoll.


Jones as flyhalf brings a dependability to the starting side, with O’Gara able to bring something else to the side when he runs on as replacement.


At lock, Alun-Wyn Jones will partner O’Connell, and the duo will bring a huge physicality to the pack – something that the Lions feel is paramount for success on the tour.


In a relative surprise, Munster’s David Wallace has been included as an openside flanker, with Martyn Williams starting off the bench.


“We opted to start with Wally – with two strong players we can call on both during the 80 minutes,” said McGeechan, who pointed out that they were both in good form.


Tom Croft will bring pace to the loose trio and will be given the responsibility of securing good ball at the back of the lineout -something Jamie Heaslip can help him with.


Veteran England tighthead Phil Vickery has been selected as tighthead and Gethin Jenkins’ better all-round play and solid scrummaging has given him the loosehead berth.


With Vickery able to scrum on the loosehead if required, the prop replacement is Wales’ Alan Jones. On the wing, 26-year-old Ugo Monye gets his first cap ahead of 2008 IRB Player of the Year Shane Williams.


Monye is described by McGeechan as a “proven finisher who has played well on tour.”


The Lions coach does not feel Monye’s lack of Test experience will count against him.

 

“It’s his first Test for the Lions – he’s in for something he’s never experienced before,” McGeechan said, adding that this will be the case with all the new Lions Test caps.

 

British and Irish Lions Team:

 

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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