PLAN TO GET LIONS TO BAND TOGETHER
It's not like us to be cynical at Against The Head (well not this early in the year anyway) but when we saw Clive Woodward had sent wristbands to 140 potential Lions players for Christmas . . . like those yellow ones sold by Nike . . . we had to laugh.
Woodward said that the idea for these wristbands, which are navy, white, scarlet and green in colour, came to him in a moment of inspiration during, wait for it, a Nike conference. "I spoke at their sales conference and around 300 people there were wearing this yellow band supporting the initiative by [Lance] Armstrong, who is one of their athletes, " Woodward said last week. "It was very inspiring and I knew it would be a good thing to get for the Lions." It won't be a bad thing for the Lions marketing people either, who have to make close to Â£8m to "nance the tour to New Zealand. The big sell starts here.
CLIVE SHOULD HAVE CHECKED LIST TWICE
Sticking with the Lions theme, of those 140 players sent Christmas presents by Clive Woodward, you'd imagine there'd be a fair proportion of Irish players on the list, and there probably was. But a straw poll conducted by Against The Head showed at least a couple of Irish players, the type you'd imagine have an outside chance of making the 44-man squad for New Zealand, got nothing from Sir Clive through the letterbox.
While it might be a great idea to try to motivate the troops six months in advance of the tour, it can hardly be a good idea to alienate so many players at the turn of the year. Let's hope he has the foresight to select players not on his mailing list if their inclusion is deserved.
PLUS CA CHANGE . . .
Our friends over at L'Equipe in Paris have selected their world team of the year for 2004 and they appear to have hit the nail right on the head. The vast majority of these types of selections are blinded by some sort of bias or other, but the diplomats in Paris have selected a XV it's very dif"cult to argue with.
Brian O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara and Paul O'Connell are the Irishmen that make the selection, while there's just one English player, Wasps number eight Lawrence Dallaglio. While O'Driscoll and O'Connell regularly pop up in selections of this type, it's good to see O'Gara "nally getting some international recognition for his outstanding performances over the past 12 months. The Munster out-half continually gets a raw deal from certain sections of the English press, with one rugby writer, who appears to be wholly blind to O'Gara's capabilities, even suggesting last weekend the 27-year-old wouldn't even be third-choice out-half on the forthcoming Lions tour to New Zealand. There's little chance of that happening.
Compiled by Ciaran Cronin ccronin@tribune. ie that tight-head Phil Vickery is likely to be "t following a sixweek spell on the sidelines. In the "rst meeting between the sides, the English prop destroyed Simon Best in the front-row and that has to be a worry for McCall.
The good news for the home side is that the everreliable David Humphreys is expected to play and that should ensure an extremely tight contest.