Lions begin to take shape

The shape and identity of the British and Irish Lions was beginning to emerge after coach Ian McGeechan on Monday named his team to take on the Sharks in Durban on Wednesday.

McGeechan has gone back to some of the units who performed so well in the 74-10 victory over the Golden Lions, with a repeat of the centre combination of Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Roberts and the same back row of Tom Croft, Jamie Heaslip and David Wallace.

The Welsh pair of fullback Lee Byrne and wing Shane Williams will play their second consecutive match of the tour while Ireland’s Luke Fitzgerald moves from centre to wing and will also play his second game on the trot.

Lions captain Paul O’Connell and O’Driscoll, the only players the management have said are guaranteed starters in the Tests, have been named in the same team for the first time on tour.

McGeechan had stated before the tour started that the first three games would be used to give everyone in the squad a run but he has turned his attention to refining their combinations.

“The main thing was to get everybody playing in those first three games. In the next three games it is to keep looking at some of the combinations and we will try to maintain that and take it forward,” McGeechan told a news conference in Durban.

While the Lions’ team has a strong look to it and could be considered to be close to a possible Test selection, McGeechan was quick to shoot that possibility down.

“We will try to get combinations together but it is unlikely that our Test XV will play as a XV before the Test match,” McGeechan said.

“As coaches we agree that we have to be fair to the players and we have to construct everything that we are doing to be interrelated and includes everybody.”

Team: Lee Byrne; Shane Williams, Brian O’Driscoll, Jamie Roberts, Luke Fitzgerald; Ronan O’Gara, Mike Phillips; Jamie Heaslip, David Wallace, Tom Croft; Paul O’Connell (captain), 4-Alun-Wyn Jones; Adam Jones, Lee Mears, Gethin Jenkins.

Replacements: Matthew Rees, Phil Vickery, Simon Shaw, Joe Worsley, Mike Blair, Riki Flutey, Leigh Halfpenny.—Reuters

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