What the pundits said as Lions outclass Stormers

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Marcus Smith is presented with his first cap

World Cup winner Maggie Alphonsi believes Luke Cowan-Dickie played himself into a starting Test spot after his man-of-the-match performance in Cape Town.

Cowan-Dickie was one of seven try scorers as The British & Irish Lions came away 49-3 winners over the DHL Stormers in their final game before the first Test match against South Africa next week.

Warren Gatland’s men were put under pressure by the Stormers in the first half but scored 28 unanswered points in the second to ease to a fourth win in South Africa.

Lions warm-up for Test series with victory over Stormers

And it was the display of Exeter Chiefs hooker Cowan-Dickie that stood out for Alphonsi, with the England legend insisting that he is a real rival to Jamie George and Ken Owens for the No.2 shirt.

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HE WAS EVERYWHERE

“He was a deserved player of the match; he was everywhere, and we expect that from him,” said the Sky Sports pundit.

“After what Jamie George did on Tour so far, he’s been impressive, but what I like about Cowan-Dickie is he’s up for the fight, up for the challenge.

“For me Cowan-Dickie is the kind of player who gives you a little bit of edge and against South Africa. You need somebody who’s going to be up for the fight.

Luke Cowan-Dickie v Stormers

“Someone who’s going to be confrontational, look for the physical hit and take the team on. He makes the turnovers as well, so that’s really key at the breakdown.

“That’s something that the Lions have been lacking slightly. For me, I would definitely start with him and he brings so much, the way he takes his tries are very good as well.”

LEARNING ON THEIR FEET

While four-time Lions head coach Ian McGeechan was also impressed by Cowan-Dickie, he believes the hooker has the exact qualities needed to dominate off the bench.

Speaking on Sky Sports, he said: “I’d have him on the bench because I think the tempo of the game will go up, the Lions have to do that.

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“I think it will be very attritional in that first 40 minutes and I think Jamie George has gone well, slightly bigger, the scrummaging will be put under pressure, you need that stable person.

“The lineout work has been good for the Lions, but I think the Lions have shown that in all the games. I thought they finished with real good tempo, and more accuracy as the game went on.

“They’re actually learning on their feet and that’s what you want is to take that attitude: if we’re level with 20 minutes to go, you’re in trouble South Africa.”

WHAT A PERFORMANCE

Across on talkSport, James Haskell was full of praise for debutant Marcus Smith who converted every one of his attempts against the Stormers.

The 2017 tourist said of the Harlequins fly-half: “What a performance. For Marcus Smith to play the full 80 minutes to play with that composure, to come into the side.

Marcus Smith

“He kicked brilliantly out of hand, to kick all his conversions which just shows that temperament because how many No.10s do we know around the world who had all the skills to pay the bills, but when the pressure was on, they couldn’t deliver those kicks?

“He put in an all-around performance and he’s my man of the match, and I don’t think he’ll make it onto the first Test side purely for all the reasons we’ve said about pre-planned stuff they want to go through but if they don’t go well in that first Test, I will be surprised if you don’t see Marcus.”

SUCH A TALISMANIC LEADER

Back over on Sky Sports, Will Greenwood was quick to highlight the impact of Tour skipper Alun Wyn Jones as he made his remarkable return from injury.

Three-time Lions tourist Greenwood said: “You want the best performers from the British and Irish isles to be available for selection. He was magnificent for Wales in the Six Nations he is such a talismanic leader.

“You think about some of the great leaders that have led the Lions in South Africa: Willie John McBride, Martin Johnson, Paul O’Connell, another second row.

Alun Wyn Jones speaks to the forwards

“Alun Wyn Jones is a huge character on and off the field, but if anyone can pick Warren Gatland’s first Test team now, we need to get their lottery numbers!

“Because in the backline there’s so many different combinations you could pick: according to style, according to how you want to go after the South Africans so it’s going to be a fascinating time on Thursday, one o’clock next week.”

PLENTY TO PONDER

As all eyes turn to the Test match next Saturday, former captain Sam Warburton got involved in the debate as to which of players deserved a spot in the first Test team.

Warburton said: “I think Cowan-Dickie really made the case for next Saturday. Tadhg Beirne again was great. He’s been so good for the last 12 months and good in every single game on this Lions Tour.

“I think Mako Vunipola came off the bench and made a big impact as well. So, plenty of food for thought.

“I’d love to be a fly on the wall in the coaches’ selection meeting, that will probably be tomorrow or Monday, but plenty to ponder.”

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