No room for sentiment from ‘brutally honest’ Clive

EGOS were bruised and Gavin Henson was “absolutely devastated”, but Clive Woodward had no room for sentiment in naming the Lions side to play Southland, which by attrition broke the news to half his squad that they were not in the first Test.

“I read out the squad for the Southland game as normal in front of the players. You’ve just got to be brutally honest with everyone,” he said.

“There is no other way of doing it, and the disappointments were already pre-handled. We’d dealt with this period back home before we left and there is still a lot of rugby left.”

Woodward said he stressed to the Southland contingent that with two more Tests in the series they had everything to play for, a line which the players reiterated without hiding their frustration.

“It was pretty disappointing news, but there is a fantastic atmosphere in the squad and the guys realised there are six games to go and it’s not over,” Geordan Murphy insisted.

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THE ALL BLACKS are awake to the Lions’ cross-kicking option which produced a vital try against Otago, said utility back Ma’a Nonu.

Cross-kicks have contributed to three Lions tries this tour, with centre Will Greenwood the latest beneficiary at Carisbrook last Saturday.

“When there’s a penalty, it’s (a case of) pretty much eyes up,” said Nonu.”

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SEVENTY rugby fans from Ireland are heading to New Zealand on Wednesday next in support of the Lions and at the same time raise funds in a sponsored walk in aid of the IRFU’s Charitable Trust for injured players.

Following the success of previous fund-raising walks with the Lions to Australia in 2001 and to the World Cup, also in Australia, in 2003; the 2005 Irish Lions Rugby Challenge sponsored walk is centred on the final two Test matches against the All Blacks.

It again takes the form of a 100 km sponsored walk, in Wellington, Lake Taupo and Auckland.

Participants are required to raise a minimum of €5,500 and the package includes flights to and from New Zealand; four star accommodation; guaranteed entry to Test matches in Wellington and Auckland; souvenir tracksuit, t-shirt and travel bag.

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RUGBY UNION has become more popular than rugby league in Australia for the first time, according to a survey released yesterday.

The study by Sweeney Research found rugby union enjoyed the largest jump in popularity of any sport in Australia over the past four years, with its interest rate surging by 13% to 44%, beating league on 41%. However interest in soccer was greater than in both rugby codes at 45%, a rise of six points.

And Australian rules remains the country’s most popular football code, recording a 55% interest rate, up six points.

“Union’s inroads into the national sports conscience has come through Super12 and Test matches being played in the non-traditional rugby cities and not just Sydney and Brisbane,” said Sweeney director Martin Hirons.

“An expanded Tri Nations series and Super 14 kicks off next year, England and Ireland are touring, we are pushing for an Asia-Pacific tournament involving our Super 14 provinces next year and of course the Rugby World Cup in France follows in 2007,” he said.

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