Rugby Union: Revision for the Test

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The Independent Online
AFTER a wretched weekend, the Lions' diminished morale desperately needs a convincing display against Southland in Invercargill tomorrow. And more players than would ever have been imagined before the defeat by Otago need the same in order to claim Test places, writes Steve Bale from Dunedin.

The Lions' frailties could not have come at a worse time, because they have so little time to put things right before they meet New Zealand in Christchurch. The All Blacks team, largely familiar from their defeat of South Africa in Johannesburg last August, was announced yesterday.

There is every reason to believe that had John Kirwan and Richard Loe been available it would have been precisely the XV who beat the Springboks. Loe, who is under long-term suspension, is succeeded by a new cap at loose-head prop, the impressive Aucklander Craig Dowd.

Eroni Clarke will win his fifth cap, but, with Kirwan just returned from playing in Italy, New Zealand's record try-scorer is expected to be on the right wing in the second Test in Wellington on 26 June.

For the Lions, there is a big chance tomorrow for Rob Andrew and Robert Jones, whose indifferent showing in the win over Canterbury appeared to have damaged their Test hopes, before Stuart Barnes and Dewi Morris fared even worse here on Saturday.

To spare Jeremy Guscott a fourth successive game, Anthony Clement will fill in at centre and Gavin Hastings will again fulfil his captain's role by turning out for the fifth time in six games. With Mick Galwey moved from the flank to No 8 and Richard Webster in action for the first time in a fortnight, Ben Clarke is surprisingly kept on the bench, though as he now has every chance of a Test back-row spot this is probably to ensure he stays in one piece.

Southland will provide rugged opposition but, even under the captaincy of the former All Blacks flanker Paul Henderson, they are not the force of old. They finished fifth of nine in the National Championship Second Division last season and a fortnight ago Canterbury, comfortably beaten by the Lions, destroyed them 88-12. In theory this is the easiest game of the tour, but in theory the Lions should have beaten Otago.

Southland: S Forrest; P Johnston, A James, G Beardsley, J Cormack; S Culhane, R Murrell; R Palmer, D Heaps, C Corbett, M Tinnock, W Miller, B Morton, R Smith, P Henderson (capt).

BRITISH ISLES: G Hastings (Scotland, capt); R Wallace (Ireland), A Clement, S Gibbs (Wales), T Underwood; R Andrew (England), R Jones (Wales); J Leonard, B Moore (England), P Wright, D Cronin, A Reed (Scotland), M Teague (England), M Galwey (Ireland), R Webster (Wales).

Referee: M Fitzgibbon (Christchurch).

NEW ZEALAND (v British Isles, Christchurch, 12 June): J Timu (Otago); E Clarke (Auckland), F Bunce, W Little (North Harbour), V Tuigamala; G Fox (Auckland), A Strachan (North Harbour); C Dowd, S Fitzpatrick (capt), O Brown, R Brooke (all Auckland), I Jones (North Auckland), J Joseph (Otago), Z Brooke, M Jones (Auckland). Replacements: M Cooper (Waikato), J Preston (Wellington), M Allen (Taranaki), G Dowd (North Harbour), M Cooksley (Counties), A Pene (Otago).