British and Irish Lions
McGeechan abandons extended Lions squad plan
January 15, 2009
British & Irish Lions head coach Ian McGeechan, flanked by Tour Manager Gerald Davies, faces the media during the Lions media briefing at the Heathrow Sofitel in London, England on December 11, 2008.
British and Irish Lions coach Ian McGeechan has scrapped plans for a preliminary Lions squad © Getty Images

British and Irish Lions Head Coach Ian McGeechan has scrapped plans to release an extended preliminary squad for the 2009 tour of South Africa.

McGeechan's original plans involved releasing a 60-65 name squad next week before identifying the final tour squad of roughly 35 in April following the Six Nations.

"Instead of selecting and announcing a preliminary squad this month, we have decided that we should instead work closely with each of the four Home Union coaches in the lead-up and during the Six Nations to determine which players are showing the form and application that will make them suitable tourists," said McGeechan. "Becoming a Lion is the pinnacle of a player's career - it is a unique experience and nothing compares to it.

"We want to ensure that all players continue to see they have a chance of playing themselves into contention for the final squad that we will be announcing in April, as planned."

The Lions leave for South Africa on May 24 for a ten match tour encompassing Test matches against the Springboks in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg.

"Selection of the tour party is the most important element of the tour, as far as I am concerned," said McGeechan. "I want to ensure that we have every opportunity to make the best selection decisions and that we utilise expertise from outside the group, such as the national coaches of the home nations, to select the final group of players that will represent the British Isles in South Africa."

The Lions management have announced a number of support personnel for the tour, including physio Phil Pask and masseur Richard Wegrzyk, both of whom travelled to the 2003 World Cup with England, and Ireland national team doctor Gary O'Driscoll.

"The next step in terms of tour planning is a final pre-tour visit to South Africa later this month to finalise many aspects of the tour such as accommodation, internal travel and training facilities," said Lions tour manager Gerald Davies. "As a management group, we are under no illusion of the challenges that we face when we travel to South Africa this summer.

"We will be facing the world champions on their home soil, and therefore it is crucial that we are comfortable with all aspects of the tour logistics and that we have a suitable environment in place to allow the players to perform at their maximum."

Latest Lions support personnel for the 2009 tour of South Africa:

Paul Stridgeon - assistant physical conditioner

Gary O'Driscoll - doctor

Phil Pask, Prav Mathema, Bob Stewart - physiotherapists

Richard Wegrzyk - masseur

Guy Richardson - logistics officer

Dave Campbell - chef

Lions coaching and management team:

Gerald Davies (tour manager), Ian McGeechan (head coach), Warren Gatland (forwards coach), Shaun Edwards (defence coach), Rob Howley (backs coach), Graham Rowntree (scrum coach), Craig White (head of physical conditioning) James Robson (head of medical), Rhys Long (head of performance analysis), Greg Thomas (head of media) and Louise Ramsay (team operations manager).


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