Lions management to watch Welsh Test in SA

The 2009 British and Irish Lions coach Ian McGeechan and team manager Gerald Davies will be in the crowd at Saturday’s first Test in Bloemfontein, armed with notebooks and pens ahead of next year’s tour.

The two arrived in Cape Town on Friday at the start of their 10-day whistle-stop tour to identify hotels, facilities and training grounds for the tourists to use next year.

But the duo will also watch the Boks in action in both Tests against Wales, and then return again in August to take in some of the Tri-Nations fare.

“We’ll be watching the two Tests against Wales to make sure we know what sort of player will be needed to be part of the Lions squad next year,” said McGeechan.

“Watching the two Tests will give us the feel of what we can expect, although a lot can change in 12 months’ time.

“But the main function of this visit is of recce nature really, to look at structures and how we will go about it on next year’s tour.

“We have to get it right. This three-Test series against the Springboks is a mouth-watering event, and there is great anticipation in our countries of what will happen.

“It is a significant world-wide sports event.”

The 61-year-old Scot McGeechan has been hailed as rugby’s version of Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson because of his successful and long association with the Lions.

His 34-year association stretches back to the unbeaten 1974 trip to South Africa, where he started all four Tests as a centre. Apart from the 1974 tour, he also made the 1977 side as a player.

He was the Lions’ head coach in 1989, 1993 and 1997. In 2005 he was the assistant coach under Sir Clive Woodward.

“The chance to see Wales in action will show us where the players’ international careers are going,” said McGeechan.

“We’ll be able to gauge where the players are experience-wise and how they could ultimately fit together.

“The biggest challenge for the Lions is coming together quickly. It’s not like any other international side coming here.

“We have to find ourselves first and then hopefully we can put something together that can make us competitive.”

Davies said watching the Tests would be a valuable exercise but matters could change substantially over the next 12 months.

“We can’t pre-judge the matter in terms of players or the quality of talent that is available,” said Davies, who was a stand-out performer on the Lions tours to South Africa in 1968 and New Zealand in 1971.

“Unlike the South Africans who played the Super 14, we have still have to experience the experimental law variations over the next 12 months. The Boks have the experience of that so we’ll have to see how that laws will apply to us in Europe.”

McGeechan said the concept of the Lions tour has changed as it has become a mixture of tradition and the professional era.

“It’s the longest tour now that any player goes on, 10 games, seven weeks,” said McGeechan.

“It’s challenge our players will only meet as a Lion. It’s only the World Cup when players will be together for that length of time.

“The game has moved on over the last 12 years, and the game itself is looking in good shape in South Africa.

“There are some very talented players here, and I’ll be watching South Africa play in the Tests against Wales.”

McGeechan said although Newlands was not included as a Test venue, he was still pleased that his side will be playing twice there.

“There are four very good Test venues, but there are only three Tests,” said McGeechan.

“There will be one missing out. The last time it was Loftus, so we understand that will be the case.”

McGeechan said he has not yet finalised his coaching staff for the tour which is expected to lure some 50 000 British fans.

“Who knows, maybe Jake White will be on the staff,” said McGeechan, replying to a que

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