Lions in SA

ozzyian

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The beauty of a forum is that we dont have to agree Ozzyian. Ive no issue with that.🍻
I largely agree with your comment regarding his effectiveness as a lions coach.

However, the record books show Gats has not lost a lions series as head coach (8 games to date, he was assistant the series before). Thats his reputation. He'll want to protect that.

When push comes to shove he'll do it his way.

My biggest concern with the team for Saturday remains vdM. I think Gats is trying to play him in the North role. Not sure he has the experience though. He's not come infield looking for work and getting across the gain line.

Interesting stat from last weeks game. The combined number of passes made by the two starting 13s was a grand total of 2.o_O

As an asside, does anyone know why SAs opensides wear 6 and blind sides 7?
The only team I've seen do it.
Sorry, 8 games. With that said I may not be the best person to answer your final numbers question which I think is just one of those traditional things that started off in error and now can't be changed. Remembering as well that SA (for a number of reasons) have not been always present in intl rugby so their quirk was probably not pointed out!

In the last game the outside backs basically received no ball (except from above) I don't necessarily disagree about VDM, he was reasonably instrumental in the first test and I think that there are much bigger problems to fix (whether they can be or not is highly debateable)

I think that in modern professional team coaching the real trick is identifying the opportunities before signing up :). Gatland has been the beneficiary of 8 or 9 seriously good players in key positions who came through to prominence during his tenure. I certainly don't think he's a dud but his Wales record relied on that group of players that could win big games doing it his way - he needed those players though. I don't think he's done a very good job for the Lions. I think he has generally put his teams together without really appreciating what he had available. Thats probably unfair - we were always to get a version of Warrenball, that's his thing.
 
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ozzyian

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I think you have misunderstood my last post. salarchaser commented that Daly was lucky to be on the bench. I replied that with the chosen team Daly had to be on the bench. There is no flexibility in the chosen backs or Russell, they play their position and nowhere else. Someone has as a result to cover the whole of the back 5, that is Daly.
You are right I don't have a lot of faith in Russell's goal kicking but if he gets on he will be kicking at goal. If at some point Daly gets on when Biggar has gone he may take any longer kicks just as Hogg does for Scotland. It doesn't follow he will come on when Russell does.
And I don't think it is just Gatland and me who cares about who is kicking. Almost every top coach did/does. In 1997 they shoe horned Jenkins into the team because the 10 didn't kick well enough. That of course was Townsend.
Perhaps you are correct, Gatland I don't think has repositioned any backs when bringing in substitutions in the test matches. VDM is a one trick pony but Williams and Adams (and LRZ) would be more flexible and capable of covering eventualities I feel. Well, we'll see if kicking is super critical, again if you are correct my point would be that we shouldn't be in this position. At this stage the whole thing is a bit of a crap shoot with Gatland looking like he might feel forced to deviate from his Plan A to Plan A(v2) ie as far as he can (or is prepared to) go.
 
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Handel

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Perhaps you are correct, Gatland I don't think has repositioned any backs when bringing in substitutions in the test matches. VDM is a one trick pony but Williams and Adams (and LRZ) would be more flexible and capable of covering eventualities I feel. Well, we'll see if kicking is super critical, again if you are correct my point would be that we shouldn't be in this position. At this stage the whole thing is a bit of a crap shoot with Gatland looking like he might feel forced to deviate from his Plan A to Plan A(v2) ie as far as he can (or is prepared to) go.
I don't recall seeing Williams or Adams play anywhere other than the back 3. LRZ has only ever played back 3 at professional level and his outings at full back for Gloucester were not a great success. I suspect his weakness under the high ball has ruled him out of the tests.
I am not clear what you would have done differently to make kicking less critical. Apart from 1971 on every Lions tour I have followed kicking has been critical. And the current Lions can only dream about having the talents of the 1971 backs.
What I hope we will find out is did Townsend have Covid? He was kept away from the squad for a very long time.
 

ozzyian

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Of course there are plusses and minuses either way but with a 6 2 split you are inevitably going to be playing someone somewhat out of optimal position. I don't actually think that a 6 2 is really such a cut and dried decision. It really only speaks of Warrens conservative timidity imo. But anyway, 6 2 it is....

