Lions Post #2: Two Englishmen

Rather than go through a formulaic 36-man theoretical squad every week, with references to ‘being on the plane’ or ‘in the departure lounge’ we’re going to pepper the next few weeks with occasional Lions-related musings.

This week we’ve come to the realisation that two doughty Englishmen have come to the fore in competitive positions, and we have them inked in to our would-be test team.

The first, to the surprise of nobody, is their upstanding captain Chris Robshaw.  Hmmm, I hear you say.  A one paced openside, who brings none of the linking play of Justin Tipuric or the explosive power and try-scoring of Steffon Armitage.  Fair comments all, but Robshaw is just such an excellent fellow that he has to captain the team.  He strikes us as the sort of hard-working man of integrity and all round jolly handsome chap that will unite the band of brothers behind him on tour.  This fellow never gives up, and is all heart.  Remember the Lions maxim: it’s not just about being a good player, it’s about being a good tourist.  Robshaw at 7 with the explosive carrying of O’Brien at 6 looks like the best balancing act on the flanks.  We retain huge admiration for Tipuric, who would provide a real alternative in the backrow, but the fleet-footed Welshman may have to be sprung from the bench.  If Robshaw’s form slipped, well, judging by the type of upstanding yeoman he is, he’d take it on the chin and lead the midweek team to some really impressive wins over Western Force seconds, or whoever it is they’re playing.

The second is a less obvious choice.  In fact he’s not even starting in the England team!  But that’s how good this England team are these days (don’t worry we’re only kidding).  But it’s true, he’s not in the starting team, for some reason.  Yes, it’s Danny Care, reserve England scrum half.  And oh me oh my, how good he is.  When he came off the bench against France, we suddenly noticed a most subtle change in England: instead of immediately hoofing the ball in the air, they started running with – and even passing! – the football.  I know, I know, hard to believe.  It looked to our eyes to have everything to do with Care’s super-swift arrival at the ruck and super-smooth passing.  It enabled England to up the tempo and take the game away from France.  He’s the perfect foil for Johnny Sexton at 10, and the thought of the two combining to destroy the Wallabies is giving us great excitement.

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  1. Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

     /  March 6, 2013

    I agree with both.

    However, with the backrow being so competitive you can’t guarantee a start for any of them. As a result of this Robshaw can’t be tour captain.

  2. a solid midweek captain but o driscoll MUST be tour captain. Robshaw/Tipuric/O’Brien at 6/7/8 ??

  3. Hay-yah! Shove your puns planetrugby 😉

    I watch a lot of Top14 and have been baffled about Armitage’s total banishment from the England set-up (despite his phenomenal form for a season and a half up to Christmas). He seems to be left out of every single Lions-watch or selection, so it seems his face fits for nobody…Gattie, what do you say?

    I get your point on Robshaw…which is part of the reason I struggle to find grá for the Lions and never really fully buy into the hype. If only the Bah-bahs were still as relevant in the professional game. That was a concept to behold in its pomp: and one in which players like Tipuric and Armitage would be right at home.

  4. Don

     /  March 6, 2013

    It is my dearest wish that Gatty plays O’Brien at 8, he DESTROYS everything in front of him and when he comes back home, everyone will want him to play there.
    And all will be right with the world.

    On an aside, Care/Sexton sounds positively sexy!

  5. Leinsterlion

     /  March 6, 2013

    If we dont start an openside we will get destroyed by Pocock/Hooper, even Smith(if he gets in the squad) would make a mockery of Robshaw if he started at 7.
    Its just English media hype, hes probably the third best English 7 so hes midweek material at best.
    Anyone else think hes also just too boring/unspectacular? He doesnt make any big plays, rarely gets turnovers, isnt a great link man. He hits rucks and secures ball, he’s fit/hardworking, I think to be starting for the Lions something more is needed, a lá Steffon Armitage.

  6. Hogg, Halfpenney, Tuilagi, Roberts, North, Sexton, Care, Warburton, Robshaw, Gray, Ryan, Jones, Hibbard, Healy.

    Been thinking it over a lot, but would go Robshaw as captain. O Brien very unlucky but your captain has to start.

    Ryan Jones also possible captain no?

