Evans surprised by his late Lions 'withdrawal'

Rugby Union

Fran Cotton and the rest of the 1997 Lions management team sat down with the men in grey suits at the East India Club yesterday to discuss their squad for this summer's tour of South Africa, but thanks to the disinformation concerning the make-up of the party, they might have done better to hold the meeting in John Le Carre's front room.

The Lions' ratification session with the great and good of the Four Home Unions committee was overshadowed by the emergence of an apparent shock horror story in Wales. Ieuan Evans, already a double Lion, was confidently reported to have opted out of the trip - a move that would have denied the selectors an obvious candidate for the captaincy as well as leaving the wing positions even more exposed.

All this was news to Evans. Regardless of the captaincy issue - Martin Johnson, the Leicester and England lock, was hot favourite for the job yesterday despite a glaring lack of leadership experience - Evans pronounced himself fit and eager for one of the biggest challenges of his, or anyone's, career.

Far from losing key members of their party, the Lions were hopeful of adding to it by appointing Dave Alred to the coaching team. Renowned in every corner of the rugby-playing world as the best kicking technician in the business, the former Minnesota Viking from Bristol would be worth his weight in gold to a party seriously deficient in the crucial area of marksmanship.

England chose to ignore his expertise for most of the recent Five Nations campaign and he was called in only on the eve of the final game in Wales. That was still enough time to inspire a world-class kicking performance from Mike Catt.

That policy cut little ice with Cotton and company, however, and the indications are that Alred could expect to be on the team plane when it leaves for Johannesburg on 17 May.

Other indications suggested the Lions would travel with a nap hand of former rugby league professionals. Four Welshmen who returned at the start of last season - Allan Bateman, Scott Gibbs, David Young and Scott Quinnell - were racing certainties for a place in the party and there was a strong bandwagon for Alan Tait, the Scottish centre, and John Bentley, the Newcastle winger, considered surplus to requirements by England.

There was, though, a degree of concern over another wing contender, Simon Geoghegan of Bath. The Irishman pulled out of his club's important Courage League match at Sale tonight, claiming he was "not ready" for such a tough assignment so soon after recovering from surgery on both big toes - a message that was greeted with some discomfort by the champions, who had to recall England's Jon Sleightholme, a regular fall-guy this season, less than 24 hours after dropping him for Geoghegan.

Selection issues were on the agenda at Leicester, too, in advance of tonight's top-of-the-table confrontation with Wasps at Welford Road - a match prematurely billed as the championship decider. John Wells, the flanker, and Stuart Potter, the centre, will be missing with rib and shoulder injuries respectively and that should mean recalls for Dean Richards and Leon Lloyd. The Tigers have made a third change of their own accord, dropping John Liley and pulling his brother Rob into the squad as a potential replacement.

In Wales, Llanelli were drawn against Cardiff in the semi-final of the Swalec Cup - a fixture guaranteed to sell out Swansea's St Helen's ground. In the other tie, Swansea face Ebbw Vale at the Arms Park. The matches will be played on 12 and 13 April.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent