The third Test Lions selection McGeechan finds 'most puzzling'
Sir Ian McGeechan has pinpointed what he sees as Warren Gatland’s most peculiar selection ahead of the British & Irish Lions third Test decider against the Springboks.
After suffering a series turning defeat in Cape Town last weekend, Gatland has changed up the backline significantly going into the third game, with the Lions midfield and back three failing to fire in the Test series to date.
Yet it’s the front row change that Lion’ guru McGeechan finds most baffling.
“My takeaway from the first two Tests is that the pace at which the first half is played will be decisive,” McGeechan writes in his Telegraph column. “In the first Test the Lions lost the first half but managed to run the legs off the Springbok forwards and dominated the second half in general and the last quarter in particular. But last week there were so many interruptions, with the first half taking almost an hour to complete, that the South African big men were pretty fresh during the second half, which they dominated as a consequence.
“My preference, therefore, would have been to try and play at tempo in the first half, to start with those players who would allow that to happen, and then use the experienced players to close out the game.
“Gats has, however, chosen a different, more conservative path. He’s gone for combinations and relied on players he knows well. Many of his most creative footballers are on the bench.”
The introduction of Welsh hooker Kens Owens is what McGeechan can’t get his head around, with the free-running Luke Cowan-Dickie having to settle for a place on the bench.
“The most puzzling forward selection is Owens, who had a torrid time at the lineout last week. If the Lions are to win, they need to get tempo from the set-piece and in particular the lineout. Luke Cowan-Dickie has done little wrong so far, but if he were to be replaced I’d have put him on the bench and started with Jamie George, whose lineout throws are by far the most accurate.
McGeechan would have have liked to see more change in the back five of the pack, which has remained unchanged throughout the Test series.
“I would have liked to see the back five of the scrum changed at least a bit. Courtney Lawes has had one good half so I’d have started with Tadhg Beirne at No 6 and I’d have put Iain Henderson – the form tight forward in the early stages of the tour before Alun Wyn Jones arrived – on the bench with a view to bringing him on at half-time for Alun Wyn to add some mobility and ball-carrying.”
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