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Lions legend 'Geech' wants Paul O'Connell to travel to Oz

The former Scotland player and coach has been involved on seven Lions tours.

Lions coach, McGeechan, and captain, O'Connell, celebrate in 2009.
Lions coach, McGeechan, and captain, O'Connell, celebrate in 2009.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

IAN MCGEECHAN HAS dedicated so much of his life to rugby, and the Lions in particular, that he goes by the title ‘Sir’ now. The legendary player and coach still prefers ‘Geech’.

Having played in two Lions tours in the 70s and coached or managed another five, the Scot knows a thing or seven about what it takes to challenge the best and brightest of Southern Hemisphere rugby.

He told Sky Sports, “In 2009 we had our last selection meeting the day before the announcement and we slept on it and then we got together in the morning of the announcement just to make sure that we were all 100% happy to where we had got to. It’s a great process and it’s obviously a huge responsibility.”

McGeechan selected Paul O’Connell as his captain for the ’09 tour to South Africa and feels the Munster man should travel Down Under this summer. He said:

Paul was tremendous against the Quins [in the Heineken Cup]. You know if you talk about the will of a person, just driving his team, it’s him. His very presence and his involvement. If you want to know what wins Lions Test matches, it is that sort of involvement.”

If McGeechan is certain about his former captain, he has his reservations about the man that is the favourite to replace him, Sam Warburton of Wales. “The captain of the Lions,” he says, “has to have respect of his peers and I’ve always felt he has to be in the forefront of that Test match thinking.

“Also as a coach it’s quite a personal choice in the end and it has to come down to the head coach and the person he really wants to be talking to, feels he has a good rapport and relationship with. The question mark is whether Sam wants the captaincy. I don’t know, it’s rumoured that he didn’t want the Welsh position and the Lions position is much much bigger. It’s a greater responsibility.”

Option 2 – Brian O’Driscoll

Former Wales and Lions centre Scott Gibbs believes Lions head coach Warren Gatland should opt for 2005 captain Brian O’Driscoll to lead the tourists.

Gibbs was the Player of the series on the winning 1997 tour to South Africa. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

He told TheScore.ie, “I don’t see anything wrong with pairing O’Driscoll and Jamie Roberts, who did so well against the Springboks last time out, again. The centre positions are still very open as no player really shot the lights out during the Six Nations. You could pick any from O’Driscoll, Roberts, Jonathan Davies or Manu Tuilagi and I wouldn’t have any complaints.

O’Driscoll still has five or six games left in him. We would all love to see him lead the side out and take a series win to finish off what has been one of the finest rugby careers in the Northern Hemisphere.”

The Lions Squad announcement will be live on Sky Sports News HD tomorrow from 11am.

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Patrick McCarry

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