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26th Jun 2021

Ian McGeechan names seven Lions that pressed their case as Test starters

Patrick McCarry

Ian McGeechan

“You could see players growing out there on the field.”

Ian McGeechan talked up the Test chances of seven British & Irish Lions stars after a winning start to their tour, but one that came with a high tariff.

The Lions dispatched Japan 28-10 at Murrayfield, with Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Beirne sealing the win after early tries from Duhan van der Merwe and Josh Adams.

Warren Gatland’s side lost three players to injury during the game, with the most serious of all coming to captain Alun Wyn Jones. The Wales international dislocated his shoulder after only seven minutes and he will not travel with the rest of the squad to South Africa on Sunday.

British & Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn-Jones gets his dislocated shoulder treated at Murrayfield. (Photo by Paul Devlin/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Gatland said injury cover for his stricken captain will be notified on Saturday but the public are not likely to get confirmation until Sunday. James Ryan and Jonny Gray are the leading second row candidates.

Justin Tipuric, Jack Conan and Luke Cowan-Dickie, who went off after taking a blow to the head in Exeter Chiefs’ Premiership Final defeat to Harlequins, are all expected to make the flight to South Africa on Sunday afternoon.

Following the game, former Lions player and head coach Ian McGeechan was asked what players from the win over Japan had strengthened their Test chances.

“Collectively, they’ll be pleased and the coaches will be pleased with the game that they played,” the Lions legend said.

“The two half-backs started well – Dan Biggar had a very, very good game. Tadhg Beirne there, he could be very important. I think he showed very well as the extra lineout man.

“The two centres, Aki and Henshaw too. Do you bring Chris Harris into that? Iain Henderson took responsibility out there – you could see that when Alun Wyn Jones went off. And Ken Owens, who took over the captaincy.

“So, you could see players growing out there on the field, which, as a coach, is exactly what you want when you have a new group of lads.”

So, merited praise for Owens, Henderson, Aki, Henshaw, Beirne, Biggar and Conor Murray.

All seven have strong chances of featuring against the Springboks, but backing from McGeechan will be music in their ears as they prepare for the long-haul flight south.



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