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Tour Match Preview: Western Province v British & Irish Lions

Tour Match Preview: Western Province v British & Irish Lions

Ian McGeechan has seen his squad record four successive victories at the start of the 2009 tour and he will no doubt be looking for more of the same at Newlands. Can they make it five on the trot against Western Province?

2009 BRITISH & IRISH LIONS TOUR: Saturday, June 13

WESTERN PROVINCE v BRITISH & IRISH LIONS, Newlands, Cape Town, 3pm local time/2pm Irish time (live Sky Sports 2)

Team News: The selected Lions team to play Western Province in their fifth tour match will be led by Englishman Phil Vickery and includes four Irish players.

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Full-back Rob Kearney, winger Tommy Bowe and centre Keith Earls and their Grand Slam-winning team-mate, second row Donncha O’Callaghan, will line out for Ian McGeechan’s tourists, while Gordon D’Arcy has gained a place on the bench once again.

Lions tour manager Gerald Davies said: “As a tour party we are delighted that we have reached Cape Town and the final Saturday provincial match prior to the Test series with an unbeaten record.

“Team morale is high and each team that takes the field is determined to maintain the momentum and to fight for an individual Test place.”

Commenting on the team selection, head coach McGeechan said: “The coaching staff is very pleased with the way the squad reacted to some bad injury news this week.

“The players took the news on the chin, trained well, focused on the next match and the performance against the Sharks was excellent.

“The squad is very close as a group of players but now there is now a competitive edge developing as we approach the Test series. That is how it should be.

“I reminded the players when I told them the team to play Western Province that we were not selecting the Test side until next Tuesday following the Southern Kings match.

“The team for Western Province will be captained by Phil Vickery who is one of the many leaders in the squad. It is just reward for a thoroughly professional player who will play in his tenth Lions match.

“‘Vicks’ is a former captain of England and he played three Lions Tests against Australia in 2001.”

He added: “No starting players are backing up from the Sharks match as we continue our desire to see all players involved in at least two full matches prior to Test selection.

“Martyn Williams comes into the starting line-up following his recovery from a shoulder knock and Riki Flutey gets his first starting role after proving his fitness off the bench against the Sharks.”

The Lions were forced into a late change on the morning of the match. Mike Blair, the replacement scrum half for the game, sprained a ligament in his foot in training on Friday which unfortunately failed to settle adequately overnight.

Mike Phillips was recovering from the midweek game against the Sharks, so Blair’s place on bench was taken by Shane Williams who will cover the scrum half position.

Meanwhile, Western Province will be gunning for their fourth win over the Lions in 16 attempts.

The last of those victories came in 1938 but five of the Lions’ last six wins have come by nine points or less.

In fact, the Lions have only ever beaten Western Province by 10 points or more on two occasions – once in 1896 and the other on their last tour of South Africa in 1997 (38-21).

With centre Morgan Newman, hooker Tiaan Liebenberg and openside Duane Vermeulen the only WP players who stand a chance of facing the Lions again on the current tour, the home side will be pumped up to the gills for this ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity.

Newman was a surprise inclusion in Peter de Villiers’ 28-man Springbok squad for the Test series, while Liebenberg and Vermeulen have been chosen as Emerging Springboks for the clash against the Lions on June 23.

The trio provide arguably the biggest threats to the Lions’ superiority at Newlands and Newman in particular will be anxious to persuade de Villiers that his inexperience at the highest level will not be a liability against Britain and Ireland’s elite.

The 23-year-old only made his Super 14 debut last year but has been catapulted into the Springbok reckoning where he joins the likes of Jean de Villiers, Adi Jacobs and Jacques Fourie in pushing for a Test spot in the centres.

In addition, Western Province wingers Tonderai Chavhanga and Gcobani Bobo, inside centre Peter Grant and number 8 Luke Watson have represented the ‘Boks in full internationals.

Chavhanga made his international debut against Uruguay in 2005 and has gone on to win four Springbok caps, while both Bobo and Grant have made five appearances for their country since 2003 and 2007 respectively.

Watson was unfortunate to miss out on making the South African Test squad to face the Lions.

He has been in stunning form for the Stormers in 2009 but was unable to oust Pierre Spies and Ryan Kankowski from the national squad.

