Ian Mcgeechan has made 5 changes to the starting 15 to face the Springboks in the second test on Saturday. Adam Jones and Mattthew Rees come in to make it an all Welch front three. Shaw provides some added bulk in the second row taking the place of Alun Wyn Jones. In the backs Rob Kearney starts having come on and impressed last Saturday and Luke Fitzgerald gets his chacne to shine replacing Monye.
Stakes don’t get mcuh higher than a Lions tour and never is a higher standard demanded of British and Irish players, with that in mind there is no margin for error. People may think some of the 5 players dropped need another opportunity to show what they can do, perhaps they had an off day last week. You can’t afford to have an off day on a Lions tour, there are only three tests. McGeechan was spot on to go with his gut and drop the players who failed to step up on the big day.
Phil Vickery publicly spoke about how much it means to him to play for the Lions, but there’s no room for sentimentality in a test series. He was obliterated by the Beast last week and when Jones came on the Lions finally had a solid scrum. Lee Mears had been outstanding all tour but misfired in the line out and failed to have his usual influence around the field. In contrast Rees had been indifferent in previous matches on tour but on Saturday he hit his men in the line out and he got in the Boks’ faces.
Matfield and botha are a colossal pairing in the second row and even thoughtheir influence wasn’t huge in the first test it was clear that South Africa had the more powerful pack. With that in mind Geech rightly looked to add some muscle in the second row in the form of Simon Shaw. Having shone all tour Shaw deserves his chance, Wyn Jones is a useful option on the bench.
Outside of the pack the Irish youngsters Fitzgerald and Keareny step in to replace Monye and Byrne. The latter has gone home as a result of injury but Kearney’s substitute performance in Durban probably merited a starting place anyway. For those who feel Monye has been hard done by McGeechan can point to two excellent opportunities which the Harlequin’s man failed to convert, at this level at least one needed to be put away. Fitzgerald has been impressive on tour and like Shaw deserves his chance. These are all key selections in key areas and in my view McGeechan has made the perfect selection, the rest is up to the players.