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'No doubt about it, Paul O'Connell is going on the Lions Tour' - Shane Byrne

The former Ireland and Lions hooker believes the touring squad will be dominated by Welshmen.

Paul O'Connell with Donncha O'Callaghan in 2009.
Paul O'Connell with Donncha O'Callaghan in 2009.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

IT WAS VERY obvious that British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland held off naming his squad until after the Heineken and Amlin Cup semi-finals.

The 30 April announcement – as opposed to 21 April 2009 before the South Africa tour [Heineken semis were on 2 May] – gives the likes of Paul O’Connell, Dan Lydiate and the likes a chance to come back and prove themselves.

The bulk of the squad to take on Australia will be Welsh but people need to get it out of their head that the decisions are made purely on international matches. It is very much a case of who Gatland and his coaching staff fancy. When it comes to wildcard selections, Ian Madigan is one of the form outhalves in Europe.

This may be a tour too soon for him but his name should be in the discussion circles when it comes to selection.

Apart from the Welsh guys, who bounced back well from that Ireland defeat to win the Six Nations, very few players have put their hands up and guaranteed themselves a spot. There will be a few wildcards, definitely. If you are in form right now, you have a chance.

It makes the next few weeks, and this Munster versus Leinster match tomorrow, crucial.

POC on the plane

Paul O’Connell is going on the Lions Tour, no doubt about it.

He was man-of-the-match in two of the three games he has played since his return. He has, basically, been out injured for a year and he has looked so lean and hungry since his return. It is great to see.

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People are getting carried away, saying he should be captain but he should be allowed to focus on his fitness. He is a natural leader, regardless, and we don’t need a title to tell us that.

I’m sure we will see Brian O’Driscoll tearing into this game with Munster at Thomond Park. He will not have enjoyed sitting it out, suspended, over the past few weeks.

Leinster’s Greg Feek says O’Driscoll ‘has been running around like a headless chicken’ in training. (©INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan)

Rob Kearney fielded very well and made some good carries against Wasps last weekend. I think he will be on the plane to Down Under but, at the moment, not in the starting XV. The beauty of the Lions Tour, though, is that the selection battle starts all over again once you land.

Kearney was only supposed to play a supporting role in South Africa but started each Test and was one of the stars.

*Shane Byrne’s publication, Club Rugby Magazine is available monthly in the Irish Independent. Follow the magazine, and all the latest rugby news, on Twitter @ClubRugby1

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About the author:

Shane Byrne  / Former Irish international

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