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.

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits