Wallace edges Williams for Lions Test side spot

Ireland’s David Wallace edged out Martyn Williams for the key position of openside flanker when British and Irish Lions coach Ian McGeechan on Thursday named his team for the first Test against South Africa.

There were no real surprises and few contentious selections in the team for Saturday’s clash in Durban, with Williams named among the replacements after a shoulder injury limited his involvement in the provincial games.

“Some of the decisions have been very tight in different positions,” McGeechan, who said the selectors had mulled the line-up for several hours, told reporters.

“The Lions tradition is as strong as any tradition, as a Springbok jersey, as an All Black jersey. There are legendary performances associated with the Lions but it’s unique as you’re taking on the tradition of four countries”

Welshman Alun Wyn Jones got the nod as the second lock, as his athleticism complements the more solid qualities of captain Paul O’Connell, while Gethin Jenkins and Phil Vickery are the props sandwiching Lee Mears.

The Welsh halfback pairing of Stephen Jones and Mike Phillips was confirmed while Tommy Bowe and England’s Ugo Monye are on the wings.

The starting test team have not played together in any of the six tour games to date but McGeechan said he was prepared to accept that for the pay-off of giving everyone in the squad enough of a chance to show what they could do.

“The preparation for the first Test has been very positive. It has been a challenge to reach the first Test with an unbeaten record as we have played a variety of provincial teams across the country,” McGeechan said.

Team: Lee Byrne; Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll, Jamie Roberts, Ugo Monye; Stephen Jones, Mike Phillips; Jamie Heaslip, David Wallace, Tom Croft; Paul O’Connell (captain), Alun Wyn Jones; Phil Vickery, Lee Mears, Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: Matthew Rees, Adam Jones, Donncha O’Callaghan, Martyn Williams, Harry Ellis, Ronan O’Gara, Rob Kearney.—Reuters

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