O'Callaghan to lead Lions against Kings
June 15, 2009
Lions head coach Ian McGeechan has put his faith in Irish lock Donncha O'Callaghan to lead the tourists against the Southern Kings © Getty Images
Ireland lock Donncha O'Callaghan will lead the British & Irish Lions in their latest tour clash against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.
The Lions' sixth tour match is the last opportunity for players to stake a claim for Saturday's first clash against South Africa with head coach Ian McGeechan's insisting that his Test side wil not be selected until after the game at the newly-built Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
O'Callaghan leads a team with a number of players thought to be in the mix for the eagerly-awaited Test series including the likes of prop Euan Murray, No.8 Andy Powell and utility back James Hook. Veteran Simon Shaw will partner O'Callaghan in the second row while hooker Ross Ford and prop Andrew Sheridan complete a powerful tight five unit.
Winger Shane Williams was set to have another outing on the wing but a bout of sickness sees him drop to the bench and Test-bound Ugo Monye start.
Elsewhere the line-up appears to have the look of a shadow team with McGeechan opting to keep his in-form big names on the sidelines.
Scotland lock Nathan Hines will be pressed into action at blindside flanker with Joe Worsley switched to the openside. Gordon D'Arcy will make his first start of the tour alongside Riki Flutey, who has been switched to outside centre.
Mike Blair has been named at scrum-half but faces a fitness test in the morning on the ankle injury which forced him to pull out of the squad for Saturday's victory over Western Province. Luke Fitzgerald starts on the wing with Keith Earls switched from outside centre to fullback.
"This is Test week and there is a notable change in attitude within the tour party," said Head Coach Ian McGeechan. "We are now heading towards the business end of the tour and the reason why we have come to South Africa. As you would expect the immediate focus is the next match against the Southern Kings on Tuesday before the attention turns to selection for the First Test for which all players will be considered.
"The Southern Kings is not a regular team but we understand there are some very talented players in the squad for the match. Experience tells me that you can never underestimate any South African team and like the other teams we have faced on the tour so far we will not take them lightly.
"Seven players are backing up from the Western Province game with Nathan Hines, Joe Worsley, Riki Flutey and Keith Earls given the opportunity in the starting XV in different positions. The team will be captained by proud Munster man, Donncha O'Callaghan, an experienced Lions tourist, who is a very popular member of the squad. This will be his 10th Lions match including two Tests against New Zealand during the 2005 tour.
"As mentioned by doctor Gary O'Driscoll yesterday at our medical briefing we will give Mike Blair a fitness test on Tuesday morning. He had to withdraw from the replacements bench against Western Province last Saturday due to a foot injury."
British & Irish Lions: K Earls (Munster & Ireland); U Monye (Harlequins & England), R Flutey (Wasps & England), G D'Arcy (Leinster & Ireland), L Fitzgerald (Leinster & Ireland), J Hook (Ospreys & Wales), M Blair (Edinburgh & Scotland); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks & England), R Ford (Edinburgh & Scotland), E Murray (Northampton & Scotland), S Shaw (Wasps & England), D O'Callaghan (Munster & Ireland) (capt), N Hines (Perpignan & Scotland), J Worsley (Wasps & England), A Powell (Cardiff Blues & Wales).
Replacements: M Rees (Scarlets & Wales), A Jones (Ospreys & Wales), T Croft (Leicester Tigers & England), D Wallace (Munster & Ireland), H Ellis (Leicester Tigers & England), R O'Gara (Munster & Ireland), S Williams (Ospreys & Wales).