Irish to ignite Lions

Ireland will have the biggest representation in the British & Irish Lions squad to be announced on Tuesday afternoon.

This is not unexpected, as the Six Nations winners boast some fine players, including Paul O’Connell, who is widely tipped to be named as captain ahead of countryman Brian O’Driscoll.

Wales, it is reported, will also be well represented in the 35 or 36 man squad. England’s poor form will count against them, with Martin Johnson’s side providing just a handful pf players, many of whom are not expected to be regularly involved in the Test squad. The New Zealand-born Riki Flutey is an exception, and is expected to start the Test matches alongside O’Driscoll in midfield.

According to reports, there could be some high-profile omissions in the back division including Wales utility-back James Hook and England flyhalf Danny Cipriani. The most startling news, however, comes from the Times of London who report that Shane Williams, IRB Player of the Year, is not certain of being selected.

It would, however, be highly unlikely that coach Ian McGeechan and his selectors will omit the winger, who shone against the Springboks in the 2008 mid-year Tests. He could, however, be reduced to the role of impact player.

Wales centre Gavin Henson will be given as much time to recover from injury as possible and is expected to be named in the squad despite having just two matches to prove his fitness prior to their departure for South Africa. There will be no such grace extended to injury-plagued England flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson.

Scotland are set to contribute a maximum of four players – scrumhalf Mike Blair being a likely selection, while forwards Ross Ford, Nathan Hines and Euan Murray have an outside chance.

Lions team manager Gerald Davies said form in the Six Nations and Heineken Cup didn’t always translate into form for the Lions and added that a starting berth for their respective national sides wouldn’t guarantee a run-on start for the Lions.

‘A Lions tour is unpredictable, players who may not be first choice for their respective countries come through,’ he said.

‘Some players respond to the extra demands of a Lions tour, others who you expect to be good fall by the wayside, they can’t take what the Lions have to offer.

‘We will pick those we believe to be the best available, regardless of nationality – it’s not about the colour of their jersey, it’s whether they are good enough.”