Greenwood backs O’Driscoll

WILL GREENWOOD believes Ireland Grand Slam captain Brian O’Driscoll should lead the Lions in South Africa this summer.

And Greenwood also thinks it is unlikely his fellow 2003 England World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson will make the 10-match trip.

The Lions squad — 35 or 36-strong — is just 12 days away from being unveiled.

Greenwood, a Lion in 1997, 2001 and 2005, feels there are probably only seven or eight places left for McGeechan to decide upon.

And as for Greenwood’s theory on the captain? “I think his surname will begin with the letter O,” he said.

“Personally, I would take O’Driscoll, but there would be no arguments if he picked (Paul) O’Connell.

“O’Driscoll captained Ireland exceptionally well to the Grand Slam. He has scored tries in key games when the team wasn’t performing that well, and he even dropped a goal against England.

“While there is no room for sentimentality on a Lions tour, to go as captain to New Zealand in 2005 and be up-ended one and a half minutes into the first Test match and stretchered off, you get the feeling that if a guy is owed one, then maybe it is him. They won’t pick him for those reasons, it will be pure rugby reasons and what gives them the best chance of winning.”

Greenwood replaced O’Driscoll during that first Test in Christchurch almost four years ago after the Irishman was spear-tackled out of the tour.

But while he anticipates O’Driscoll emulating Martin Johnson in skippering successive Lions trips, Greenwood does not see Wilkinson heading to South Africa next month.

Wilkinson has not played since suffering a serious knee injury during Newcastle’s Guinness Premiership defeat against Gloucester on September 30 last year. It was only his fourth appearance after recovering from shoulder surgery.

And like Wilkinson, Wales star Gavin Henson’s Lions prospects are also balanced on a knife-edge after being sidelined by injury.

“Ronan O’Gara and Stephen Jones are number one and two fly-halves on this tour,” Greenwood said.

“They are going to take a third fly-half, you would have thought. Has Jonny got enough game-time underneath his belt?

“Would I be putting him in that squad on April 21? No I wouldn’t, but if McGeechan puts him in the squad you wouldn’t get any arguments.

“As for Gavin, (Warren) Gatland and (Shaun) Edwards are coaches on the Lions tour, and they rave about him.

“He can kick the ball a mile off either foot, if someone runs down his channel he will absolutely bury them, and he can pass off either hand.

“But anyone who tells me right now who is playing inside centre in the first Test against South Africa and puts their house on it, I would call them a fool.”

So, what of the “bolters”, those players who could emerge as the unexpected McGeechan selections?

“I think most people would be pretty convinced that 27 or 28 names are pretty much nailed on, and there are seven or eight to fill,” he said.

“Would you count, for example, (Ireland scrum-half) Tomás O’Leary as a bolter? Possibly, at the start of the season most people outside of Munster may not have heard much about him.”


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