The first Test by numbers

With Lions head coach Ian McGeechan now having named his matchday 22 for Saturday's first Test against the Springboks, we take a look at the numbers behind the names and the statistics behind the selections... [more]

The first Test by numbers

With Lions head coach Ian McGeechan now having named his matchday 22 for Saturday’s first Test against the Springboks, we take a look at the numbers behind the names and the statistics behind the selections…

They say that winning the first Test in any series is vital and the statistics back up that statement. This will be the 13th series played between the Springboks and Lions in South Africa and the side that won the first Test has gone on to take the series nine times previously.

The 1891, 1896, 1974 and 1997 Lions all won the first Test and then the series, while the Springboks did the same in 1910, 1924, 1938, 1968 and 1980. The odd years out were 1903 and 1962, when the first games were drawn, and 1955 when the series itself ended all square.

In both 1903 and 1962 the Springboks went on to clinch the series’ while in 1955 the Lions triumphed in Johannesburg before sharing the series 2-2.

The breakdown of the countries and clubs from which the Lions Test team is drawn is as follows: in the starting XV, there are six Welsh, five Irish and four English players. In the 22 those numbers rise to nine Welsh, eight Irish and five English.

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For the fifth international in a row – three in New Zealand in 2005 and one against Argentina – there is no Scot in the starting XV.

On the club front, the Ospreys have four in the starting XV and five overall. Cardiff Blues, Leinster and Munster have two each in the starting line-up, while Munster have two more among the replacements and the others one more each.

Saturday will be only the fourth Test between the Springboks and the Lions in Durban and Paul O’Connell’s men will be looking to make it 2-2. The Boks were 7-3 winners in 1924 and then triumphed 3-0 in 1962.

Martin Johnson’s side clinched the series at King’s Park, now the ABSA Stadium, in 1997 when they won the second test 18-15. Five penalties from the boot of Neil Jenkins and a drop goal from Jeremy Guscott clinched a famous victory – and a series triumph.

For three players in the Lions 22 for Durban it will be their first chance to face the Springboks. Ospreys and Ireland wing Tommy Bowe, Leinster and Ireland No8 Jamie Heaslip and replacement full back Rob Kearney have yet to meet the world champions.

On the other hand, England prop Phil Vickery will be packing down against them for an 11th time. He has a 50% record to date and will be hoping to go into credit with a sixth win at the weekend.

Scarlets and Wales outside half has scored 60 points against South Africa, but is yet to taste victory in six outings. He made his debut against the Springboks in Pretoria in 1998 when he came on as a replacement in Wales’ record 96-13 defeat.

A third of the Lions starting line up have played Test match rugby for the Lions before, while for 10 of the first choice XV Saturday will be an entirely new experience.

Stephen Jones, Gethin Jenkins and Paul O’Connell all featured against the All Blacks four years ago, while Phil Vickery was a Test starter in Australia in 2001 and Brian O’Driscoll won Test caps on both of those tours.

Of the seven replacements, Ronan O’Gara, Donncha O’Callaghan and Martyn Williams have also seen Test action with the Lions, although none of them have finished on the winning side.

David Wallace is all set to follow in the footsteps of his elder brother Paul by playing against the Springboks for the Lions in a Test match.

Back in 1997, Paul was one of the shock inclusions in the Test pack to take on the reigning world champions. Twelve years on it will be Munster flanker David’s turn to tackle the current holders of the Rugby World Cup.

Of the 22 Lions in the matchday squad, only Brian O’Driscoll and Phil Vickery have experienced victory in a Test match with the Lions.

The England prop and Ireland centre both started the first Test victory over the Wallabies eight years ago – the last time the Lions won an international.

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