Outrage Bingo Cards at the Ready

The moment we’ve all been waiting for has arrived; the Lions squad is out!

Ultimately it was a slightly underwhelming announcement with few of the fireworks some expected Gatland to provide.  The late bolts from flair players went largely unrewarded, and Simon Zebo, Christian Wade, Ian Madigan and James Hook will all have to look to national summer tours for rugby, injury call-ups notwithstanding.

We got much right in our predictions, and some things wrong.  Kearney snuck in the door as one of three specialist full-backs.  At centre they’ve chosen a strangely unbalanced crew, all 13s and only one 12.  Is Brian O’Driscoll being considered for the role of inside centre, or at least providing cover there?  How this pans out will be interesting.  As such, it’s even more surprising that no utility back has been selected.

The third tighthead – a position where we really struggled to identify a worthy player – went to Matt Stevens rather than Euan Murray.  Stevens looks somewhat past his best, but with Dan Cole and Adam Jones already universally agreed upon, the role of third man is of limited importance.

At fly-half, where Jonny Wilinson’s credentials were apparently re-considered at the last.  Farrell has survived the late challenge and travels as one of only two 10s.  He can consider himself a very lucky boy.  It leaves Jonny Sexton with a virtual walk-in to the test team.

Robshaw Misses Out

Picture the scene.  The English side you’ve captained have won four from four in the Six Nations, having beaten the All Blacks in November.  Your leadership of the team has been roundly praised.  Win your final game – a tricky one against a resurgent Wales in Cardiff – and you are a grand-slam winning captain in a Lions year.  In short, you are in the box seat; immortality beckons.

But the game in Wales is a disaster.  The Welsh – with a backrow containing two breakaways – play at a tempo that you cannot live with and the result is a hammering, 30-3.  It even swings the championship their way on points difference.  But at least the Heineken Cup to come, there is a chance of a reprieve, and your club has a manageable quarter-final, at home to a Munster side having a ho-hum season.  But unthinkably, you lose, somehow allowing the Munster players to dominate collisions and the breakdown.  Your own performance is totally dominated by some unknown fellow, Tommy Donnelly, or something.  How has this happened?  Suddenly, from Lions captain, you’re facing an anxious wait, and the best you can hope for is (Lions bingo moment) a stint as mideek captain, manning it up with the dirt trackers…

So it came to be that Chris Robshaw missed out on Lions selection.  And it’s hard to argue with Gatland’s selection.  In the event he’s chosen flankers with highly specialised talents, rather than hard working types who don’t excel in any particular area.  On the openside, he has breakdown specialist Warburton and exceptional link-man Justin Tipuric.  Both are specialist 7s.  On the blind side he’s given himself healthy variety with an outstanding ball-carrier in Sean O’Brien, a super-fit all-action tackling machine in Dan Lydiate and a superb linout operator with the added bonus of terrific pace in Tom Croft.

Croft has nothing like the work rate of Robshaw, but he is a technician in the set piece and his outside break and fend can occasionally result in 50m gains (you could even say that Croft’s pace will be needed on the hard grounds – scatch off another Lions bingo square).  It’s the specialist versus the generalist, and the specialist has won out.  England might be content to put out backrows made up of three identikit six-and-a-halves, but that sort of rugby is anathema to Gatty, and he’s been vocal on the topic for over a year now.

Reprieve for the Irish

On saturday we thought the papers selecting nine Irish Lions were being generous to themselves in the extreme.  We had it at seven.  In the end, we upped it to eight, making room for Conor Murray late in the day.  In the event they’ve got nine, one less than England but six more than Scotland.  It doesn’t square with the Six Nations table.  Gatland has essentially given these high quality players a reprieve: ‘Look, chaps’, he appears to be saying ‘the Six Nations was rubbish but you and I both know that Deccie was a busted flush and the team was a mess.  I know you’re better than that and we’re going to put all that behind us and teach these Aussies a lesson about rugby’.

With Wales having come up just short against Australia in every recent encounter he knows he needs to add some of the Irish (specifically Leinster) guile and craft to the square-and-straight approach favoured by Wales, in order to make the difference.  It looks like he’ll be going with the Welsh 12 and outside backs, plus Sexton and O’Driscoll – but don’t bet against Bowe squeezing in by Test time.  They’ll bring some subtlety to proceedings, creating space, running angles, bringing the big Welsh runners into play in a more subtle fashion, rather than just trying to bash holes and getting nowhere.

Among the Irish selected, a number will be likely test starters.  Sexton, Healy and BOD are in pole position, and the likes of O’Connell, O’Brien, Healsip and Bowe would have a very strong chance of making the test team once they bring their best form.

Those looking to complete a full house on their Lions Outrage bingo cards should be directed to English websites, where no doubt their low representation on the touring party will not be going down well.  At the height of Robshaw-mania mid-Six Nations, the Torygraph projected a Lions team with no less than seven English forwards.  This will not be coming to pass.  Further outrage is likely to be garnered on the tour itself, where much of the English look like midweek material.  Tom Youngs, Matt Stevens or Owen Farrell for the test team?  No thanks.

One of the English forwards going is Nice Guy Dylan H*****y – it’s heavily ironic for Rory Best, for after the Ulster evisceration of the Saints in Franklins Gardens, containing a total Hartley-domination by the Armagh man, you would have got very long odds on Hartley going and Best not. Best has essentially played himself off the plane with some desperate lineout work in recent months.  Hartley’s Northampton haven’t exactly been the toast of Europe this season, and he lost his England jumper to Tom Youngs – it’s hard to convince oneself he’s a richly deserving tourist.

Sam The Eagle is Captain

Gatland has looked past the huge experience and inspirational leadership of the two Irish candidates, Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll, instead sticking by his Welsh captain Sam Warburton.  It looks a risky call.  There have been doubts over Warb’s form and fitness over the last twelve months (O’Driscoll and O’Connell are also regularly on the treatment table, it must be said) and it wasn’t long ago he was out of the Welsh starting team, dropped for the electric Tipuric.  It also appears he declined the opportunity to captain Wales in their final game, in a desire to focus on his own game.  Selfless act, taking one for the team, or a shirking of his duties?  In the event Wales played brilliantly and Warb was superb, so he probably deserves the benfit of any doubt.

It leaves the touring party looking very Welsh indeed.  Welsh coaches, Welsh captain, large Welsh contingent.  Given the large number of Welsh in the party, they might have responded better to a new, outsider’s voice.  Is there a risk of the tour group breaking into factions?  Gatland being Gatland, he doesn’t tend to pay lip service to politics (he once picked a team containing 13 Ospreys for Wales) and would be of the mind that his best man for the job is the best man for the job, and that’s that.

To be fair to Gatland, he has done his best to play down the significance of the role, even saying it will have no bearing on selection and he will happily pick a test team without his captain if that’s what’s required.  Nonetheless, those steeped in – Skyhype alert – the culture and history of the Lions will know the significance of captaining the touring party.  This is Sam’s moment, he must deliver on it in the matches themselves, which, although a sideshow to the main event of selection, can be worth a passing glance.

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57 Comments

  1. conorphilpott95

     /  April 30, 2013

    Davies tends to mix it up a bit with Scott Williams, lining up at 12 a fair bit for the Scarlets, even if their numbers say otherwise, think Drico/Darce in the early 2000s. He can certainly play inside, but more of a 13, bit of an odd one, unless Gats is willing to give Johnny a go at 12.

    Stevens is a mystery, Hartley is a bit surprising but other than that alright. Although I question giving Warburton the captaincy, as he shouldn’t be a guaranteed starter by any stretch of the imagination.

  2. Pwhite

     /  April 30, 2013

    Hartley selection is a borderline disgrace. A fair player but a sub par human being. Surely a few lions looking to hit him a slap in training? Strikes me as an awful choice for a tour like this. Not sure Colombian marching powder advocate Stevens should have been considered either.

  3. The third tighthead – a position where we really struggled to identify a worthy player – went to Matt Stevens rather than Euan Murray. Stevens looks somewhat past his best, but with Dan Cole and Alun Wyn-Jones already universally agreed upon, the role of third man is of limited importance.

    Should read Adam Jones

    • Thank you Neil, fixed now.

    • Buckfast Billy

       /  April 30, 2013

      So just because the 3rd placed TH is likely only to make the dirt trackers, that means the selection is of ‘limited importance’? Can’t agree with easily one Lions’ caps and this is the softest of the lot

  4. ORiordan

     /  April 30, 2013

    The statistic that Ulster didn’t dominate over Saints in the HEC game before Christmas was the line-out: Ulster won 4, lost 5 compared to Saints won 9 lost 1

    That weakness in Ulster’s game got overlooked because of the nature of the victory and while line-out issues aren’t solely down to the hooker, there have been far too many occasions where Best has been got at.

