Selection is vital in 2009 : Johnno

Former British and Irish Lions captain Martin Johnson believes the squad selection will be “vital” for the 2009 tour to South Africa.

Johnson guided the Lions to victory in South Africa in 1997 before leading the side to Australia four years later, while the former Leicester lock also played in eight Tests over three tours for the home unions.

Johnson is being widely tipped to travel to South Africa again but this time it could be in a coaching capacity.

The Lions committee plan to make an announcement on the coaching team after next year’s RBS Six Nations, with the squad probably being named after the 2009 Six Nations tournament.

Johnson believes whoever is in charge needs to get the right players on board if the Lions are to beat the Boks again. The schedule this time around is much harder and sees two of the three tests at altitude.

Speaking to Sky Sports Johnson said: “The selection is vital. You need to get the right people and characters – strong people and strong characters.

“Seven weeks away is a difficult thing to do, especially playing against the world champions, so it is going to be tough. “The guys will need to rely on each other to get through.”

The Lions will travel to the Springboks on the back of having been whitewashed by the All Blacks in 2005. However Johnson, who retired after leading England to the World Cup in 2003, was full of praise for the New Zealanders.

“I think in 05 the Lions also probably faced one of the best teams we’d ever seen in the All Blacks in difficult circumstances.

“They played some of the best rugby I had ever seen… if not the best.”

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