  7. Connachtexile

     /  March 6, 2013

    Really like Robshaw as for Care I don’t think he’s a good ‘tourist’ he’s the type of person who is very talented but a scumbag like Chris Aston and I can’t see many people warming to him. That said I hated Grewcock for being a thug and he was meant to have being a fantastic guy and a great tourist so what do I know.

  8. Mary Hinge

     /  March 6, 2013

    O’Brien should start 8 for Ireland before he’s considered for the Lions in that role, no? Robshaw will tour, but not as Captain as not guaranteed start place for the Tests. BOD will Captain and play 13 with Roberts inside, or maybe even 12 with Tuilagi outside.

  9. zdm

     /  March 6, 2013

    Whole heartedly agree re: Care – he is everything Ireland want Connor Murray to be and the perfect foil to Sexton. He is at every breakdown as soon as the ball hits the deck, his passing is crisp and to hand and he has a bit of niggle about him. I couldn’t give a fiddlers about his public image – Tuilagi was leaping off boats into the sea a few months ago but no-one cares now that he is ripping up Frenchies and All Blacks.

    Robshaw I’m not so sure on. Granted he is the captain of a team in the ascendency but that doesn’t necessarily make him the best Lions captain. In top level rugby the way a team and the opposition sees itself is an important factor in the way the team subsequently plays – in the Johnston era, England had a lot of niggle and hence had a captain who was an expert in the art of “them against us lads”, whereas Robshaw is the captain of an England side who seem to have an attitude of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts and so they have a captain who epitmoises hard work and grafting for the team without grabbing the headlines.

    All in all, the Lions “brand” is more in line with a siege mentality and thus need a captain who can keep the wheels on the cart during a tour where the players will be constantly in “hostile” territory, where they go in to every game as a big scalp.

    I’m not so sure who can fill this role – there are a couple of players with the right mentality/skill set but whether they will be nailed on starters (or even tour) is a different call – Hamilton and Best have the “mentals” for it but I’m not sure they will start and finish all the matches. If BOD goes and starts, he is the most natural option but, again, will he be there for all the games?

  10. pete (buachaill on eirne)

     /  March 6, 2013

    Great little article this, nice to have it broken down a bit more, much more manageable.

    Care should 100% be in the 23. He would make a great impact man but he is so good that you would like him on the pitch as much as possible, he is considerably better than Youngs.
    For a lad who gets a lot of stick (most of it deserved) he is very hardworking. It takes a lot of determination to get to the ruck that quickly and even more so a lot of determination to make yourself that fit for that to be possible. He plays off the cuff which is what the Lions need to do considering they have so little time to prepare and his instincts are very good (on the pitch anyways). I think he is the kinda guy who could be more than just a passing 9 too, he could spring up in midfield off wrap arounds and really fix the 10 off openside scrums allowing space to be created for dummy runners and deeper options outside of him.

    Robshaw. I was not a fan I must say before this six nations but he is good. Very good. I would argue that he is not a real 7. When you look at his strengths, it is tackle count, numerous short but effective carries. He is not a link man, he is not a poacher, he is not the traditional 7. I think on merit he should start at 6 with Tipuric (who is UNBELIEVABLY GOOD) starting at 7. Everyone harps on about Pocock getting ready to have his merry way at the breakdown when the Lions drop in but with two “sevens” (one REAL 7, one hardworking nutjob) on the pitch I would be confident of us managing to negate him slightly. Add to that the possibility of Rory Best starting who is another wanna be flanker in defence and breakdown duties and then the possibility of SOB at 8.

    I am unsure SOB should be at 8 due to his lack of experience BUT he is in great form, has the attributes needed and when push really comes to shove there aren’t many 8’s putting their hands up, screaming pick me!


    Personally I like the look of it but you would want some big devils in the engine room with those 3 in the backrow. Gray, Parling, Hamilton………(removes pin from grenade)…………Hines???

    • Hines is in great form for Clermont, and if Gatty can consider Wilko and Sheridan for the Lions then surely Hines comes into the equation too…

      And that back row looks positively delicious. Although is it too early to say that Johnnie Beattie is pushing for the 8 spot ahead of Faletau and Morgan? Classy footballer and really rediscovered his form in Monpellier!

      • Both those statements are highly valid, and on form, both would make it

      • Pete

         /  March 7, 2013

        I’d love to get in side Gatland’s head for 2 seconds to work out if he is going to consider those playing really well abroad (generally France) and not getting selected for their International team


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