RUGBY – Jonny B Good

news: RUGBY - Jonny B Good

The British and Irish Lions team, captained by Brian O’Driscoll, have landed in New Zealand and are preparing for their First Test on June 7. Sir Clive Woodward’s talented and numerous pack are hoping to become only the second Lions side ever to achieve a series victory against the All Blacks. This historic feat made rugby headlines in 1971 when a great team, captained by John Dawes, containing the likes of Gareth Edwards, Barry John, Mike Gibson, Gerald Davies, David Duckham and J. P. R. Williams recorded two wins, a draw and a loss in a tour that saw the Lions win 22 of their 24 games. The 2005 tourists will play 11 games overall, culminating in the Third Test on July 9.

There is no doubt that World Cup winning manager Woodward has the necessary talent at his disposal. The biggest ever squad of 45 players contains the crème-de-la-crème of the recent Six Nations Championship. Welding them into a potent force is a different matter. On the evidence of their farewell friendly against a second-choice Argentinean side at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, Sir Clive and his coaching staff still have a lot of work on their hands. The Lions were left chastened and bewildered by a spirited Pumas’ performance, only Jonny Wilkinson’s boot salvaging a draw in the ninth minute of stoppage time. A crowd in excess of 55,000 watched as Argentina, fielding only three first-choice players, trampled all over this supposed confidence booster for the Lions. The only hope offered from this 25-25 draw for the forthcoming encounters in New Zealand was the form and fitness of the long-absent Jonny Wilkinson. The fly-half survived the game unscathed, while rescuing his team with one conversion and six successful penalty kicks. If the heroes of 1971 are to be emulated, Wilkinson needs support. Donncha O’Callaghan, Simon Taylor, Michael Owen and Mark Cueto are only four examples of outstanding players capable of giving it to him. The All Blacks are waiting.