Lions tour disruption likely but Six Nations faces cancellation

Friday, March 02, 2001
A major shadow has been cast over the future of this year’s six nations rugby tournament because of the foot and mouth scare and this could also affect the selection process for the Lions tour.

Back in the 70’s Ireland were possibly robbed of further rugby glory when, having won their away fixtures, the other countries would not travel to Ireland because of the troubles in the North. Let’s hope the Foot & Mouth scare will not have us saying the same this year.

Having had such a good start, two wins from two matches, Ireland would have been hoping to capitalise after their performance against France and continue in the same vein against the other countries.

If these matches are played and Ireland do continue on their winning ways then we could be hopeful of a large Irish contingent travelling south.

With as many as six hookers selected on the initial squad of 67 man panel, the main question on the selection of the three hookers is: who will accompany Keith Wood on the flight?

Keith had an absolutely outstanding Lions tour to South Africa the last time round and Graham Henry will be hoping for the same again from him.

Woody, I feel, played to instructions in South Africa and really tightened up his game and was always a force in ruck and maul as well as around the fringes. He also kept his form in playing for Ireland and had a very good six nations last year.

In playing for Ireland he sometime seems to have a free role in the loose and can pop up anywhere in broken play although I must admit I don’t like to see him standing next to the full back.

So, who will travel with Keith? The only other really outstanding hooker on the list at present is Phil Greening from England.

Greening was excellent last year for England in their, almost, grand slam season.

He was very good technically in both scrum and lineout and was always very obvious in the loose where he always seems to be available.

His only problem at present is that he is recovering from surgery and, obviously, the selectors must be happy that he will be match fit in time to make the tour.

Assuming that Phil Greening is fit and available then we need a third hooker. Neither West and Regan, both from England, are not going to set the world alight with either their lineout throwing or their work around the field.

Gordon Bulloch from Scotland is a good trier but Scotland have dropped him a number of times in the past - even this season - and is far from the finished product.

Robin McBryde from Wales is turning into a good solid hooker and having been on the Welsh bench for a number of seasons has finally made the No 2 jersey his own in Wales.

Of the players on the present selection panel, McBryde could be the third hooker to travel.

Another player not on the list at present but who is having a very good season for Munster is our own Frankie Sheehan.

When Keith Wood went back to England at the end of last season, the jury was out on whether Frankie could fill his boots for this season. It has to said that Frankie has been very solid throughout the Munster campaign and it could be whispered that Munster have not missed Woody at all.

He has worked very hard on his throwing and as a result the Munster lineout has worked well all season. A good tight forward who would not be found wanting at international level.

If Munster do go on to win the European Cup then Frankie could well be there.