    From a lot of fans perspectives, Hartley is a hateful individual. I don’t know what he is like as an individual, but it will be interesting to see if he adds harmony or divisiveness to the squad.

  5. TERMAGANT

     /  April 30, 2013

    Had Hartley in my squad pick and indeed starting team – it’s what Geech would call his “test match animal” quality (let’s face it, anyone who would risk biting Ferris must be a complete nutter).

    re: Rory, I would love him to have gone but how can I best put it: if I was a cow, even one with a very large behind, I would still not be unduly alarmed if I happened to spot Bestie walking towards me meaningfully with a banjo…

    Pretty much the right squad and we Irish certainly can’t complain – Whoslip in particular very luck to get in over Morgan. And you have to feel for the Scots

    Only real gripe, it’s frankly embarassing for the Lions that we have picked a Kiwi reject, particularly to tour Australia

    • I really don’t get this anti-Heaslip vibe. He has consistently been asked to sacrifice his natural running game to tend to the unglamorous stuff while SO’B is at 7.

      Cue SOB getting injured and having an out and out 7 against Biarritz; Heaslip reverts back to his natural style and dominates. I think he’s the starting 8 as long as there’s an out and out 7 on the pitch which will happen as that’s part of Gatlands philosophy.

      • Yep, don’t undestand it either. I know statistics don’t reveal the full picture, but he’s down as the top perfromer in the Heineken and Amlin Cups this season, so that has to count for something. If there was any doubt about his place, it evaporated after the match on Saturday.

        Rob, you’re also right about how Gatland will deploy his backrow. This will be a far cry from Deccieball where Heaslip was confined to clear-out work and tight play; his number 7 will do that and the eightman will be required to stretch his legs in wider channels.

    • Swiwi

       /  April 30, 2013

      “Only real gripe, it’s frankly embarassing for the Lions that we have picked a Kiwi reject, particularly to tour Australia”

      Yes, I wouldn’t have taken Hartley either.

  6. Leinsterlion

     /  April 30, 2013

    Dont get the hate for Hartley, nuggety aggressive ball carrying hooker with solid throwing in the LO. Also not averse to the odd forearm smash, just what you need in a team, himself and Healy are cut from the same cloth imo. Great Lions as long as they keep the head.
    Murray behind Care, Boss and even Stringer in terms of 9 play, doesnt deserve to tour.
    Croft is soft, Kelly Brown,Wood or even Denton should have toured.
    Glad Maitland made it, he will star at RW if Bowe doesnt start. Anyone who doesnt rate him hasnt watched much rugby, his movement hands and awareness are top quality.
    36 should have toured, 12’s picked are limited.
    The Heaslip haters can suck it, he came out head and shoulders above Harinordocuy at the weekend, shows the quality of the man, test 8 right there.
    Sad that Lee Byrne didnt get the call, I know he would have flown out late, but an attacking 15 is needed as Kearney is out of form and Halfpenny wont be kicking, HP is solid but he is not a pacth on Byrne when it comes to attcking and joinging the line.

    • Not convinced with you on Hartley. I think he’s all mouth and no trousers. Full of aggro when in the ascendancy, but a church mouse when his team are in trouble.

      Agree that Maitland is excellent, and that Heaslip-haters need to take a dose of medicine, but as for the attacking 15, is Stuey Hogg not just that? He’s greased lightning!

      • Bowe Gathers

         /  April 30, 2013

        I agree re Hartley; always found he goes missing when the heat is on. This is coupled with the fact that he’s a dodgy scrummager, The Aussies have a weakness in the tight 5. As the scrum is a penalty machine we ought to milk it. I think Best is a better scrummager and better in the loose, and with superiorjumpers/ lifters/ callers his throwing ought to be less of an issue. Ho hum. This goes for Stevens as well; Sheridan is still the best loosehead in the NH, genuinely destructive, it’s madness not to get him out (late or otherwise).

        Still, I agree we’ve been lucky – Kearns, Murray and even PoC have their fairy godmothers to thank.

