Eddie Jones: It takes more than brawn to beat the Boks

Calling the Shots

For those with eyes to see, there was a good deal more to this week's Lions announcement than a simple reading of 37 names and the confirmation of Paul O'Connell as tour captain. The final selection gave a clear indication of how Ian McGeechan and the rest of the coaching staff hope to engage the Springboks in South Africa this summer. They have gone for size, strength and power, not just in the forward pack but among the backs too. As the Boks tend to go about their rugby in the same way, it should be quite a collision.

There were some surprises, but in a squad of this size, there was always going to be a marginal decision here and there. The omission of Tom Croft, the Leicester flanker, really caught me unaware, not least because his positional flexibility gives him added value as a bench option. I would also have preferred to see the Welsh scrum-half Dwayne Peel involved, because this Lions party is just a little short of pizzazz. And of course, I feel sorry for the hard-working England captain Steve Borthwick, who I consider to be badly underrated by a lot of people, many of whom should know better.

If there is an area that seriously concerns me from the Lions' perspective, it is the line-out. The Boks could easily go in with five jumpers, so someone like Croft, a talented performer in this department, would have been invaluable. So too would Borthwick, who is acknowledged, even by his fiercest critics, as a line-out intellectual. It seems to me that the Lions will have to do a lot of compensating for the absence of guaranteed ball-winners, especially as the South Africans will have Victor Matfield at their disposal.

Working with Victor behind the scenes at the last World Cup, I quickly came to realise just how remarkable a player he is. If you watch him carefully, you'll see that he rarely attacks the opposition throw during the first half of a match. He treats the first 40 minutes as his "thinking time", during which he takes a microscopic look at the rival operation, calculates and analyses, attempts to unlock the calling code (unnervingly, he succeeds quite often) and generally identifies the best way of making a nuisance of himself after the interval. He really is very smart, and unless the Lions have someone capable of matching him thought for thought, they'll find themselves struggling.

That being said, the selection has a consistency about it that impresses me. The coaches have gone about their work methodically, and with clarity. They made up their minds early on the kind of player they wanted, then added and subtracted from the framework as the season unfolded. It explains why one or two players – most notably Andrew Powell, the Wales No 8 – were retained, even though their Six Nations form took a dip. Powell was terrific against the big southern hemisphere teams during the autumn, and that wasn't forgotten when the decisions came to be made.

I don't suppose for a moment that Gloucester will forget last Saturday in a hurry. A cup final at Twickenham in front of 60,000 spectators is not the best of stages on which to implode, but implode they did. I was amazed at how easily Cardiff Blues got away from them early on and I have to ask myself whether the problems at Kingsholm are more deep-rooted than anyone previously imagined.

I would not automatically lay all the blame at the door of the coach: Dean Ryan seems to me to be a knowledgeable, resourceful kind of bloke. I suspect there is something intrinsically wrong with the on-field leadership, particularly up front. Gloucester have one of the two or three strongest squads in the Premiership, yet consistently lose the important fixtures. It tells its own story.

They probably won't make the play-offs now, but even if everything goes their way this afternoon, I can't see too far past Leicester for the title. I admire teams who know how to produce their best form at the crucial moments, and the Tigers' timing this season has been perfect. Can anyone stop them? Only Harlequins, in my view. If the two meet in the final, the forward battle will be like Leicester v Leicester. Anyone spotting a player acting on the right side of the law at the breakdown will deserve to win the lottery.


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral