Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

South Africa survive stirring Lions fightback — your views

odriscollA mighty fightbcak from the Lions fell just short on Saturday as South Africa held on for a 26-21 vicotry in the first test in Durban.

The Lions were outplayed comprehensively in the first half but they dominated the last half hour or so, with a second try from Tom Croft and one from Mike Phillips, and gave South Africa a real fright.

So will such a positive second-half performance be enough to inspire a Lions comeback in this series?

As noted by Mitch Phillips, who was at the match for Reuters, only once before, against Australia in 1989, have the Lions lost the first test and come back to win the series.

Players, fans unite behind the Lions

RUGBY-LIONS/All professional sportsmen talk about how important their supporters are but when it comes to the British and Irish Lions there really is a special bond.

Defying the credit crunch, up to 30,000 fans are expected to travel to South Africa to follow the Lions in their three-test series against the world champions.

Things warming up nicely on the South African sporting front

SOCCER-CONFEDERATIONS/The South African sporting public were a little underwhelmed by the early stages of the Confederations Cup and the British and Irish Lions tour but the last few days has seen a major turnaround and there is now something in the air.

Relatively high ticket prices combined with the Sprinboks’ decision to keep their players out of their Super 14 teams combined to ensure the early provincial games were played against a backdrop of empty seats.

When you don’t want to see your name on the teamsheet

rugbyOne of the most painful memories from my schooldays was the prolonged torture of being left in the playground on my lunch break, looking on as the cool kids picked all my friends ahead of me for the lunch break football match desperately wishing I could be selected.

A similar scenario, albeit with reversed emotions, would have occurred on Monday morning in a South African hotel as British and Irish Lions coach Ian McGeechan named his team to play against the Southern Kings just four days before the first test.

My British & Irish Lions All-Time Best XV

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guscottThe rarity value of the Lions’ tours adds to their romance. Once every four years they travel, alternately, to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and, every four years, the temptation for pundits to choose a Lions All Time Best XV becomes irresistible.

It certainly was in my case, and here is my stab at picking the best XV.

I don’t expect anyone will agree with my choices completely, and please let me know in the comments where you think I’ve gone wrong. Anyway, here goes…

No Aussie World Cup bid, good news for Asia?

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Great news that Australia will not be bidding for the 2015 and 2019 rugby World Cups.

Not because Australia wouldn’t do as fantastic a job as it did in 2003 but because it increases the chance that Japan might finally get the nod to host the tournament in Asia for the first time.

England’s big fish rise from the depths

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England’s recovery was always on the cards  International rugby is a small pond with the same big fish taking it in turns to swim at the top. The bonus for those lurking just below, and even for the minnows in the depths, is that unlike in many other major sports they never disappear into the silt completely.

So for England, during Martin Johnson’s struggles, there was always going to be light at the end of the tunnel, though even the World Cup winning-captain must have been shaken by the speed his team finally rushed towards it.

Ambitious French rugby clubs seem immune to crisis

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Brive-bound Riki Flutey (R)

Gone are the days when top French rugby players such as Philippe Sella, Thomas Castaignede and Raphael Ibanez were crossing the Channel to improve their skills and make their fortunes, writes Jean-Paul Couret.

French clubs, seemingly immune to the global economic crisis, have reversed the tide and are now threatening to plunder the English Premiership.

This glorious, unpredictable northern festival

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Wales' Leigh Halfpenny celebrates his try against England with Andy Powell during their Six Nations rugby union match in CardiffYou wouldn’t have got great odds on Wales and France coming out on top against England and Scotland respectively on the first day of the second weekend of the Six Nations.

But England beating Wales in the try count at the Millennium Stadium and Scotland taking the game to the French the way they did in St Denis were not forecasts I’d read anywhere.

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