Geech sees continuity

Legendary Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan believes there will be continuity in this year's touring squad as well as among the coaching staff. [more]

Geech sees continuity

Legendary Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan believes there will be continuity in this year’s touring squad as well as among the coaching staff.

McGeechan, who led the Lions in South Africa last time out, believes 2009 coaches Warren Gatland, Rob Howley and Graham Rowntree and newboy Andy Farrell will select a large number of players who have already toured with Britain and Ireland’s elite.

The most experienced man in the 125-year history of the Lions knows that consistency in selection will be crucial to series success against the Wallabies given the lack of preparation time and he is backing Gatland not to rip up the teamsheet entirely from four years ago.

“When you are trying to put together a top-class, world-class Test team, if you have got that little bit of continuity you are away from first base straight away,” said McGeechan, who has been on two tours as a player, four as a head coach and one as an assistant coach since 1974.

“I think Warren Gatland was the right appointment, he’s an outstanding coach but he also understands the Lions and has experience from 2009. So it will be lot of similar management people and maybe a third to a half of the players.

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“You are not starting from scratch knowing you have five weeks to be Test match ready.”

McGeechan knows better than anyone that selection will be vital to the chances of returning home with a first series triumph since he guided the Lions to victory over the Springboks in 1997.

But although he expects experience to play a big part in Oz, the former Scotland, Northampton, Wasps and Bath boss is urging his Lions successor to select on form and fitness rather than solely on past glories and he is confident that Gatland will do just that.

“You need to take fit players. With only a six-week preparation period you can’t have players carrying injuries or players out of form,” added McGeechan.

“That’s the big call for the coaches, picking fit players who are on form who can then come together, so you are working with what you want to do right from the word go with players doing every training session and available for games.

“You can’t find form if you are injured. You haven’t got the time.

“That’s been the mistake in the past, in that players who have not been in form or have been injured have gone because the coach thinks he’s the best player in the position based on reputation, not performance.

“I think the three months prior to the tour is the critical period.”

As for the game plan Down Under, McGeechan promotes a straightforward strategy, at least on paper: keeping it simple is the way forward as far as the 66-year-old is concerned.

“The Lions have high-quality players but what you have to do is work out the best way of getting that talent to show in Test match conditions.

“Sometimes it’s about not over complicating it – it’s being very clear and straightforward about what you want.

“You are playing southern hemisphere countries who take it all pretty seriously anyway and they have had years to put a team together.

“The downside of 2009 is that we didn’t win the series. The upside was that we probably played the best rugby seen anywhere in the world that year, and in retrospect that’s something you get satisfaction from.”

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