Therefore, putting place kicking to one side (which is my point since I think we are now well beyond the 'in play creativity' vs the 83% or 87% kicking success argument - to be well in favour of requiring the creativity) you might have to replace an outside back with a centre or a centre with a back 3.

If it has to be a 6 2 then the subs bench needs a sh and the other back could be Harris or Daly, doesn't matter much, the expectation is that at least 2 of the 3 outside backs are there at the 80th minute. It's a compromise and it's not ideal but then getting beaten isn't either.
 
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ozzyian

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May be of interest: Liam Williams has had a few outings at centre for the Scarlets, and has on occasions kicked a few goals.
I was just about to have a little google search on that because I thought he had covered centre for Wales as well - maybe emergency only.
 

ozzyian

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Another thing to ponder (and at the risk of becoming Jack Power like in my national preference - where are you Jack btw?) on the 6 2 split is that Hamish Watson is always the same (if not better) at 80 mins then at the start. There's the solution - a 5 3 split with Watson :) :) I'll get the email sent tonight.
 

salarchaser

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I think he has generally put his teams together without really appreciating what he had available. Thats probably unfair - we were always to get a version of Warrenball, that's his thing.
The Lions always have a challenge on their hands with regard style.
Yes they have access to the best players from GB and Ireland, however they have a very limited time to get them to buy into a style and gell.
Going into squad selection you either have to pick the best players and work out a style to suit or decide on a style and pick the players to suit. (Keegan had the same challenge with England. He wanted to play a back 5 but wanted Adams in his team who always played in a back 4.)
Its why I questioned the balance of the coaching team upthread. Gats and Townsend dont appear natural bed partners.

No doubt Gatland is a 1 dimentional coach, but he made it work with Wales.
I don't recall seeing Williams or Adams play anywhere other than the back 3.
I think your right Handel.
Players seemed more flexible in days gone by. A centre who covers the wing (JJ is remembered as a wing but started as a centre), usually it was an outside half that could cover full back.
9 has always been specialist ( though shane williams and austin heally played 9 and wing). The French have a couple 9/10s which is unusual.
10 / 12 seem most interchangeable. Some outside half greats that started as a 12. Lynaugh, Wilkinson and a certain Dan Carter (I first saw Lynaugh at the old arms park playing 12 outside Ella).

Gats has played players out of position with Wales but it usually was years in the making. Gareth Thomas was a centre, moved to the wing then to first choice full back.

As for this series, I think things got a bit muddled in style and selection. Too late now.
Just have to hope for the best.
 

Handel

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Ian, you have me confused, it is a 5:3 split not 6:2. Murray, Russell and Daly are the backs. The point is only to do with Daly because you wouldn't want any of the starting back 3 in the centre. And if he has his kicking boots on then Russell is covered, It was pfeul who pointed out to us that Russell doesn't kick for his club.
Biggar looks like he has the skill set to play 15 but I don't recall seeing him play there. The best bet would have been Davies on the bench, I think I have seen him play on the wing and he is certainly quick enough, Harris could then have been on the bench. George North has been a great loss to this tour.
And just out of interest, the great Gerald Davies started out as a centre.
 

ozzyian

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Ian, you have me confused, it is a 5:3 split not 6:2. Murray, Russell and Daly are the backs. The point is only to do with Daly because you wouldn't want any of the starting back 3 in the centre. And if he has his kicking boots on then Russell is covered, It was pfeul who pointed out to us that Russell doesn't kick for his club.
Biggar looks like he has the skill set to play 15 but I don't recall seeing him play there. The best bet would have been Davies on the bench, I think I have seen him play on the wing and he is certainly quick enough, Harris could then have been on the bench. George North has been a great loss to this tour.
And just out of interest, the great Gerald Davies started out as a centre.
Ahh, I understand, I assumed another 6 2 split and didn't twig
 

salarchaser

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JPR had a cap playing on the flank for Wales v Australia in 1978, and played prop in 7's.
There was one lions tour where JPR was sent to train with the forwards as he was injuring too many backs.

