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02 Jun 2009 10:48
The British and Irish Lions will be looking for a marked improvement in their overall performance when they clash with the Golden Lions in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
The game is the second fixture of this year’s 10-match tour of South Africa.
Ian McGeechan’s men were far from convincing in their opener against a Royal XV in Rustenburg on the weekend, sealing the victory only late in the match after tries by replacement lock Alun-Wyn Jones and Ronan O’Gara.
McGeechan admits the hosts will pose several different challenges for his side.
“We will have had an extra four days together at altitude, so by the time we kick off we will be more adjusted to the conditions,” said McGeechan.
“We’re playing a team that’s been together for the whole year so it’s going to be a big challenge for us.
“There were some good things we did in the match, and there were some bad things, but I was excited by some of the things I saw in that second half. It’s now a case of building on those positive aspects of our game going forward,” the British and Irish Lions coach added.
Some of the areas where the coach will want to see improvement on Wednesday is in the handling department—the Lions knocked-on on several occasions on Saturday—as well as at the ruck, where the Royals had the upper-hand.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s clash at Coca-Cola Park, Golden Lions skipper Cobus Grobbelaar said he was expecting a ferocious battle at the breakdowns.
“They like to hit the rucks hard and I know they’ll be more physical and aggressive than they were in Rustenburg,” he said.
“The Lions simply had an off-day at the weekend, so I’m expecting a totally different game from them against us.”
Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll will captain a radically overhauled British and Irish Lions squad, including five newcomers to the red-shirted ranks.
Stephen Jones, David Wallace, Phil Vickery and Gethin Jenkins are all filling key roles in the side.
“We were always going to mix it up in the first three matches so that everyone gets a full outing,” McGeechan said.
“David Wallace now has the opportunity to play at openside flanker following his selection at No 8 against the Royal XV.
“Stephen Jones, who was a replacement in the last match but did not get a run, links up with Welsh teammate and scrumhalf Mike Phillips, giving the team an experienced halfback combination.”
Meanwhile, the Golden Lions team shows no significant changes to the side that featured during South Africa’s Super 14 competition this season.—Sapa-AFP
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