Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Leonard Is So Quick to Defend Dai's Driftwood

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Leonard Is So Quick to Defend Dai's Driftwood

Article excerpt


FROM all the rumblings of discontent, it's easy to picture a load of non-Test Lions wandering around Sydney in shorts and Hawaiian shirts simply looking for a good time in the buildup to tomorrow's final Test with Australia, writes Chris Jones.

It's true that the midweek players have collected the nickname Dai's Driftwood - in honour of their captain, Dai Young of Wales - but despite the outpouring of frustration from men like Ireland's Malcolm O'Kelly, veteran England prop Jason Leonard insists it is totally wrong to list those 15 players as being "off tour".

Leonard told Standard Sport: "You can still play a key role, even if you aren't in the Test 22.

"You don't suddenly go off tour just because your name wasn't read out in the match squad.

"Anything you can do to make life easier for the Test guys is appreciated and I know that is true, having been involved in the first two Tests.

"I don't believe the rugby public understands this is the case and they seem to think that the guys not in the match squad are listed under the title 'You're done then' and expect us to be apart from the rest of the squad. It's just not the case."

With a record 37 players in Australia for just 10 matches over six weeks, there were always going to be

high-profile figures left out of the Test squad. Leonard was involved in the first two Tests and is now dealing with the disappointment of not getting changed for tomorrow's decider.

Having played Test rugby for 11 years and racked up three Lions tours, Leonard knows how to handle himself and has not made the mistake, as others have, of letting rip in newspaper columns.

He also knows the 15 players not required must remain a highly-visible part of the squad.

Leonard explained: "Those 15 players have to be switched on at training to help with extra lineout drills, scrummaging or just kicking the ball back to Jonny Wilkinson and Matt Dawson from behind the posts.

"You are all involved in some way to try and ensure this tour ends with a win to create history. …

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