British and Irish Lions: Rowntree says every Test position is there to be won
Last Updated: 05/06/13 10:51am
Graham Rowntree: Believes that strong competition in the Lions squad is good for the side
Every British and Irish Lions Test shirt is up for grabs, according to assistant coach Graham Rowntree.
The Lions starting XV has been completely changed following a convincing win over the Barbarians, giving 15 new players a chance to stake a claim for a Test spot in the second Tour game against the Force on Wednesday.
Competition for every position is fierce, which Rowntree feels will put the side in good stead as the tour progresses.
"We've said to the guys that in the first three games everyone gets a start," he revealed, "so after the Reds game (on Saturday) I think we have got to start making some decision on combinations.
"Certainly by the Waratahs and ACT Brumbies games (June 15 and 18), we need to know who we are going to start with in the first Test, but at this point in time there is everything to play for."
Leicester and England flanker Tom Croft, who toured South Africa with the Lions in 2009, is a player in the reshuffled line-up Rowntree is very familiar with.
"He's a special player," said Rowntree. "I have known him since he was a young man in the Leicester academy. He has done exceptionally well to come back from a nasty injury.
"His form towards the end of the season was such that we couldn't ignore it as England selectors, and those performances have got him on the plane for this trip."
The former Leicester and England prop admits that even if Croft plays out of his skin, being picked for the Test side is not a foregone conclusion.
He said: "He has got good competition. Dan Lydiate played very well on Saturday, so the challenge is there for Tom, and we've got other guys in the back-row that can play six as well."
The Lions face Western Force in Perth on Wednesday, and Rowntree says that criticism of the quality of their opposition is misplaced.
"It (Western Force) is not a bad team. There are not a lot of guys there who have played a lot of Super Rugby, but it still looks a strong enough team for me.
"There has been a lot of local chat about how they want to play this game, how physical they want to make this game, and we've got to meet that challenge, whoever is on the field."