    • Kelly Peters

       /  April 30, 2013

      Leinsterlion is clearly incapable of taking off his blue tinted glasses and give credit where credits due to Conor Murray. He had a rough start to the season but was among Ireland’s best players during the 6N and Munster’s in the H Cup. His pass isn’t as crisp as Stringers but his all-round game is much better. As for saying Boss is better what have you been smoking. Boss is average at best. And Danny Care he has no rugby brain at all. He’s great behind a dominant pack when he doesn’t have to think. Put him under pressure and make him think on his feet and he folds. With Farrell at 10 for the dirt trackers Murray will dictate the pace of the game. Partner Farrell with Care and you’ve got two headless chickens steering your ship and a poor defensive kicking game.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  April 30, 2013

        Murray takes a step constantly, which is allied to his already slow passing game. He covers this up by “controlling” the game with box kicks and short pops to forwards. It isnt progressive rugby, a good backline and world class 10 dont need that sort of “control”, Sexton can control the game from ten, he doesnt need a geriatric pass slowing the play down and cutting his options as happens when they are paired for Ireland.
        Murray is a slow ball, forward oriented 9, its nothing to do with blue tinted glasses, its down to style of play.

        • I’ve to take issue with some of this Leinsterlion. When Murray plays well, he can use his running threat to create space for his 10. He has never done this better than against Argentina, when his timing releasing the ball to Sexton was exemplary. When he’s off his game he can look laboured getting to the ruck and moving the ball on.

          We’re fans of Care (we recently suggested him as test starter after his matchwinning performance off the bench against France) but he comes with a different set of problems. He’s the opposite of Murray in many ways – super-fast to the ruck and a servant to his 10, but if the game requires strategising or any degree of control from the scrum-half he’s not best able to provide it.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  April 30, 2013

            But you do not need a controlling 9 when you have a quality ten. There are enough top level tens able to control a game eligible for Lions selection, so the trade off in picking a 9 who cannot pass doesnt make sense.
            The Argentina game you cite was against a clearly flogged team, whom we steamrollered up front. When we needed quick ball in the 6N he couldn’t provide or create it, bizarrely leading to plaudits as he kicked the ball away instead.
            Even then, Murray is hardly DuPreez, Yachvilli or Parra-esque, you wouldnt build your team around him. He is highly overrated, a 35/6 year old Stringer is displaying better basic ability than Murray has shown for the past two years. You can say CM brings ball carrying and box kicking but when your bread and butter of 9 play(passing) aren’t up to scratch, they fall by the wayside. Murray has had one great game against the pumas, and was dire in the 6N and ordinary for Munster. I fail to see what area of play or form warranted his selection.
            A 9’s job is to get the ball away from the ruck quickly while the defence is reforming,giving his 10 or backrow a better chance of getting over the gain-line, Murray has consistently failed to do that.

          • Ben

             /  May 1, 2013

            Have to disagree with LeinsterLion also. How can you not need a controlling 9? Just because you have a 10 running things doesn’t mean you only need a 9 to move the ball from A to B.
            As someone else pointed out a number of coaches with a lot of silverware to their name see something in him.

        • Kelly Peters

           /  April 30, 2013

          Agree with whiff on this. Murray when playing poorly is horrible to watch but on form he creates so much space for the backline. He will hold up the Wallaby backrow for that split second that will make all the difference to those outside him. Plus if they don’t bite he’s more than capable of exploiting the gaps they leave. Throw in his defence and you can see why he’s selected. But hey I suppose all the coaches that have picked Murray have it wrong.

          • Bowe Gathers

             /  April 30, 2013

            Coaches that have picked Murray include: Declan and Rob Penney. Great company. Murray won’t get a sniff of the test team.

          • Kelly Peters

             /  April 30, 2013

            @BoweGathers So the most successful coach Ireland has ever produced and a guy who won 4 ITM cup’s in New Zealand and an Under 20 WC. Not a bad track record. Throw in Gatland and that’s a pretty impressive trio. To say he won’t get near the Test team is a stretch. One injury and he’s the next man up.

  7. Right a few gripes here…First Vunipola and Stevens ahead of Grant and Murray. Yes it’s for the no 3 prop but both Scots have put in far better shifts this year than either of their English counterparts. Rowntree’s influence here methinks…

    Second, Lydiate ahead of Brown. His Kellybrows is not only the form chopper in the NH but has played some of his best rugby out of position while Lydiate has had 3 games since coming back from a 9/10 month injury lay off… Favourites much?

    Third, glad to see Maitland ahead of Visser. Maitland is a joy to watch for Glasgow and Scotland and he and Hogg are developing an almost telepathic ability to know where the other is on the pitch. Good pick.

    Finally, Best vs H*****y. Going to stick my neck out here and say this is the only real mistake that’s been made. For all the claims of H*****y being a “test match animal” I’ve only ever seen him crumble under pressure from his opposite number and pop up illegally in the scrum, for both Saints and England. Best has had a bad few months with the lineout, but that has coincided with his usual lineout leader at both club and country level being injured for long periods. According to the rumours it was Rowntree’s word that sealed H*****y’s place so he must be praying no one lets their fingers near his mouth…

    • Buckfast Billy

       /  April 30, 2013

      UiG, spot on, agree with all of that. Also think there’s a thirs flyhalf missing from the squad – odd that Gatland “hopes” that Hogg can provide cover, don’t think he’s played at ten since school

      • Hoggy played 10 for Hawick, Scotland U-18/20, and has been used as emergency cover by Glasgow in the dying minutes of a game. Halfpenny covers it as well no? Still I would have expected to see either Laidlaw as 9/10 cover or someone like Biggar/Wilko/Hook/Madigan to go as well. Maybe JW will join up after the BaaBaas?

        • Buccaneer

           /  April 30, 2013

          was about to comment the Scottish props could be more than a little peeved at the English lads inclusion! I feel sorry for Best but in all honesty his darts became a liability.

          A lot of strong options all over the park, with the curious exception of midfield. Farrell/Sexton will have played a lot of rugby by the time the first test rolls around and there is not much creativity between the 4 centers. Taking these 2 things into account I am very surprised at Hooks omission.

          the make up of the back row and the centers for the first test will give the gameplan away. The backline could become very bosh-tastic very quick

          • Amiga500

             /  May 1, 2013

            Hook is a woefully ineffective footballer.

            The man has all the skills (hence why he is rated so highly), yet consistently applies those skills very poorly.

    • Vunipola is going as the Test impact sub – I agree with the idea of picking a player for that role. Grant is a more rounded player, and a better starting option no doubt, but its a 23 man game.

  8. Len

     /  April 30, 2013

    As you point out it’s a fairly conservative squad with few contentious calls. Stevens shouldn’t have been picked regardless of his position in the pecking order, his drugs ban should have precluded him from this and the last world cup IMO. Hartley’s hatefulness could be a clever media call as he’s likely to be the focus of much of the convict media’s verbal assault. Plus I agree with LeinsterLion on this he’s the sort of player who’ll get under the opposition skin and potentially cause them to concede penalties. After that most of the other decisions are as you called it. If I were Gatty I’d be keeping Hines on speed dial in case POC picks up an injury. He still looks immense and Leinster have felt his loss a lot more this season than last.

  9. Cian

     /  April 30, 2013

    Interesting that it is both a young squad and one containing a lot of players trading, to a greater or lesser extent, on past glories (Bowe, Kearney, Lydiate, O’Connell, Croft, Jenkins). This is not to say that those players won’t regain their best form on tour, but is it a sign that the standard in Britain in Ireland is far from exceptional at the moment?

  10. TERMAGANT

     /  April 30, 2013

    is it anti-Heaslip to say he has been v lucky to make this tour?
    To ask the question is to give the answer. He will have been extremely, extremely relieved
    Having said that, good luck to him – he has the ability and I would be delighted if he reproduces his 09 form – I very much hope it is purely down to SOB being at 7 as you say.

  11. jojo

     /  April 30, 2013

    Enjoying the 9 debate.. in some ways I’m with LeinsterLion with a quality 10 like Sexton the primary job is to get him the ball quickly. I’d rather see Youngs start ahead of the two of them (for the sake of the team, not being anti patriotic). Everything seems very laboured with Murray. I don’t think he’ll see the test team.

    Re, Hartley agree he has gone missing in games passed, but suspect he could be the type of player that when he’s on your side you’ll find him somewhat more likeable.

