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Why McGeechan thinks Gatland has got it wrong with Jones on bench

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Ex-Lions boss Ian McGeechan has claimed Warren Gatland has got his thinking wrong about selecting Alun Wyn Jones on the bench for this Saturday’s final preparation match versus the Stormers in Cape Town. Jones, the original tour captain, had been ruled out of the trip when he dislocated his shoulder versus Japan on June 26.

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However, a miracle recovery resulted in his midweek recall to the Lions tour and after he flew into Cape Town on Thursday morning, he was immediately chosen on the bench to take on the Stormers ahead of the three-game Test series versus the Springboks.

McGeechan, though, believes this was the wrong call from Gatland, who was his assistant when he led the Lions on their last tour to South Africa in 2009 when the Test series was lost 2-1 after the tourists started poorly in the opening Test match.

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Writing in his latest Telegraph newsletter on the tour, McGeechan claimed: “I have to admit that I don’t understand why Alun Wyn Jones is starting on the bench on Saturday.

“Given the inevitable worries over the fitness of a veteran who has not played since June 26, and bearing in mind that there must be doubts about whether his injured shoulder will stand up to the physical brutality that will be meted out by the Springboks next week, I would definitely have started him against the Stormers.

“The context is next week’s first Test. It’s always been my contention that if Alun Wyn is to play in the series, he must be given a full leadership role all week and that he must start. Otherwise, his impact as a leader is neutered and you don’t get the full benefit of his presence. That is as much the case against the Stormers as it would be against the Springboks.

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“On a more practical level, if he starts then you can bring him off if/when he begins to tire or if the injury turns out to impair his performance. Starting him would give a true sense of where he is at physically, which is important for Warren Gatland to know before choosing the team to start the first Test.

“Alun Wyn should also start next week for exactly the same reasons, but also because it will allow him to take a full leadership role all week, and to take that into those absolutely crucial first 40 minutes against the Springboks. His galvanising personality, shrewd on-field tactical appreciation and experience of playing South Africa will be crucial in those early exchanges when the South African onslaught will be at its fiercest. That is when the Lions will need their captain the most, and when his presence will be of the greatest use.”

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Why McGeechan thinks Gatland has got it wrong with Jones on bench

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