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McGeechan praises Lions character

Ian McGeechan (right) congratulates James Hook after his penalty won the game
Ian McGeechan (right) congratulates James Hook after his penalty won the game

Head coach Ian McGeechan was delighted with the British and Irish Lions' character after they came through a stern test to defeat Western Province.

The tourists needed a late James Hook penalty to win a hard-fought match in Cape Town 26-23, only a week before the Test series with South Africa begins.

"Each time we've been under pressure we've responded very positively and with great play," said McGeechan.

"Each time we are putting a team on the field, the players are responding."

He added: "You keep starting with new combinations but the players have really bought into what we are doing and it doesn't matter who is alongside who, they're playing really hard for one another."

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McGeechan has guided the Lions to five wins out of five so far but says there is plenty to work on ahead of the first Test in Durban on 20 June.

"I thought some of the execution today was excellent," said McGeechan, who insists he will not pick the Test XV until after Tuesday's final warm-up against Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.

"We probably tried to force it a bit against a team that was playing a total kicking game but maybe we just have to have a bit more patience about how we play when a team is doing that."

The teams had to contend with inclement weather conditions at Newlands and replacement full-back Hook said the swirling wind made life difficult as he took two penalties late on.

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"I was just concentrating on striking well," he said. "I mis-hit the first one and didn't kick it as well as I would have wanted but the second one I got lucky and it went through the posts.

"For the second kick the wind was probably in my favour and for the first one it wasn't. As I went to kick, it was still behind us and it went through.

"The ball didn't really budge, it went straight through but on the way down here there was no wind whatsoever, so we couldn't have prepared for this."

McGeechan added: "Our lineout and scrum is going very well and our breakdown work today was very pleasing.

"But we know next week is going to be a different level again. There are going to be some tough selection calls."

England prop Phil Vickery, skippering the Lions for the first time, said: "It was a great honour to captain the Lions and I am just pleased the guys pulled it through.

"The only thing that bothered me was winning the game. It was about making sure of that. We didn't get it all our own way, and it says a huge amount.

"A week today is the reason why we are here - a Test match - and I just hope we go out and do ourselves justice."

Western Province coach Allister Coetzee predicted "one hell of a Test series" between the Lions and South Africa.

"We got close but one or two mistakes near the end costs us," he said.

"I was fairly happy with the physicality of our team. The perception was that Western Province were a bit soft in the forwards, but we fronted up well.

"You are playing against a pack that has got close to 350 Test caps. All credit to the Lions pack, they came at us in the scrum, which showed their experience.

"The Lions are improving every week, they are a quality outfit. They know how to pick up the tempo and it is going to be one hell of a Test series coming up.

"I am looking forward to it. It will be interesting to see how the Springboks handle the Lions' rush defence - it is two real quality sides matching up."



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see also
Western Province 23-26 Lions
13 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
Western Province v Lions as it happened
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Davies wants 'clarity' over Jones
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Ryan Jones makes swift Lions exit
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Sharks 3-39 Lions
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Cheetahs 24-26 Lions
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Golden Lions 10-74 Lions
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Royal XV 25-37 Lions
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Lions squad selector
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2009 Lions: Squad & results
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Rugby union on the BBC
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Rugby union positions guide
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