Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Don't Expect Much English Pride in South Africa Lions; Twelve Years Ago, the Red Rose Was Key to a Famous 2- 1 Victory - This Year It Will Be a Different Matter. by Chris Jones

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Don't Expect Much English Pride in South Africa Lions; Twelve Years Ago, the Red Rose Was Key to a Famous 2- 1 Victory - This Year It Will Be a Different Matter. by Chris Jones

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones

ENGLAND provided the spine of the British and Irish Lions test team that defeated world champions South Africa in 1997 but it won't be the same this summer.

The English contribution to the 2-1 series victory 12 years ago was huge, with the team captained by lock Martin Johnson, the pack featuring a back row of Lawrence Dallaglio, Tim Rodber and Richard Hill while Matt Dawson at scrum-half and Jerry Guscott at outside centre provided the guile.

The South Africans are again world champions and are desperate to gain revenge for the years of hurt left by that series disaster against Ian McGeechan's expertly coached squad.

When McGeechan names his 35-strong Lions party on 21 April, England's influence will be limited despite Johnson's men finishing second in the Six Nations thanks to their gradual improvement as the tournament went on.

Grand Slam champions Ireland and last year's winners Wales will provide the bulk of the leading candidates and England's major hope of getting into the mix comes down to London Wasps.

McGeechan, the Wasps director of rugby, is taking the club's head coach Shaun Edwards with him to South

Africa along with Warren Gatland, the club's former director of rugby and Rob Howley, their ex-scrum half.

No one is suggesting it will " jobs for the boys" but Wasps players will figure strongly in the final selection debates with Paul Sackey, Riki Flutey, Danny Cipriani, Phil Vickery, Simon Shaw, Joe Worsley, Tom Rees and James Haskell all warranting some support.

It would be natural for McGeechan to opt for a player he knows well if it's a close call for very practical reasons. The modern Lions tour does not allow the coaches time on foreign soil to see how players react to the conditions, the opposition and the unique demands of being one of Home Unions' elite. …

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