Lions legend Jim Telfer has given the biggest hint so far that Paul O’Connell will be announced as the captain of the 2009 British & Irish Lions tour tomorrow.
The man who was Ian McGeechan’s forwards coach on the last Lions trip to South Africa 12 years ago told BBC Wales’ Scrum V programme that he wanted the Munster giant to be given the role ahead of his Grand Slam winning Irish team mate Brian O’Driscoll.
Telfer, who twice toured with the Lions as a player and went on two further tours in a coaching capacity, has been used by fellow Scot McGeechan as a selection adviser in the build up to Tuesday’s squad announcement in London.
“I would give the captaincy to Paul O’Connell.I would go for a forward in South Africa,” said Telfer, who was a Lions tourist in South Africa in 1968.
“They always try to intimidate you in South Africa. They did it to use in 1968 and they will try to do the same thing again this summer.
“We tried to match them physically back then. We had some very skilful players, but we couldn’t match their power.”
As far as the make up of the tour party is concerned – 35 or 36 names are expected to be announced by McGeechan – Telfer is expecting the bulk of the players to come from Ireland and Wales.
“A lot of the players will come from the successful teams in the Six Nations, which is only right,” added Telfer.
“Some of the Welsh players have been below form. I think Wales have gone backwards and I’m surprised they didn’t play better than they did in the Six Nations.
“It’s always more difficult to retain a Grand Slam than to win one, but they didn’t play well. Shane Williams has tailed off, Ryan Jones hasn’t been so good and they missed Gavin Henson.
“If the Lions don’t get Henson to go it will be a big loss for them. If we can have some creativity in midfield against the Boks I think we can cause them problems.”
Telfer believes that at lest eight Scots will come into the reckoning for places on the tour – Mike Blair, Chris Cusiter, Thom Evans, Ross Ford, Ewan Murray, Nathan Hines, Alastair Strokosch and John Barclay –and wants the Lions to attack the world champions at the scrum.
“The Springboks have a weaker front row than they have ever had, but a stronger back five. The Lions will need a decent front row and must try to outscrummage them,” said Telfer.
“They will have more problems trying to outplay them in the back row, here they have a plethora of talent. But Ian McGeechan is always thinking outside the box.
“In 1997 he devised a way of playing that the South Africans couldn’t handle. He knows that if you are going to beat the Springboks you are going to need different players from those that might win you a Grand Slam in the UK because conditions are different.”
Telfer wants a strong Lions scrum to be backed-up by a powerful scrum half and thinks the Ospreys and Wales No 9 Mike Phillips is the perfect choice.
“Mike Phillips will go. He is so strong and I think he will be the number one scrum half,” he added.
“He can carry a player on his back and he reminds me of players like Justin Marshall, Joost van der Westhuizen and Byron Kelleher.”