Watson, whose father ‘Cheeky’ was a prominent figure in the anti-apartheid regime, has long been one of the most controversial figures in South African rugby.

He was recently the subject of much media attention following a speech in which he mentioned ‘vomiting’ on the Springbok jersey.

WESTERN PROVINCE: Joe Pietersen; Tonderai Chavhanga, Morgan Newman, Peter Grant, Gcobani Bobo; Willem de Waal, Dewaldt Duvenage; Wicus Blaauw, Tiaan Liebenberg, Brok Harris, Martin Muller, Anton Van Zyl, Pieter Louw, Duane Vermeulen, Luke Watson (capt).

Replacements: Hanyani Shimange, JD Moller, De Kock Steenkamp, Zandre Jordaan, Conrad Hoffmann, JJ Engelbrecht, Gio Aplon.

BRITISH & IRISH LIONS: Rob Kearney (Leinster/Ireland); Tommy Bowe (Ospreys/Ireland), Keith Earls (Munster/Ireland), Riki Flutey (London Wasps/England), Ugo Monye (Harlequins/England); Stephen Jones (Scarlets/Wales), Harry Ellis (Leicester Tigers/England); Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks/England), Matthew Rees (Scarlets/Wales), Phil Vickery (London Wasps/England) (capt), Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster/Ireland), Nathan Hines (Perpignan/Scotland), Joe Worsley (London Wasps/England), Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Andy Powell (Cardiff Blues/Wales).

Replacements: Ross Ford (Edinburgh/Scotland), Euan Murray (Northampton/Scotland), Simon Shaw (London Wasps/England), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers/England), Shane Williams (Ospreys/Wales), James Hook (Ospreys/Wales), Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster/Ireland).

Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
Television Match Official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Western Province to win: 11/2; Draw: 25/1; British & Irish Lions to win: 1/10

Pre-Match Quotes: Phil Vickery (British & Irish Lions) – “We’ve had the weeks of building up and getting together. For me the big realisation was arriving last night (in Cape Town) and seeing so many supporters here, getting text messages and hearing people say that the Red Army is on its way.

“The worrying thing for me is that all the talk is of the Test next week, but we’ve got two games to go and on Saturday, from the team’s point of view, there is everything to play for because there are Test selections up for grabs.

“I want to make sure that the guys make it as difficult as possible for the coaches to select that team.

“We’re playing against Western Province, a team who will be more close-knit than any of those that we’ve played against so far.

“So we’ve got to be careful not to get carried away with the peripherals and ultimately go out and win a game of rugby.

“I don’t want to be part of a Lions team that loses, and I certainly don’t want to be captain of the team that loses for the first time on this tour.

“It is a big game for us on Saturday and everyone is aware of that. We’ll be doing everything we can to keep the ball rolling.”

Luke Watson (Western Province) – “We are definitely more dynamic (at the breakdown) than the northern Hemisphere. Up there, they approach the rucks very differently.

“It’s a much slower game with those pick and gos a massive part of their strategy.

“I think that Warren Gatland’s opinion on it is a fair assessment. They will need to be more dynamic.

“It’s definitely an area we will look to target, but on the other hand last weekend (against the Cheetahs) will have been a big wake-up call for them. They should have improved by the time we play them on Saturday.”

Pre-Match Links –

In Pics: Inside The Lions Camp

Jones Ruled Out Of Tour ‘On Medical Grounds’

Ferris Switches His Focus To Next Season

Lions Surge To Fourth Tour Win

Numbers Game:

34 – Munster and Ireland out-half Ronan O’Gara is the top points scorer for the Lions so far on the 2009 tour. He has scored 34 points in two games against the Royal XV (1 try, 4 conversions and 3 penalty goals) and the Sharks (3 conversions and 2 penalty goals)

3 – O’Gara’s Grand Slam-winning team-mate, winger Tommy Bowe, heads the try-scoring charts for the 2009 Lions. He touched down twice against the Golden Lions and once in the tour opener against the Royal XV

19953 – The average attendance at the four 2009 Lions matches that have taken place over the past two weeks. The highest attendance so far was for the Cheetahs game at Vodacom Park (23,710)