Rugby Union: Lions walk tightrope

Click to follow
THE British Isles management yesterday professed themselves well satisfied with their players' preliminary get-together before the 13-match, three-Test tour of New Zealand which starts next month - even though the weekend was disrupted for half the party by club calls.

It is a question of priorities, and English and Welsh clubs are a higher priority than they were. On Saturday a full team's worth were either playing or, in the case of the Scotland prop Peter Wright, getting married. Anxiety over the continuing commitment to club rugby will continue nearly all way to departure on 13 May.

Llanelli did the Lions a good turn by defeating Swansea in their Swalec Cup semi-final, meaning Ieuan Evans will be the only tourist (Swansea would have had four) involved in the final against Neath at Cardiff Arms Park on 8 May.

Years ago, the Lions would have had a cut-off point. But where, for instance, Llanelli had to make do without four Lions in their 1974 Welsh final, there is no such restriction now. Thus Leicester and Harlequins will field seven Lions between them in the Pilkington final at Twickenham on 1 May. 'We expect all the Lions to play in the English cup final and Ieuan Evans on 8 May,' Geoff Cooke, the manager, said when training concluded at The Stoop yesterday.

'There's nothing we can do about it; it's just a case of keeping our fingers crossed. Ieuan is most worrying because it's so near departure.' Bearing in mind the reluctance of the Lions coach, Ian McGeechan, to grant leave of absence on Saturday, the cup finalists can consider themselves fortunate.

The Welsh scrum-half Robert Jones, whose shoulder injury caused him to withdraw from Saturday's Swansea team, and the newly-wed Wright were the only Lions not to participate in yesterday's 90-minute work-out. 'Peter is now on his honeymoon - but that's because we have a soft heart,' Cooke said benevolently.