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All Will Be Revealed On April 21

All Will Be Revealed On April 21

With the RBS 6 Nations now over, the media speculation surrounding the composition of the 2009 British & Irish tour squad and the selection of the captain has heightened considerably. The official squad announcement will be made at a media conference in London on Tuesday, April 21.

Former players and coaches, media pundits and fans have all been piecing together their own likely Lions squads over the past few months and the countdown is well and truly on to the 2009 tour, with the first match against a Highveld selection now just nine weeks ago.

Tuesday, April 21 is the all important day for Lions head coach Ian McGeechan. The wily Scot will unveil his touring squad and captain that afternoon at a media conference in London, which will be broadcast live on Sky Sports.

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Until then, the clamour for certain players to be included will continue and the race for the Lions captaincy, as always, remains a hotly contested one.

Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning captain Brian O’Driscoll, whose 2005 tour captaincy was marred by a shoulder injury in the first Test against New Zealand, is one of the favourites for the role in South Africa.

Munster captain and Ireland’s pack leader, Paul O’Connell, is also very much a leading candidate to be 2009 Lions captain.

Speaking this week, Leinster coach Michael Cheika said he would like to see O’Driscoll chosen as leader of the Lions for the second time.

“Obviously I would. I had him as captain (of Leinster) for three years,” he said.

“We only didn’t make him captain this season because we knew there was going to be a big demand, because we would have backed him back then to be that man.

“His leadership on and off the field has been exemplary. He’s matured a little bit too, the way he’s gone about his business.

“I’m not the coach of that team, but he’s the optimum choice as far as I’m concerned.”

Former Scotland and Lions captain Gavin Hastings has also backed O’Driscoll for the job, while ex-England and Lions flanker Mike Teague and Paul Wallace, the Ireland prop who helped the Lions to a 2-1 series win in South Africa in 1997, have both spoken out in favour of O’Connell.

Wallace said: “I know in 1997 they wanted someone intimidating. I know Paul is not as big a man as Martin Johnson but he is just as fearsome.

“O’Connell might bring that whole Munster camaraderie and for something like a Lions tour that might just work.

“I am always a fan of having a captain in the forwards. You need to have decision-makers at 9, 10, 13 but to pick someone up front, especially against South Africa, O’Connell might be that inspirational figure.”

One of the Ireland players being talked up as a possible 2009 Lion is Stephen Ferris.

The Ulster flanker, who enjoyed an incredible Grand Slam success in his first RBS 6 Nations campaign, dislocated his finger in last Saturday’s historic win over Wales but could yet make the tour plane.

Asked about his Lions chances, he said: “Well, I am injured at the minute so my focus will be just getting better. Then it will be getting back into my Ulster game for the closing rounds of the Magners League, playing well, and hopefully going on the summer tour with Ireland.

“Getting a call up for the Lions tour would be great – a real icing on the cake after the Grand Slam win – but it is not my focus.

“I will hopefully be playing long enough to see another Lions tour if it doesn’t happen for me this time round.”