British & Irish Lions Legend Sir Ian McGeechan Picks His XV For South Africa 2021
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Legendary former Lions head coach Sir Ian McGeechan is the latest to have a go at picking his best British and Irish Lions XV as things stand for next year’s series against the Springboks.
McGeechan was the man in charge of the Lions when they last toured South Africa in 2009, losing the series 2-1 but earning huge praise for how close his side pushed the then reigning world champions.
Interestingly, twelve years later since they last met, the Springboks will once again be reigning World Cup champions having defeat England in the final in Japan last year.
But despite Eddie Jones’ side coming up short on that day, McGeechan has packed his XV with English players. Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Tom Curry are among seven English selected.
Two Irish players make his XV with Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan included, while the rest of the squad is made up of three Scots and three Welsh players.
“South Africa is the most unique of Lions tours,” McGeechan told BBC.
“The crowds are intimidating, there’s the Afrikaner on the highveld, there’s the relentless physicality. Martin Johnson [McGeechan’s captain in 1997] always said that players can only talk about being in a really physical game after they’d played the Springboks in their own backyard.
“It’s just different there.”
In terms of his selection, McGeehchan said he tried to look for ‘Test-Match Animals’ who can reach another level when need “mentally and technically under pressure.”
“You don’t beat the Springboks physically, but you manage them physically so you can win somewhere else,” McGeechan added.
“We did that in 1974 and, in 1997, we moved their powerful forwards around the pitch and played away from them. In 2009, we didn’t win the series but the South Africans said they couldn’t read the rugby we were playing at times.
“Technically and tactically the game moves on, but the principle remains the same – the more decision-makers you have in the team the better. This is why I used the phrase ‘Test-Match Animal’ – you’re looking for a player who has another level he can go to mentally and technically under pressure.
“Stopping South Africa’s momentum was the key in 1974 and it’s still the key to this day. Force your opponent to play a game they didn’t anticipate playing, a game they didn’t see in their heads.
“You’re looking for guys who have the confidence and ability to make things happen. Pre-programmed players can’t do that. You need special players.”
Sir Ian McGeechan’s Lions XV
15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
14. Anthony Watson (England)
13. Jonathan Davies (Wales)
12. Manu Tuilagi (England)
11. Liam Williams (Wales)
10. Owen Farrell (England)
9. Gareth Davies (Wales)
1. Rory Sutherland (Scotland)
2. Jamie George (England)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
4. Maro Itoje (England)
5. James Ryan (Ireland)
6. Jamie Ritchie (Scotland)
7. Tom Curry (England)
8. Billy Vunipola (England).