‘We picked beasts’

Lions scrum coach Graham Rowntree explained their selections as they opted for grunt over finesse.

Rowntree, the former England prop, said in most of the 50/50 decisions up-front the coaching staff decided on abrasive players rather than those with finesse. This explains why players such as Irish flank Alan Quinlan and English lock Simon Shaw were selected ahead of quicker players such as Tom Croft and Nick Kennedy.

The latter pair are also seen as lineout specialists but more emphasis has been placed on neutralising the strength of the Boks at the contact points as well as at scrum-time.

‘We have picked beasts for this tour,’ said Rowntree. ‘It is going to be a physical tour.

‘South Africa probably have the biggest pack on the planet and they can play as well. I think our selection reflects that and we have picked some big guys in there to meet that challenge,’ he said.

The Lions’ approach has been clearly stated – they will attempt to meet the Boks head on at their greatest strength. Forwards coach Warren Gatland explained this as the main factor in the surprise discarding of Croft.

‘Tom was very, very close. He is a very good athlete, a good lineout forward and played well for England. He is very, very unlucky I think,’ said Gatland.

‘We have got a big pack with players we know who are physical but who can also carry the ball. Nathan Hines is like that, Simon Shaw too.’

Injuries may still mean players such as Croft have a role to play in the series, but the initial selections show exactly what route Ian McGeechan and co will follow.