Lions to roar to success in South Africa
Ian McGeechan has named his British and Lions squad today for this summer's tour of South Africa as well as appointing Irish lock Paul O'Connell as captain for the tour.
The only alternative to O'Connell as captain was the Ireland Grand Slam-winning captain Brian O'Driscoll but O'Connell is probably the right choice.
McGeechan named a 37-man squad for the three-Test series tour of South Africa with unsurprisingly Ireland leading the way with 14 players. They are closely followed by 13 from Wales, eight from England and just two Scots.
There were no major surprises thrown up by the experienced Scot. The biggest omissions are probably England full-back Delon Armitage who was impressive in the Six Nations and Wales captain Ryan Jones. While the biggest surprise call-ups were Keith Earls and Alan Quinlan, both of Ireland.
The World Champions South Africa are the 2/5 favourites to win the series despite the impressive looking squad that McGeechan has picked. The Lions are priced at 2/1 with the unlikely event of a drawn series at 25/1.
The last time the Lions were in South Africa, in 1997, they won the series 2-1 after a drop goal by England's Jeremy Guscott late in the second Test put the Lions 2-0 up in the series and then the Springboks won the last Test.
Of course with the time that has passed between the series the 2009 Lions are vastly different from their 1997 counterparts, indeed only England lock Simon Shaw was on the tour in 1997. However Ian McGeechan was the Head Coach back then like he is this time around. A repeat 2-1 scoreline to the Lions can be backed at 3/1 and this looks to be where the value lies.
A South African 2-1 series win is a 6/4 shot and South Africa to whitewash the Lions, as New Zealand did four years ago, is priced at 7/4. But this Lions tour should be much better organised under the guidance of experienced Lions coach Ian McGeechan as opposed to the chaos that ensued against the All Blacks under Clive Woodward.
McGeechan has been the coach of the Lions on three previous tours and this experience should prepare him for what will no doubt be a tough tour, with a gruelling schedule, but ultimately successful tour for this talented Lions squad.
|Wing||Leigh Halfpenny||20||Cardiff Blues||Wales|
|Centre||Tom Shanklin||29||Cardiff Blues||Wales|
|Centre||Jamie Roberts||22||Cardiff Blues||Wales|
|Fly-half||Stephen Jones||31||Llanelli Scarlets||Wales|
|Prop||Gethin Jenkins||28||Cardiff Blues||Wales|
|Hooker||Matthew Rees||28||Llanelli Scarlets||Wales|
|Lock||Alun Wyn Jones||23||Ospreys||Wales|
|Back-row||Andy Powell||27||Cardiff Blues||Wales|
|Back-row||Martyn Williams||33||Cardiff Blues||Wales|
|30 May||Highveld XV||Royal Bakofeng, Rustenburg|
|3 June||Golden Lions||Ellis Park, Johannesburg|
|6 June||Cheetahs||Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein|
|10 June||Sharks||ABSA Park, Durban|
|13 June||Western Province||Newlands, Cape Town|
|16/17 June||Coastal XV||Port Elizabeth (TBC)|
|20 June||South Africa||ABSA Park, Durban|
|23 June||Emerging Springboks||Newlands, Cape Town|
|27 June||South Africa||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|4 July||South Africa||Ellis Park, Johannesburg|