From Paul Morgan, editor of Rugby World Magazine
You can smell the Test matches on this Lions now we are less than two weeks away from the first one, in Durban!
Coach Ian McGeechan revealed two important things today
* The culture of having a midweek dirt-trackers side and a Saturday side on the Lions tour has gone out of the window this time as this is such a short tour
* The Lions Test team is very unlike to play as a 1-15 before the first Test
That means many of the selections for the Sharks game are intriguing. The key ones include:
* Before the tour started Paul O’Connell said he was competing with Alun Wyn Jones for the No 5 shirt. Wyn Jones has been picked in the No 4 shirt for the Sharks game alongside O’Connell. Clearly the coaches are working out if this combination can work together. Jones has played most of his rugby at 5 but the Lions feel he is in such good form, he could make the transition.
* The Lions coaches have a huge amount of faith in Shane Williams and believe he didn’t get the chance to show what he could do as he played in the two disappointing performances against the Royal XV and The Cheetahs, so Shane plays again.
* The Lions coaches also believe Luke Fitzgerald has a chance to make the side on the wing. The Roberts-O’Driscoll centre partnership is nailed on, so he has to look elsewhere.
* The battle for the No 7 shirt is a shoot out between David Wallace (plays against the Sharks) and Martyn Williams, who will play on Saturday, against Western Province.
* Mike Phillips is ahead in the race to be the Test No 9, so against the Sharks Ronan O’Gara gets his chance to play alongside Phillips and prove he can get ahead of Stephen Jones in the pecking order.
* The more the coaches see of Lee Mears the more they seem to like him. But can he play in a front row with Gethin Jenkins. We’ll see against the Sharks.
* Tom Croft offers completely different skills to Stephen Ferris and Joe Worsley. Against the Sharks, Croft can win a Test place.
But let me know your thoughts? How do you feel the side is coming together and who will be there in the First Test?