British & Irish Lions
McGeechan warning for tour hopefuls
March 20, 2013
Lions legend Sir Ian McGeechan insists players cannot be picked on reputation alone © Getty Images
Former British & Irish Lions boss Sir Ian McGeechan has issued a warning to those players currently sidelined with injury by insisting that form should be the key to selection for this year's eagerly-awaited tour to Australia.
Lions head coach Warren Gatland is set to announce his squad for the forthcoming tour of Australia on April 30 with the recently-concluded Six Nations set to have a significant bearing on his selection. But Ireland lock Paul O'Connell, winger Simon Zebo, Wales flanker Dan Lydiate and England prop Alex Corbisiero among those who saw little or no championship action due to injuries.
McGeechan, a key advisor to his successor as Lions coach, believes Gatland will get the tough calls right but has urged him not to select players just on their reputation. "You need to take fit players. With only a six-week preparation period you can't have players carrying injuries or players out of form," McGeechan told PA Sport.
"That's the big call for the coaches, picking fit players who are on form who can then come together, so you are working with what you want to do right from the word go with players doing every training session and available for games. You can't find form and if you are injured you haven't got the time.
"That's been the mistake in the past, in that players who have not been in form or have been injured have gone because the coach thinks he's the best player in the position based on reputation, not performance. I think the three months prior to the tour is the critical period."
Australia coach Robbie Deans recently suggested that the Lions held an advantage when it comes to preparation with the Wallabies limited to a three-week camp ahead of the Test series due to the Super Rugby season. But McGeechan does not agree. He said: "You are playing southern hemisphere countries who take it all pretty seriously anyway, they have had years to put a team together.
"They are bedded in and know what they are doing. The Lions have high-quality players but what you have to do is work out the best way of getting that talent to show in Test match conditions. Sometimes it's about not over-complicating it, it's being very clear and straightforward about what you want."
Like Gatland, Wales caretaker coach Rob Howley and England assistant coach Graham Rowntree will be on the Lions coaching staff for a second tour with the management team completed by England assistant Andy Farrell. McGeechan believes continuity is an important factor and also expects many of the players to have tackled South Africa in 2009 to also return.
He said: "When you are trying to put together a top-class, world-class Test team, if you have got that little bit of continuity you are away from first base straight away. I think Warren Gatland was the right appointment, he's an outstanding coach but he also understands the Lions and has experience from 2009. So it will be lot of similar management people and maybe a third to a half of the players. You are not starting from scratch knowing you have five weeks to be Test match ready."
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