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Page last updated at 20:13 GMT, Thursday, 15 January 2009

Lions abandon extended squad plan

British & Irish Lions head coach Ian McGeechan
McGeechan wants to ensure players have the best chance to impress

British & Irish Lions coach Ian McGeechan has scrapped plans to announce an extended preliminary squad for this year's tour of South Africa.

The original plan was to name a list of 60-65 players next week, before naming a final squad of about 35 in April after the RBS Six Nations.

McGeechan plans to work closely with the coaches of the four home nations.

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

"I want to ensure we have every chance to make the best selection decisions."

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.

McGeechan said he would be consult the national coaches in order to determine the players who are "showing the form and application" to make the trip to South Africa.

606: DEBATE

The Lions' 10-match trip to South Africa from 24 May includes Test matches in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg.

And McGeechan wants to give players the best chance to earn selection.

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

"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."

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."



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see also
Veteran Williams 'key' to Lions
12 Dec 08 |  Rugby Union
Lewsey retires from England duty
10 Dec 08 |  English
McGeechan eyes potential Lions
06 Oct 08 |  Scottish
Hastings wary of Springboks power
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Jeremy Guscott column
24 Oct 08 |  English
Gatland accepts Lions appointment
22 Oct 08 |  Rugby Union
No Wasps bias for Lions - Sackey
02 Sep 08 |  London Wasps
Lions scout South African venues
06 Jun 08 |  Rugby Union
Lions must have unity - McGeechan
15 May 08 |  Rugby Union
The word on Geech
14 May 08 |  Rugby Union
McGeechan given Lions coach role
14 May 08 |  Rugby Union
2009 Lions: Squad & results
09 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union
History of the Lions
02 May 08 |  Rugby Union
Mighty Boks: South African rugby
01 Oct 08 |  Rugby Union


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