/ Rugby

McGeechan scraps preliminary squad

Updated: Thursday, 15 Jan 2009 22:36

Ian McGeechan will not be named an extended preliminary Lions squad
Ian McGeechan will not be named an extended preliminary Lions squad

British and Irish Lions head coach Ian McGeechan has scrapped plans to announce an extended preliminary squad for the tour of South Africa later this year.

McGeechan had intended revealing a list of 60-65 players next week, before identifying a final squad of around 35 names in April after the RBS 6 Nations Championship finishes.

The Lions head to South Africa on May 24 for a 10-match trip highlighted by Test matches against the world champion Springboks in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg.

McGeechan said: 'Instead of selecting and announcing a preliminary squad this month, we have decided that we should instead work closely with each of the four Home Union coaches in the lead-up and during the Six Nations to determine which players are showing the form and application that will make them suitable tourists.

'Becoming a Lion is the pinnacle of a player's career - it is a unique experience and nothing compares to it.

'We want to ensure that all players continue to see they have a chance of playing themselves into contention for the final squad that we will be announcing in April, as planned.

'Selection of the tour party is the most important element of the tour, as far as I am concerned.

'I want to ensure that we have every opportunity to make the best selection decisions and that we utilise expertise from outside the group, such as the national coaches of the home nations, to select the final group of players that will represent Britain and Ireland in South Africa.'

Each player from the English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish national squads - plus any additional players outside those groups - will receive a draft Lions contract.

That contract then becomes 'live' if the player gains final squad selection in April.

The Lions have also confirmed a list of support personnel who will assist the senior management team in South Africa.

This includes physiotherapist Phil Pask and masseur Richard Wegrzyk, who were part of England's 2003 World Cup backroom staff in Australia.

Lions tour manager Gerald Davies added: 'The next step in terms of tour planning is a final pre-tour visit to South Africa later this month to finalise many aspects of the tour such as accommodation, internal travel and training facilities.

'As a management group, we are under no illusion of the challenges that we face when we travel to South Africa this summer.

'We will be facing the world champions on their home soil, and therefore it is crucial that we are comfortable with all aspects of the tour logistics and that we have a suitable environment in place to allow the players to perform at their maximum.'