He played on the flank for Tondu as well. ;)
Didnt hang up his boots until he was in his 50s.

There's always discussions about how players would fair across eras.
Fitness is one thing, size another (Graham Price wasnt much over 15st), rules would play a big part as would tactics and technical training.

Unless pitches are made 5-10 yards wider, the number of substitutions are reduced, something done to tie up more players at the breakdown (bring back rucking) or we reduce the number of players on the field (rugby league anyone), I think we're stuck with a kicking game and the free flowing rugby of the 70s is something for the archives.

7s is the way forward. Really enjoyed the Olympic 7s.:D
 

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I think you are right salarchaser, didn't they put JPR in as a prop for a scrummaging session? I'll dig out my Dad's book of that tour and have a look. We shouldn't be surprised, he loved doing weights sessions, he mentions that in is autobiography! How many other players were lifting weights in those days!
 

salarchaser

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I think you are right salarchaser, didn't they put JPR in as a prop for a scrummaging session? I'll dig out my Dad's book of that tour and have a look. We shouldn't be surprised, he loved doing weights sessions, he mentions that in is autobiography! How many other players were lifting weights in those days!
Most of the welsh forwards didn't because they were miners or steelworkers.
Natural strength not gym built.

Like many of the backs, JPR was multi-talented having competed at junior wimbledon. I read somewhere his dad wanted him to drop rugby for tennis.

Fitness wise, rugby has changed out of all recognition, not necessarily for the benefit of the viewers.

Going back to 60/70s lions tours, it was easier to develop a game plan for the tests and get players to gel because they were together for 3 / 4 months and played 20+ games.
In 71 they playes 26 matches over 3 months and in 74, 22 matches over 2.5 months.
The current tour is 8 games in 6 weeks (9 in 7 if you include the warm up game).

The rugby calendar is too congested these days.
 

Handel

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Going back to 60/70s lions tours, it was easier to develop a game plan for the tests and get players to gel because they were together for 3 / 4 months and played 20+ games.
In 71 they playes 26 matches over 3 months and in 74, 22 matches over 2.5 months.
The current tour is 8 games in 6 weeks (9 in 7 if you include the warm up game).

The rugby calendar is too congested these days.
Only four men have been head coach of the Lions in the professional era. McGeechan in 1989, 1993,1997 and 2009 with wins in 1989 and 1997 and narrow defeats in 1993 and 2009. Gatland we know about. The other two were Henry and Woodward. Henry should have won in Australia in 2001 with the players he had but he lost. The less said about Woodward and 2005 the better though there was an interesting article by Will Greenwood recently which cast some light on that tour. Interesting that two head coaches each of whom won a RWC couldn't hack it. It isn't an easy job. Yet I read so much comment that almost anyone could do a better job than Gatland. Personally I am sceptical. I doubt anyone else can take the job on now.
 

salarchaser

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Only four men have been head coach of the Lions in the professional era. McGeechan in 1989, 1993,1997 and 2009 with wins in 1989 and 1997 and narrow defeats in 1993 and 2009. Gatland we know about. The other two were Henry and Woodward. Henry should have won in Australia in 2001 with the players he had but he lost. The less said about Woodward and 2005 the better though there was an interesting article by Will Greenwood recently which cast some light on that tour. Interesting that two head coaches each of whom won a RWC couldn't hack it. It isn't an easy job. Yet I read so much comment that almost anyone could do a better job than Gatland. Personally I am sceptical. I doubt anyone else can take the job on now.
Woodward took years to get the England team playing together and win the world cup. He did it with a group that stayed together.
No-one can develop a team in a matter of weeks.

It comes down to picking a style of play then picking a squad to deliver it even if they're not the best individuals available.
Players that already play that way.
There are a lot of very good players in the Lions squad, a few genuinely world class.
I dont feel there are enough like minded spirits though.

The one question mark I had over the 97 test team was Guscott. Great player no doubt. A classy, silky 13. But, we played a kicking game (Jenkins out of position at 15). The opposition always had the opportunity to run back as Guscott tackled from the side, not a smasher, so they always got at least a few yards.
Bateman on the other hand absolutely burried people.
To be fair, I never remember Bateman dropping a goal to win a game. 😁

Geech was something special though (he had 13 games to get it right in SA).
 

Handel

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The one question mark I had over the 97 test team was Guscott. Great player no doubt. A classy, silky 13. But, we played a kicking game (Jenkins out of position at 15). The opposition always had the opportunity to run back as Guscott tackled from the side, not a smasher, so they always got at least a few yards.
Bateman on the other hand absolutely burried people.
To be fair, I never remember Bateman dropping a goal to win a game. 😁

Geech was something special though (he had 13 games to get it right in SA).
I wish I could find that Greenwood article because he discusses the Guscott/Bateman dilemma. (I had forgotten Greenwood was even on that tour. Am I right that he ended up seriously injured?) Anyway in his view the selection of Guscott was the right decision but he clearly rated Bateman very highly. Imagine Gibbs, Guscott and Bateman on the current tour!
 

salarchaser

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I wish I could find that Greenwood article because he discusses the Guscott/Bateman dilemma. (I had forgotten Greenwood was even on that tour. Am I right that he ended up seriously injured?) Anyway in his view the selection of Guscott was the right decision but he clearly rated Bateman very highly. Imagine Gibbs, Guscott and Bateman on the current tour!
He nearly died when he swallowed his tongue.
James Robson the physio (on all the tours over a 20 year period and still with the Scots team) saved his life. Its a scarey scene on 'Living with Lions'.
His mother was in the changing room in bits, the audio is chilling.

Bateman had just come back from league along with Gibbs, Bently (class act), Scott Quinnell and Dai Young.
Union only went professional in 95 and I think those guys set the standard.
Bateman was a great student of the game and I think was looked up to by a lot of players. As for his tackling, he was nicknamed The Clamp.

I had no real issue with guscott and liked him as a player. He had lots to offer but felt that Bateman suited the game plan better.

(Just looked it up, after his professional carreer he went back to his junior club and played to his late 40s retiring in 2013.).
 

Handel

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He nearly died when he swallowed his tongue.
James Robson the physio (on all the tours over a 20 year period and still with the Scots team) saved his life. Its a scarey scene on 'Living with Lions'.
His mother was in the changing room in bits, the audio is chilling.

Bateman had just come back from league along with Gibbs, Bently (class act), Scott Quinnell and Dai Young.
Union only went professional in 95 and I think those guys set the standard.
Bateman was a great student of the game and I think was looked up to by a lot of players. As for his tackling, he was nicknamed The Clamp.

I had no real issue with guscott and liked him as a player. He had lots to offer but felt that Bateman suited the game plan better.

(Just looked it up, after his professional carreer he went back to his junior club and played to his late 40s retiring in 2013.).
Ah yes, was he caught in a maul standing upright and a South African charged into his back? Extremely dangerous and should have been sent off.

While we look back at the 70s with rose tinted specs, in the most successful Lions tour to SA namely 1974 the first choice centres were McGeechan and Milliken. The current Lions probably have a stronger centre combination. There was a lot of kicking on that tour but the Saffers never worked out how to stop JJ Williams getting to the ball first. They did have Edwards and Bennett though. And they fielded two full backs, JPR Williams and Andy Irvine. Hardly spilt a high ball. The clues are all there if you look in the right place. Some things don't change.
 

salarchaser

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Ah yes, was he caught in a maul standing upright and a South African charged into his back? Extremely dangerous and should have been sent off.

