10 Jun 2009

Lions team begins to take shape

12:36 pm on 10 June 2009

The shape and identity of the British and Irish Lions is beginning to emerge after coach Ian McGeechan named his team to take on the Sharks in Durban on Thursday morning.

McGeechan has gone back to some of the units who performed so well in the 74-10 victory over the Golden Lions, with a repeat of the centre combination of Brian O'Driscoll and Jamie Roberts and the same back row of Tom Croft, Jamie Heaslip and David Wallace.

The Welsh pair of fullback Lee Byrne and wing Shane Williams will play their second consecutive match of the tour while Ireland's Luke Fitzgerald moves from centre to wing and will also play his second game on the trot.

Lions captain Paul O'Connell and O'Driscoll, the only players the management have said are guaranteed starters in the Tests, have been named in the same team for the first time on tour.

The Sharks also announced their team and though Deon Carstens was in at loosehead prop, fellow Springbok squad members number eight Ryan Kankowski and wing Odwa Ndungane both missed out through injury.

Sharks coach, New Zealand-born John Plumtree, believes this Lions team is a much better side than the one that toured New Zealand in 2005.

He says there is a lot more competition for places, they are well organised and they are developing a seriously good team spirit.

The match kicks off around 5am Thursday.

The first Test is 10 days away.