Did somebody order a Power of Four wristband?

On tuesday, Egg Chaser took a look at the forwards he expects to be jostling for position on the flight down under. It’s still a long way off, so we’re not all going to agree. One commenter even made a case for Mushy Buckley as a Lion, so at the risk of upsetting any Johne Murphy fans out there, here we go with the backs…

Scrum half

Pole Position: Ben Youngs is exactly the sort of scrum half you’d want to take on the Aussies.  Struggled a little in the latter portion of the season but has plenty of time to iron out the kinks in his game.

Look out for: Conor Murray. The Munster scrum half had a breakthrough lat year, and looks every inch the complete player. Should be Ireland’s first choice nine next season.

Needs to improve: The 2009 Lions Mike Philips and Tomas O’Leary will need to get their mojo back to be in the mix.

Too late for: Eoin Reddan will be pushing over the hill by 2013.

Fly half

Pole Position: Jonny Sexton looks by far the most complete and reliable of the options.  Needs to bring consistency to his game at test level, and the shirt is his.  Toby Flood would provide ample back-up.

Look out for: George Ford is already causing excited mutterings among England fans, who wouldn’t overhype a player lightly.  He is just 18, but served notice of his considerable talent in the recent U20 World Cup.

Needs to improve: James Hook has talent in abundance and wants to play more at fly-half but must learn to boss the game to be a Lions 10.

Too late for: The 2009 fly halves ROG and Stephen Jones will be past their best by the time 2013 rolls around.

Centres

Pole Position: Brian O’Driscoll will have to have the shirt torn from his back.  His body may give up before 2013, but for now he is still in poll position.  No inside centre currently stands out.

Look out for: Manu Tuilagi is the man who could take over from BOD.  He has some work to do on his defence, but looks explosive with the ball.  Fergus McFadden will be the established Ireland 12 by this stage and should be pushing for a spot.
It’s early days for two very young players who should make big strides between now and then: Scottish centre Mark Bennett has just signed for Clermont and is hoped to be the quality centre Scottish rugby has lacked for so long, while Luke Marshall will become a key player at Ulster next year.

Needs to improve: If Jamie Roberts can regain the form he showed in 2009, he is a nailed on tourist. But he has never looked the same player since.

Too late for: Possibly BOD and almost certainly Dorce.

Back Three

Pole position: Generally the most unpredictable, as form plays a huge part. On the left wing, Keith Earls and Max Evans look the most likely, while on the right it is hard to see Ashton and Bowe being displaced.  Ben Foden looks the real deal at 15, though Rob Kearney can challenge if he recovers from injury and adds greater variety to his counterattacking game.

Look out for: Lee 0.5p has been bedevilled by injuries, but if he can get back on track he can be world class.  Llanelli’s starlet George North also looks set to make a big impression, while Tim Visser becomes Scottish qualified next year, and if he can take his try-scoring exploits to test level will certainly be a Lion.

Needs to improve: Luke Fitzgerald endured a difficult season and needs to get back to his pre-injury form. If Oooooooooohhh Matt Banahan can add pace, a sidestep, softer hands, a brain and defensive positioning to his bulk, he could contend for a spot on the plane.

Too late for: Lee Byrne will be pushing 32, while it looks a tour too far for Shane Williams.

After the Six Nations next season, we’ll revisit and see how our Lions Ladder is looking.  No doubt we’ll try to rewrite history to make it look like we were right all along.

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8 Comments

  1. Just one or two comments for me on this one. Not completely sold on Ben Youngs yet. Yes he is probably at the front of the queue but this is due to a lack of other credible options. The Australia game at Twickers apart most of his performances in England and Leicester’s big games went from average to awful with severe bouts of petulance thrown in. He looks superb when his pack are completely on top but seems to struggle when his pack have parity at best. Examples of this include games against Saracens, NZ, SA, Leinster and Ireland.Johnny Sexton is so far ahead of the pack at 10 he may as well learn to order a pint of VB at the same time as telling Aussies that he is famous in Ireland. Flood's single attacking play of looking for Ashton/Tuiligai on the inside pass is painful viewing and needs a big improvement if he is even to be England’s starting 10 at the World Cup. Centre could be a position that the Lions struggle in. They will need Fergus McFadden to continue on his upward projectory in an Ireland and Leinster shirt and will need Manu Tuilagi to iron out his defensive and disciplinary flaws. Ignoring any potential injuries Brian O'Driscoll will tour but the if the Lions are to win the series you feel they will need more than a 33 year old BOD in the midfield.The only comment I would have regarding your back three selection is the omission of Felix Jones. His latter season form was at times stunning, if he continues this surely he will be Ireland first choice 15 come 6 nations 2012. Giving him a launch pad to stake a serious claim for the Lions full back berth.

  2. BOD is older that Dorce…

  3. @JSRF Great comment as usual. Certainly, Youngs has a bit of work to do on his game, but given his age and his progress so far, I see no reason why he can't continue to improve (remember we're in the land of conjecture here!). Similarly, Sexton needs to deliver the sort of performance he showed against England more consistently in a green shirt – I have no doubt that he will.Felix Jones is one to watch alright – he has to show he can do it at a higher level, but going on his performances so far, there is no reason why he can't.@Anon Yep, you're spot on. I was aware of this (it's a matter of months) but I just have a feeling BOD will prove a little more durable than Dorce. I wouldn't be entirely surprised if McFadden got the jump on Dorce this season. Just a hunch though.

  4. I agree with JSRF that Felix Jones is worth a shout, although he may have to wait for 2017 for his best chance to go. Another player to consider in the bolter stakes for now or 2017 would be the Welsh under 20 fly half (his name escapes me just now). Have seen him play a few times in Magners and with Wales and he is electrifying with ball. Not sure if he played in wales' drubbing by NZ at the under 20s but his problem will be the fact he weighs about 80kgs, so you could guess defence may well hinder his progress. One final player who never gets mentioned in these things is Graeme Morrison. He will be getting on, but if you are going to bring Dorce's name into this then this guy's should be too. He is the better player, just happens to be playing in much worse teams. Oh and Leigh Halfpenny. If he was Irish we'd be tipping him too.

  5. Joking!

  6. Oh and by the way, I'm in total support of Brendan who commented on your forwards article – don't give up on Mushy just yet!! Keep the faith, the problem is he has yet to be utilised to his best role. He is an out and out impact sub. A man for the last 20, which is a bit ironic as garlic mushies are actually great as a starter. buddum tish. OK perhaps not a lion but I really hope we take him to world cup to come on for Ross around the 60 minute mark.My final bolter is on the coaching front, I mentioned it in reply to your forwards article but I'll throw it in here too. What do you think of Conor O'Shea as a shout from left field?Anyway, congrats on an excellent site, really enjoying your articles and glad I've found it.

  7. Hi Anon – thanks for the comments, and the compliments, delighted you're enjoying the site. Must say you had us worried with your Graeme Morrisson trumping for a minute! Lee 0.5p did get a mention though, and I agree, he should be the next great Welsh wing. He's been unlucky with injuries but looks the business.I don't want to harp on too much about Mushy, but I think our erstwhile hero Gerry Thornley put it best when he said it's one step forward and ten steps back with this guy. If there were 23 man squads at the RWC you might be able to persuade me, but since there's only room for one prop on the bench that man has to be Court.

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