While we look back at the 70s with rose tinted specs, in the most successful Lions tour to SA namely 1974 the first choice centres were McGeechan and Milliken. The current Lions probably have a stronger centre combination. There was a lot of kicking on that tour but the Saffers never worked out how to stop JJ Williams getting to the ball first. They did have Edwards and Bennett though. And they fielded two full backs, JPR Williams and Andy Irvine. Hardly spilt a high ball. The clues are all there if you look in the right place. Some things don't change.
Shrewd observations in there Handel.

These conversations have got me looking through the archives.
Just watching the documentary about the 97 lions.

Alan Tait was another coming back from league.

The games were probably before TMOs but some of the SA bahaviour over stepped the mark. The lions were no saints, but some incidents.........
The stamp that endded Doddie Weir's tour was GBH.

As an asside, Townsend played in the 97 tour......

Might watch the 2013 tour later. 😁
 

Aled

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Sorry slight change to what's been said re, James Robson, he is a Doctor. That 97 video was a new insight into the physicality of professional rugby.
Greenwood's injury: Dr Robson's hands were shaking as he had his hand on Greenwoods heart checking his heartbeat, that had been a really close run thing, Greenwood had been in big trouble, and all involved in his treatment were deservedly complemented, including the medical team from the opposition who were also present. Sometimes we need to put rugby in context.
 
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salarchaser

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Sorry slight change to what's been said re, James Robson, he is a Doctor. That 97 video was a new insight into the physicality of professional rugby.
Greenwood's injury: Dr Robson's hands were shaking as he had his hand on Greenwoods heart checking his heartbeat, that had been a really close run thing, Greewood had been in big trouble, and all involved in his treatment were deservedly complemented, including the medical team from the opposition who were also present. Sometimes we need to put rugby into the context.
Fair shout Aled.(y)

Carcass (Mark Davies - swansea and Wales) was physio.
Nice guy. He worked for the NHS in the 80s. I had quite a few sessions with him after surgery on my knee.
 

ozzyian

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Sorry slight change to what's been said re, James Robson, he is a Doctor. That 97 video was a new insight into the physicality of professional rugby.
Greenwood's injury: Dr Robson's hands were shaking as he had his hand on Greenwoods heart checking his heartbeat, that had been a really close run thing, Greewood had been in big trouble, and all involved in his treatment were deservedly complemented, including the medical team from the opposition who were also present. Sometimes we need to put rugby into the context.

Dr Robson really was part of the woodwork when it came to Lions tours, hugely respected medically but also as a trusted senior tour member. When Gatland selected his players 4 years ago it was undoubtedly light on Scots and undoubtedly heavy on his Sunday afternoon bbq mates from the valleys. Having alienated everyone north of the border his final act of selection and one that caused indignation was the dropping Dr Robson and putting in the WRU doctor. I try to remember that each time I see that rat like insincere and forced for the camera Gatland smile ;)
 

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Ozzyian, I agree your man Dr Robson is (deservedly so by the way), well respected and equally as important loved by the rugby fraternity World wide. I can't remember which Scotland match it was but an opposing team player went down with injury near the Scotland bench, without hesitation Dr Robson was on the pitch in seconds. A credit to his profession and to the game of rugby. I too think Gatland made a mistake in not taking him on the Lions tour.
 

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Oh dear once again so near and so far. I thought Russell played well when he came on, pleased Wyn Jones did OK. The Lions had their chances but did not take them. Injuries have played their part, would the squad have been different with Tipuric & North?? Still can't understand what the ref saw when the Lions had a scrum on the SA 5 yard line??? Did anybody see anything wrong? Disappointed Liam Williams missed that tackle. Ah well a load of 6 Nations and a World Cup before the next Lions tour. A more enjoyable game this week than last week!

PS: I was rather chuffed to see the Lions fanzone pictures on Sky TV with Scott Quinell from Llandaff RFC, Cardiff a club i played for 2 seasons when i lived in Cardiff. Llandaff RFC (llandaffrugby.com) "The Llandaff boys are on the p*ss again"
 
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