    Knew it was an outside shout but still disappointed Madigan didnt get to tour. (proving a better albeit untested kicker than Farrell, on recent form)

  12. Buccaneer

     /  April 30, 2013

    Anyone care to speculate on the test team based on this squad? I think the back row and back 3 are the most interesting, as well as the bench options for both. I think both will be very Welsh looking, possibly SOB the only non welsh starter at 6 and Bowe on the bench.

    healy, hibbard, jones, wyn-jones, POC, SOB, warburton, faletau, philips, sexton, north, roberts, BOD (tuilagi???), cuthbert, 1/2p

    youngs, vunipola, cole, evans, tipuric, youngs, farrell, bowe

    Of course the squad could and probably will look different come June 22nd

    • My team based on current form and the squad picked is

      Healy, Hibbard, Jones
      POC, Evans
      O’Brien Faletau Warburton (Tipuric if SW wasn’t captain)

      Phillips, Sexton
      Davies, BOD
      North, Halfpenny, Maitland

      Youngs, Vunipola, Cole, Gray, Tipuric, Youngs, Farrell, Bowe/Hogg

    • Chris

       /  April 30, 2013

      Healy, Hibbard, Jones
      POC, Evans
      O’Brien, Faletau, Warburton

      Philips, Sexton
      Roberts, BOD
      North, Halfpenny, Bowe

      Bench – Youngs, Vunipola, Cole, Gray, Tipuric, Youngs, Farrell, Hogg

  13. The more I think about it, I think the wrong lesson has been learned from 2005. The 2005 tour had other issues apart from the large playing contingent. Not bringing a 3rd fly half just to come in under some arbitrary player limit seems like unnecessary day one foot shooting. There are 10 games on tour. In an era of player management, where the IRFU don’t like players playing more than about 28 games a year, Johnny Sexton is down to play an extra 7.5 games in June. The players to cover those 10 games should be brought, and if that clocks in at 41 or 42 players, so be it.

    • All true. The more we think about this, the greater a folly it seems. Listening to Keith Wood, who has experienced the intensity of a Lions tour, talking about just how draining it was going to be for both Farrell and Sexton if they were to be in every matchday squad really set our alarm bells ringing.

  14. Jeremy

     /  April 30, 2013

    There is a lot of talk about youth vs experience, but Gatland is right to pick some of the guys on past reputations. Australia may be the easiest place for the lions to tour statistically, but it is full of menace. How can we forget the horrific assault on a young ROG by Duncan MaRae 12 years ago? And the lack of contrition shown by the commenators and media demonstrated te mindset.This will be a very tough tour.

  15. Yossarian

     /  April 30, 2013

    This sums up the Hartley issue better than I can!all talk,goes missing when things get tough.http://dementedmole.com/2011/12/03/thomo-retires/

  16. JackBauer

     /  May 1, 2013

    No surprises apart from Stevens and Hartley.

    Some annoying comments from “hard as nails” internet players on how soft some of the selections are. The Tom Croft revisionism is boring at this stage. The Munster anti-Heaslip shite continues to grate..wouldn’t mind but most of them only started watching rugby in 2006 and have NEVER played the game.

  17. Yossarian

     /  May 1, 2013

    A big issue for me is that there are only 2 outhalves.If both are involved in every one of the ten game tour there is no mental break.even sitting on the bench ready to go on will be mentally exhausting.they will be fatigued by the time the tests come around. same issue with the props,with the attritional nature of the front row one of the 5 at least will be carrying a knock,again 4/5 invovled in every game doesn’t allow much of a mental break for the players. Serious risk of an exhausted 10/front row by the time the tests roll around.

    • labrecha1

       /  May 1, 2013

      ‘Sitting on the bench is mentally exhausting’, these are professional players who love to play Rubgy and have been playing/sitting on the bench since childhood, your over-egging it there I think, injuries are the biggest worry obviously.

      • M.I.L

         /  May 1, 2013

        I would have to agree with Yossarian here. I wouldn’t underestimate how intense the preparation period for each game is, whether starting or subbing. While I accept that these guys are pros and they can certainly get through it it, it seems a foolish decision to push them too hard.

        Bottom line, Hook probably should have travelled to cover some of the midweek games. (Mad dog is better served getting some games under his belt with the national side in the states.)

      • Yossarian

         /  May 1, 2013

        are you kidding!?!having to be mentally prepared for the level these guy play at isn’t the same as playing J4 rugby for a club!having to lift yourself twice a week for a tour like this will be exhausting.never getting a chance to just kick back and watch one of the games from the stand will take it out of the two 10’s.agree injuries is a worry as well by the time you fly out a replacement and get him up to speed on calls etc takes time.

