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Lions need to neutralise Genia

'Game changer' … Will Genia makes a break during the Test with Wales in June.

'Game changer' … Will Genia makes a break during the Test with Wales in June. Photo: Getty Images

CARDIFF: He may have sat out six Tests with a knee injury and still be some months off returning to full contact but Will Genia is the man most feared by the British and Irish Lions as they look ahead to their tour to Australia next year.

As Warren Gatland casts around for takers for the Lions No.9 jersey, having made it clear incumbent halfback Mike Phillips needed to rediscover form over the next few months, Genia is being touted by former Lions greats as the key threat in the Wallabies arsenal.

Former Wales halfback Robert Jones, a member of the victorious Lions squad that toured Australia in 1989, called Genia the best halfback in world rugby and said his opposite number in the Lions was a crucial selection. ''Mike Phillips is probably the incumbent Lions scrum half and if he gets the nod he'll play against probably the best scrum half in the world at the moment, [Genia], who's quick, alert and keeps momentum going in the way Australia have played,'' Jones said. ''[He] has a fantastic quick service, scores tries from 30 [metres]. You can't ask for anything more from a halfback.''

Phillips, a standout of the Lions' 2009 tour of South Africa, was the Welsh starting halfback in their clash with the Wallabies this weekend. But if the 30-year-old thought his time with Gatland gave him any sort of 'in' to the 2013 Lions side, the coach set him straight during the week.

''I don't actually think there's been any really dominating performances from a No.9 on a consistent basis,'' Gatland said, mentioning England halfbacks Ben Youngs and Danny Care, plus young Ireland No.9 Conor Murray. ''A good performance, yes, but not week in and week out.'' When asked if there were any players from the 2009 side that he considered available for selection, Gatland said he thought Phillips and Welsh centre Jamie Roberts did a ''good job'' but were under pressure to improve.

''From a Lions point of view, it's about some of the Welsh players putting their hands up in terms of selection,'' he said. ''There are maybe a couple of lines going through a couple of names and they need to re-establish themselves.''

In contrast Gatland called Genia a ''game changer'', while 1989 Lions winger Ieuan Evans said the Reds halfback would be a genuine threat. ''There were some wonderful Australian players who never had the chance to win against the Lions, it only comes around every 12 years,'' Evans said. ''So the likes of Will Genia will be desperate to get back on that field.''

Jones, who famously tussled with his Wallabies opposite Nick Farr-Jones throughout the three-Test series in 1989, said the pairing of Genia with Phillips would be explosive. ''Phillips is the opposite [to Genia] in as much as he's the most abrasive scrum half around, he's very committed,'' Jones said.

''He hasn't perhaps got the best technical scrum-half skills, but is a different player and has his own attributes that contribute to any game, so just watching the potential contest there between those two players is going to be fantastic.''

Gatland also said he would not hesitate appointing two captains for next year's tour, a senior tour captain and an in-game captain. ''You could pick potentially an experienced player. He might be tour captain, but might not be good enough to get selected for the Tests. But he could be really good for us as a tour captain,'' he said. ''Bear in mind that if form's good enough you get selected … But it's all about performance and form, and if that means leaving the captain out then I'm more than … prepared to do that.''

Twitter -@geerob

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Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
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Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
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Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR vs AUS 01:30Twic
USA vs NZL 07:00Soldier Field
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Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA vs SAM 01:00Stadio Del Duca
ENG vs NZL 01:30Twic
WAL vs AUS 01:30MilS
FRA vs FJI 03:45Stade Velodrome
IRE vs RSA 04:30Lansdowne Road
SCO vs ARG 04:30Murrayfield Stadium
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Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA vs ARG 01:00Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris
ENG vs RSA 01:30Twic
WAL vs FJI 01:30MilS
SCO vs NZL 04:30Murrayfield Stadium
FRA vs AUS 07:00StdF
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE vs GEO 01:30Lansdowne Road
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Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA vs RSA 01:00Stadio Plebiscito
SCO vs TGA 01:30Rugby Park
IRE vs AUS 03:30Lansdowne Road
WAL vs NZL 04:30MilS
ENG vs SAM 06:00Twic
FRA vs ARG 07:00StdF
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Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG vs AUS 01:30Twic
WAL vs RSA 01:30MilS
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