KSA Shark ©

Ford replaces Flannery on tour

Written by Andre Bosch (KSA Shark ©)

Posted in :2009 Lions Tour, In the news on 23 May 2009 at 07:15
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Ross Ford has doubled the Scotland contingent named in the original British and Irish Lions squad for the tour to South Africa by being called up to replace the injured Jerry Flannery.

PA Sport reports that Edinburgh forward Ford narrowly missed out on the initial selection for the 36-man party and was on the official standby list.

The 25-year-old, who has 30 caps, saw off competition from Ulster’s Rory Best, meaning there are now four Scots in head coach Ian McGeechan’s squad.

A delighted Ford said: “It’s a great honour. I’m chuffed to bits. ‘Geech’ phoned me and said: ‘I think you know why I’m calling’.”

Ford explained he first became aware of the Lions phenomenon when, as a schoolboy, he watched television coverage of the 1997 tour of South Africa.

He said: “That would be the first time I realised just how much the Lions means.

“I remember buying the ‘Living with the Lions’ video after the tour and just about wearing it out through watching it so often – and learning a few new words from Jim Telfer too!

“To be selected is a great honour – right up there with my best rugby achievements, but until I actually play and win in the jersey, I haven’t really done the hard bit yet.

“Of course I was disappointed to miss out on selection first time around but I just knuckled down and concentrated on doing my job for Edinburgh and it was great to finish the Magners League season on a high and secure the runners-up spot.”

Scotland captain Mike Blair, himself an injury replacement for Ireland’s Tomas O’Leary, said: “It will be great to have another Scottish guy in the camp and it will be a terrific challenge for Ross to join up with the Lions squad and strive to get up the pecking order.”

McGeechan, who has again delayed naming a replacement for Wales wing Leigh Halfpenny, added: “Ross is a terrific player and he will naturally slot straight in as hooker. I look forward to welcoming him into camp tonight.”

The head coach also expressed sympathy for Ireland and Munster star Flannery, who tore elbow ligaments in training on Wednesday to end his hopes of touring.

“Jerry has had a terrific season and he anchored the Irish scrum during Ireland’s Six Nations Grand Slam season,” McGeechan said.

“It is disappointing that, after selection for the Lions, his season should end with a pre-tour injury.

“Injuries are a part of the game and, while very distressing for the affected player, we as a squad have to accept them as a fact of life.

“It is a part of the game we play. We are focused on moving forward, concentrating on the task at hand and the first match.”

Flannery was the fourth player originally named in the squad to have been ruled out of the entire tour.

He was set to undergo surgery today after visiting a specialist yesterday but Halfpenny remains part of the squad.

The Cardiff Blues back requires intensive treatment on a thigh injury and will not travel to Johannesburg with the touring party on Sunday evening.

Halfpenny is expected to be sidelined for around a fortnight and he will join the squad in South Africa if his recovery goes to plan.

But with the Lions facing such a short build-up to the first Test and Halfpenny likely to be unavailable for the first two tour matches, McGeechan has decided to call up a replacement back.

England full-back Delon Armitage is considered favourite not only because he can cover the back three and outside centre but because he offers the Lions a goalkicking option.

The Lions are only travelling with two front-line kickers in fly-halves Stephen Jones and Ronan O’Gara, with Riki Flutey and Halfpenny to provide back-up.

With goal-kicking a prerequisite, other potential candidates could include Wales’ James Hook, Scotland’s Chris Paterson or England reject Danny Cipriani.

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