        • But guys, you’re forgetting, Stuart Hogg will fill in at 10! Honestly, it will be fine! He played there in the U13 Glasgow Schools Cup final and apparently his coach gave him 7/10 that day.

  18. Ben

     /  May 1, 2013

    Have to say I’m disappointed at the reaction to Matt Stevens being included. He did something very stupid, got caught, got banned and served his time. Justice has been served and sport should always offer people a second chance.

    If you want to quibble with his selection do so on the basis of his propping/rugby ability, not for any other reason.

    On Hartley – I’m not a fan because of his tendency to crack mentally – but Best was always going to suffer for the lineout issues. Hartley’s scrummaging technique is interesting and he (and Saints) have done a job on referees by convincing them (and Sky) that they are in the ascendancy when standing up their opposite number.

    They may have the upper hand but the move is illegal.

    Technicality aside I think hooker is the weak sport for the Lions in the front row but with Healy and Jones on either side it may not matter.

    • Agreed with all of that. Maybe we’ll come to look at H******’s scrummaging differently when he’s on our side…

  19. Sound Steve

     /  May 1, 2013

    Not sure where the controversy comes from regarding Matt Stevens. Anyone who has followed Premiership rugby of late would see Stevens is definitely the form TH in a very competitive league from a scrummaging perspective and his contribution around the park far outstrips that of Jones/Ross/Murray. Murray looks terribly short of form, as does Ross (maybe just knackered). If Stevens continues his current form, I honestly think he’ll push the starting XV. He is far from a token selection.

    Quite telling that Pocock this morning singled out Rory Best as a player he was surprised to see miss out. I’m guessing it’s due to his skills on the deck more than anything but still. Tom Youngs can’t throw either but I guess his ball-carrying ability was preferred to Best’s skillset.

    Maitland selection has really irked me. I’m sure the Kiwis are notching themselves that a decent Super XV winger can move north and make the Lions within six months. I’d have taken Zebo all day – improving rapidly and a good big game temperament.

    • Another essay from Steve

       /  May 1, 2013

      oooooh Pocock thinks Best should have travelled. Pocock probably hasn’t watched a minute of 6N rugby this year and I’d be amazed if he could name even 3 northern hemi hookers who were in contention for the Lions.

      Sound Steve, you make a really effort to offer a balanced opinion when you post and it’s disappointing to see you undermine all that by falling for one of the hundreds of meaningless soundbites floating around today.

  20. Sound Steve

     /  May 1, 2013

    I honestly think we’re going to a Wales XV with any weaknesses supplemented by others.

    The three test series Wales played against Aus last year almost seemed like a dry run for the Lions to me now. As if to say, let’s see how we get on with a Welsh XV, look at the weaknesses and slot in a new 2, 5, 10, 13 for next year.

  21. moreinhope

     /  May 1, 2013

    Disappointed for Rory Best but if he can’t hit his jumpers in the lineout he shouldn’t travel. POC and Muller being out are mitigating factors true but it doesn’t reflect well on the hooker that is the common denominator between the two malfunctioning lineouts whatever way you slice it. Not, as yet, 100% convinced by Zebo but would quite like to see him get a run at full back at Kearney’s expense next season.

    On the plus side I’m looking forward to a possible back line of Marshall, Madigan, Gilroy, Olding, Griffin, Zebo, Henshaw (injuries permitting) on the summer tour.

    • Kelly Peters

       /  May 1, 2013

      I’d love to see young Marmion from Connacht get a run at 9 too. Looks a great prospect.

  22. ORiordan

     /  May 1, 2013

    I think the front row selections have Rowntree’s mark all over them. Somewhat worrying from the man who brought us midget-Mears and leave-it-to-Vicks for the first test against South Africa in 2009.

    • The front row is controversial, but the fringe calls mightn’t be all that important. There are four absolutely brilliant props on the tour, all of whom made every single ‘parlour game’ selection, and Vunipola is a clever pick as a specialist impact replacement. Hooker is a worry, but if Hibbard can get his darts right, the Loins have their man.

  23. zdm

     /  May 2, 2013

    Wood was a test animal, as were Martin Johnston, Neil Back, Tana Umanga.

    Hartley is a thug with a temper. I can’t see what he brings to the mix – if Best wasn’t picked due to his poor line-out throwing (a line out requires the co-operation of 7 men, not just one but lets leave that for now), then why choose the hooker from a team who view line-outs as an inconvenience between scrums and fights?

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