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McGeechan: First Test selection vital for Lions

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Sportal.co.nz     16 Oct 2012     Getty Images

That's the view of one of the most successful of Lions coaches Sir Ian McGeechan.

McGeechan, who enjoyed both a playing and coaching role on seven Lions tours, said getting the first Test selection right was vital.

McGeechan told The Rugby Paper, "That's the biggest challenge for the coaches and Warren Gatland knows that as well as anyone."

Gatland and his staff would need to show patience before selecting their first Test side to play Australia on June 22 in Brisbane.

"Time is limited so, tactically, you cannot develop huge strategies; you have got to be really clear and straightforward about how you want to play. But it does take a bit of time to get the chemistry of the side right and fathom out which are best combinations so in that sense you can't rush into a decision," he said.

"The thing for any Lions coach is not to pick their Test team in week one and instead have the courage to wait until the week leading up to the game."

An example of the type of thinking involved was that where he paired centres Brian O'Driscoll and Jamie Roberts in 2009.

"They had never played together before, but they really hit it off and I think at the time they were the best centre partnership in world rugby," he said.

Everyone on the tour should have a chance to stake their claim before the first Test as all the players were good enough to be selected in the first place.

McGeechan's first experience of coaching the Lions was on the first tour of Australia in 19989, a series the Lions won 2-1.

"I think the 1989 series got the Lions back on the map because it was the first tour to Australia and there had been a six-year gap since the previous tour to New Zealand," he said.

The tour had been low key with little media following and few supporters.

"1989 was critical for the credibility of British and Irish rugby. We weren't used to winning matches in the Southern Hemisphere and it was a huge boost for us in the north that we did so in 1989," he said.