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Match Reports - Tuesday 21 June 2005 - 13:03

Southland 16 British & Irish Lions 26

So Gavin Henson gets dropped from the test side and comes out and puts in a heroic man of the match display against Southland. It’s almost as if the script was pre-written for him. I wonder what price you would get on Henson filling that number 12 jersey on Saturday evening?

The match was not a classic mid week fixture by any means. The shots of Sir Clive Woodward on the big screen shaking his head told more about the quality of play on the field than words can ever do justice to.

The dismal offering served up on the pitch wasn’t only from one side either, Southland too contributed their fair share of dropped passes and needless penalties to add to the Lions frailties.

It is perhaps understandable that the players involved would be suffering from the disappointment of missing out on test selection, but other than Henson no other player made any kind of suggestion that they should have been included in the other team of 22.

Sir Clive Woodward has not yet announced his test side for the game on Saturday and it has been said that he is playing a few mind games with the All Black coaches by not selecting Henson, but on the evidence of this performance we simply do not have a better option at 12 than the mercurial Welshman. With Woodward’s track record of saying one thing and doing another we may yet see the Osprey donning the famous red shirt again this week.

The only other players to stake any sort of claim to potential test match inclusion came from two of the replacements in Andy Sheridan and Tom Shanklin. Both players have performed reasonably well in their past outings for the Lions on this tour and again acquitted themselves well when others around them were knocking on and conceding possession at will.

Outside of those three it seems pretty clear that those players who made an appearance in this fixture seem destined for mid week glory and we must hope that they can support and help the test side wherever possible by getting good results in the future matches against Manawatu next week and Auckland the following Tuesday. The performances and spirit within the ranks of those not in the test 22 will be crucial to ensuring a successful series for the tourists.

There will be little that Henry and his charges can take out of this game as the side they will face in Christchurch will be vastly different to that on show today, but the pressure is gradually increasing and inside the pressure cooker that is the home of the Super 12 champions the atmosphere will be red hot on Saturday.

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