Selecting British & Irish Lions to face the Boks is a tough job, says defence coach Steve Tandy
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DURBAN – Lions defence coach Steve Tandy reckons the selection of the match 23 to face the Springboks on Saturday is one of the most difficult things he has ever been involved with in rugby.
The Lions management have a multitude of quality options for Saturday’s first Test considering they have at their disposal the cream of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and with only flyhalf Finn Russell unavailable because of injury, there is a full squad to choose from.
Head coach Warren Gatland has been true to his word in giving all of his layers a run in the five pre-Test matches and there hasn’t been a Lion that has had a bad game to date, the dubious quality of the provincial opposition notwithstanding.
Tandy said that after a “robust” meeting lasting over an hour and half, the squad was just about finalised.
“It is one of the toughest things I have been involved in, so many players put their hands up,” Welshman Tandy said. “Massive decisions have had to be made and there are a lot of unlucky players. There are one or two things to firm up but the majority has probably been done.
“There will be bitter disappointment for some players but everyone will be geared up to win the first Test and those not playing will support the team.”
One of the hot topics of debate would have been around tour captain Alun Wyn Jones, who having been flown in after injury will have a role at the Cape Town Stadium but it is unknown whether he will start.
Tandy would not be drawn into revealing how the 35-year-old veteran will be used but he did add: “I haven’t seen anyone like him being that professional – he’s pretty unique.”
The Lions team will be announced on Thursday, a day after the Springboks and Tandy admitted the reality of Test week had dawned on the Lions.
“The opening match is massive. You get that feeling in the group now how big it is. You all want to get off on the front foot and hopefully take a lead in the series.
“I believe the competition for places has put us in a really good spot going forward. At some point during the series there are going to be a few changes, there are going to be injuries, so we have got to be ready.”