Sir Ian McGeechan Reckons Warren Gatland Got A Big Selection Call Wrong For This Weekend
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Legendary former British and Lions head coach reckons current boss Warren Gatland got a huge selection call wrong for this weekend’s game against the Stormers as they get set for the Test series against the Springboks on Saturday week.
After making a miraculous recovery from a dislocated shoulder, original tour captain Alun Wyn Jones returns to the squad this weekend after being named on the bench for that game against the Stormers.
But McGeechan, who brought Gatland as his assistant coach to South Africa the last time they took on the Springboks back in 2009, reckons Jones should be starting this weekend and he’s got a very good reason for it.
Writing in his latest Telegraph newsletter on the tour, McGeechan reckons Jones needed to start to see if he’s up for playing a role in the Test series.
“I have to admit that I don’t understand why Alun Wyn Jones is starting on the bench on Saturday,” McGeechan writes.
“Given the inevitable worries over the fitness of a veteran who has not played since June 26, and bearing in mind that there must be doubts about whether his injured shoulder will stand up to the physical brutality that will be meted out by the Springboks next week, I would definitely have started him against the Stormers.
“The context is next week’s first Test. It’s always been my contention that if Alun Wyn is to play in the series, he must be given a full leadership role all week and that he must start. Otherwise, his impact as a leader is neutered and you don’t get the full benefit of his presence. That is as much the case against the Stormers as it would be against the Springboks.
“On a more practical level, if he starts then you can bring him off if/when he begins to tire or if the injury turns out to impair his performance.
“Starting him would give a true sense of where he is at physically, which is important for Warren Gatland to know before choosing the team to start the first Test.
“Alun Wyn should also start next week for exactly the same reasons, but also because it will allow him to take a full leadership role all week, and to take that into those absolutely crucial first 40 minutes against the Springboks. His galvanising personality, shrewd on-field tactical appreciation and experience of playing South Africa will be crucial in those early exchanges when the South African onslaught will be at its fiercest. That is when the Lions will need their captain the most, and when his presence will be of the greatest use.”