Two-squad Lions rumour denied

Click to follow
The Independent Online

British Lions boss Sir Clive Woodward today silenced speculation that he will take two groups to New Zealand next summer by declaring Test match selection would be available to all tourists.

British Lions boss Sir Clive Woodward today silenced speculation that he will take two groups to New Zealand next summer by declaring Test match selection would be available to all tourists.

Reports had suggested the Lions head coach would break with 94 years of tradition by picking two distinct squads for the trip, one to face the All Blacks and a second to contest the remaining fixtures.

But Woodward - who is to leave the British Isles with the biggest party in Lions history, consisting of 44 players and 26 back-up staff - insists no player will be denied the opportunity to force their way into the three-Test series.

"There is no chance of creating two separate teams.

You couldn't run a Lions party like that because players must know they can make the Test side," said the England boss.

"In the first three games everyone will have started, within reason.

The exceptions are the standout players who probably won't play until match six.

"We will have some world class players in the squad but it's important we pencil them and don't ink them in for the Test series.

" However, one area of the tour that has failed to avoid a Woodward revamp is the coaching set-up which will be divided into two sections.

Woodward will head one trio while another group of three will oversee preparation for the midweek games.

The Lions boss has already approached the coaches he wants on board and will reveal their identity in September.

"Splitting the coaching into team will allow the guys to do their jobs properly.

They will be world-class coaches and all from the British Isles," he said.

"For some players being a part of the midweek side is a fact of life.

But what you do want to know is that you're being well-prepared and coached, giving you a chance to play in the Tests.

"The midweek coaches will be household names whose whole job is to get people into the Test match team.

" Woodward revealed any player would be considered for selection, regardless of their international status, opening the door to likes of former Lions heroes Rob Howley, Scott Quinnell and even Martin Johnson.

When questioned about the prospect of Howley, Quinnell and Johnson joining the tour, Woodward replied: "I'd love to have two of them in particular with me! "As far as I'm concerned everyone is available.

The Lions is a one-off with a huge amount of history and it's heartening when you see players like Howley saying they want to go on the tour.

I'd rather see a player performing for their country but they don't have to.

"

Comments