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
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art

The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs

News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
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

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?