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LISTEN TO THE LIONS ROAR

I am not sure about you but I am fizzing with excitement about this tour.  First point – this is a very strong British & Irish Lions squad.  There are such classy options in almost every single position.  Just look at who got left behind and then at fly halves like Sexton and Farrell, second rows  Wyn Davies, Itoje, Kruis, Lawes front rowers, Marler, McGrath, Furlong, Vunipola and you can see just how much depth we have.

This is what struck me about the team announced for the first run out against the Provincial Barbarians.  For a make shift side put together on the basis of they had simply spent more time together in camp it is a surprisingly good 23.  There are some nice little combinations there with players who know each other and maybe its through pure chance but there are 4 international captains in that starting 15 and a vice captain on the bench.

It is going to be mightily instructive to see how the team gels and if Warren Gatland gives any clues in the game plan about  how he see his test side playing. 

I like the fact Rory Best will be able to throw into Henderson in the line out, that the two English props know each other and Stuart Hogg will have his mate Tommy Seymour on the wing to read his plays.  A Welsh back row will definitely be up to speed and finish off with a couple of English centres and I am hopeful everyone will click.  There is also a mighty fine bench including a few European cup winners from Saracens who hopefully will get on to stretch their leg

The team they will be facing this weekend up in Whanargei are, we all know, the weakest side they will face.  However to the people in the area this is the biggest show in town and for the players a massive honour to be selected for the game.  It is a bit of a throw back of a stadium with grassy banks but will be jammed with noisy local and Lions fans and for the players running out on to the pitch in a Lions jersey there will be a jolt of excitement and euphoria like nothing else they have experienced.

The Lions need this easier run out as they have only been in the country a couple of days and the tour is hard enough without facing first up a team packed with international experience.  That strong side awaits on Tuesday against the Blues the first of the five Super 18 franchises on the schedule.  That game should see some Saracens and Leinster boys featuring in the starting XV with Scarlets, Munster, Exeter and Wasps boys getting bench spots.

So for me it is the TV for the next three weeks and then – I am still pinching myself – I am off to New Zealand for the three tests so will be able to report back from the home of The Long White Cloud.

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