Legends disagree over captaincy

Three of the greatest personalities ever to be involved with the Lions gathered at Edinburgh Castle on Tuesday night for a special HSBC event to preview the 2009 tour to South Africa. [more]

Legends disagree over captaincy

Three of the greatest personalities ever to be involved with the Lions gathered at Edinburgh Castle on Tuesday night for a special HSBC event to preview the 2009 tour to South Africa.

And the castle setting was perhaps appropriate as the three legends certainly disagreed about who Lions head coach Ian McGeechan should select as his captain.

HSBC is the principal partner of the Lions tour this summer and hosted an event for customers and staff who were treated to an audience with Jim Telfer, Gavin Hastings and Gareth Edwards.

Edwards, often regarded as the greatest ever rugby player, argued for current Welsh skipper Ryan Jones while Telfer and 1993 skipper Hastings backed Paul O’Connell to receive the honour of leading the Lions against the Springboks.

Defending his choice of Jones, Edwards explained, "Ryan is the obvious candidate based on recent form. He is a big forward and I think McGeechan will like that.

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"He reminds me of Willie-John McBride who was such a successful Lions captain himself. The captain has to be the first name on the team sheet and at the moment I think that name is Ryan Jones."

Disagreeing with Edwards, Telfer, who assisted McGeechan on the successful 1997 tour to South Africa, said, "There are four candidates at the moment from what I can see. Brian O’Driscoll, Ryan Jones, Paul O’Connell and Mike Blair. I think McGeechan will pick a forward and therefore my personal choice would be O’Connell."

"I think it should be Paul, "said Hastings, agreeing with his fellow countryman Telfer.

"He is a fantastic player and if he were to lead Munster to more success in the Heineken Cup that would only enhance his chances over the coming months."

Despite the fact that it is O’Driscoll and not O’Connell who currently leads Ireland, neither Hastings nor Telfer believed this to be a problem.

"McGeechan would have no doubts about picking Paul over Brian for the Lions. You choose the best player for that particular team" said Telfer.

One topic that all three panellists agreed on was that there is a good chance of a McGeechan selecting a wildcard to travel to South Africa, keeping in tradition with previous tours. 

"There are players who may not be showing form with their country but who McGeechan may well consider,” explained Edwards.

"He knows Danny Cipriani very well through Wasps and he may well take him on tour. It could be the same with Josh Lewsey who may well be worth considering with his experience."

Hastings backed Scotland’s Evans brothers to make light of their limited international experience by earning a place on the plane to South Africa, while he also suggested that back row forward John Barclay could win a surprise call up.

"It is so exciting for Scottish rugby to have players like the Evans brothers around. They are a really good news story and both have a real opportunity to make a name for themselves.

"Someone like John Barclay could be a dark horse for the Lions. He is a tall, athletic player who would revel in playing alongside better players."

Telfer agreed with Hastings on the Evans duo and likened Max to Brian O’Driscoll.

"Both Max and Brian have a great step,” said Telfer.

"Thom is a serious contender for the Lions and seems to have a relaxed head on him. Max needs to learn from him."

Last night was the latest in a series of events that HSBC Scotland is involved with in the lead up to the Lions tour. 

Steve Nelson, regional personal financial services director for HSBC Scotland explained, "Being the principal partner of the 2009 Lions enables HSBC to involve not only our stakeholders in the UK and Ireland but to augment our international links. HSBC is proud of its Scottish roots, founded by an Aberdonian, Thomas Sutherland in 1865, based on prudent principles of capital strength, cost control and building long-term relationship with our customers with trust and reputation for integrity being paramount; all of which remain at our core today.  

"The Lions is a world renowned and respected brand in international sport and shares many of the same values as HSBC. The sponsorship is enabling HSBC to engage staff, customers and clients all around the world as we all count down to arguably the sporting event of the summer."

Also in Scotland this week, HSBC has been working with the Scottish Rugby Union to host two more of the HSBC Rugby Festivals being staged across the region. Part of the world’s biggest schools rugby programme, two one-day festivals took place for children in Glasgow on Wednesday, with HSBC ambassador Gavin Hastings joining several Glasgow Warriors players to coach and encourage the next generation of possible Scottish Lions.

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