Lions ready to roar in World Rugby Classic
With a squad bursting at the seams with talent, the Classic Lions look well equipped to mount a title challenge at next month's World Rugby Classic.
Still smarting from last year's semi-final defeat to eventual winners Classic Wallabies, the Lions have made a statement of intent by naming a team dripping with international caps.
Unsurprisingly, the Lions will possess plenty of forward power in the formidable form of Colin Charvis, Jon Petrie and David Corkery — a Bermuda Triangle of sorts — boasting a whopping 166 caps between them.
Adopting last year's Wallabies blueprint for success, the Lions have turned to former Rugby League legend Shaun Long, one of the finest scrum-halves of his generation, to marry some attacking finesse to their beastlike forward pack.
Unlike legendary Aussie League players Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler, Long does have some experience of 15s rugby after spending two seasons at lower league Union side Preston Grasshoppers.
And with ex-Wales centre Sonny Parker ramping up their attacking threat, the Lions should promise some bums off seats excitement for Bermudians along with and the hordes of British expats who annually pack North Field's bleachers.
In the absence of Johns and Fittler, the Wallabies have kept alive their recent tradition of naming League stars in their ranks, with Brett Finch, Shannon Hegerty and Andrew Walker all included.
As the first high profile dual code international, Walker represents a real coup for the Wallabies who start the defence of their maiden title against United States on Monday, November 10.
Much is likely to rest on the shoulders of Yannick Jauzion for last year's Plate final winners France.
Still only 34, the recently retired centre will be among the star attractions at this year's Classic, having been a key part of three Six Nations-winning sides and a Toulouse talisman during a stellar career for club and country.
Also included for France is Romania's Pietre Mitu, who captained his country at the 1999 World Cup, amassing a career total of 288 points — a record for an international scrum-half.
The enigmatic Percy Montgomery and his ever-reliable left boot will again provide the attacking spark for the perennially strong South Africa, keen to erase the memory of last year's one-sided final defeat to the Wallabies.
And with line-out king Victor Matfield — his country's most capped player — set for a mouth-watering tournament debut, it would be a fool to bet against the Springboks who also include 51-capped lock Albert van den Berg.
Both Matfield and Van den Berg were part of the Springboks 2007 World Cup-winning squad.
The tournament, celebrating its 25th anniversary, gets underway next Saturday with Argentina locking horns with Canada in the opening game. Classic Lions play Italy in the second match that evening.
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