AUSTRALIA, 2013 – Last month, I named 22 players for the British & Irish Lions first test against the mighty Wallabies. As previously stated, the team won’t include any injured players, and pretty much all are eligible, except Luke Charteris, – unlucky Luke. Included are my 30-man squad with a Test 15 and bench, and a mid-week 22 (read dirt-tracker). So, now that the Six Nations’ smoke has cleared, let’s look at the team I selected and see if I’m once again Nostradamus or Imadumbass.
Here’s the February Squad:
FULL BACK: Ben Foden – Nostradamus
WINGERS: George North; Leigh Halfpenny – Nostradamus; Imadumbass
CENTRES: Jonathan Davies; Jamie Roberts – Nostradamus
FLY-HALF: Grieg Laidlaw – Imadumbass
SCRUM HALF: Michael Phillips – Nostradamus
BACK ROW: David Denton; Jamie Heaslip; Sam Warburton – Imadumbass
SECOND ROW: Richie Gray; Ryan Jones – Nostradamus; Imadumbass
FRONT ROW: Adam Jones; Ross Ford; Alex Corbisero – Nostradamus; Imadumbass; Imadumbass
HOOKER: Rory Best – Imadumbass
PROP: Mike Ross – Imadumbass
SECOND ROW: Paul O’Connell – Nostradamus
BACK ROW: Justin Tipuric – Imadumbass
SCRUM HALF: Chris Cusiter – Imadumbass
FLY-HALF: Jonathan Sexton – Imadumbass
CENTRE: Brad Barrit – Nostradamus
Head Coach: Warren Gatland (Wales)
Forwards: Andy Robinson (Scotland)
Backs: Rob Howley (Wales)
Defence: Shaun Edwards (Wales)
All 4 Nostradamus
Here’s new Lions squad:
FULL BACK: Ben Foden – Shows the attacking ability needed.
WINGERS: George North; Tommy Bowe – North stays but Halfpenny loses to Tommy Bowe, who showed a great ability to finish that will be needed
CENTRES: Jonathan Davies; Jamie Roberts – The got the grand-slam for Wales and that was with Roberts less than 100 percent
FLY-HALF:Jonathan Sexton – Laidlaw lost some form and his defence was shown up a bit by France, still a talent but the starting Jersey goes to Johnny Sexton.
SCRUM HALF: Michael Phillips – Easily the best scrummy of the Tourney.
BACK ROW: Stephen Ferris;Toby Faletau; Ross Renie – This whole back-row had to go. Still an All-Celtic Trio, but with a better balance and players that shined so bright you could see them from the moon
SECOND ROW: Richie Gray; Donncha Ryan – Richie was the outstanding lock of the Tourney but in his two matches, Donncha Ryan looked phenomenal.
FRONT ROW: Adam Jones;Rory Best; Gethin Jenkins – This front row would be very good but I think it could use some tweaking. With Jones staying and Rory Best and Gethin Jenkins coming on to claim the #1 jersey.
CAPTAIN: Rory Best; VICE-CAPATAIN: Jamie Roberts
HOOKER: Ross Ford – it is a straight swap with Rory moving to the starting line-up and Ross dropping to bench.
PROP – With only one Bench Prop to choose from, I go with the tight-head option and go with Dan Cole, who got so much better as the 6N went on.
SECOND ROW – Paul O’Connell; Still has it, just needs to have his minutes managed.
BACK ROW: Sam Warburton; I am with Sam. I am rewarding class over form here. He looked made of glass this year but he is just too good for this form and injury streak to continue.
SCRUM HALF: Lee Dickson; He made such a difference for England, that I think his snap service would make all the difference.
FLY-HALF: Rhys Priestland – With Sexton now in the starting line-up, you would have to pick Mr. Priestland, as he can also cover 15 in a pinch.
CENTRE: Brad Barritt – Same as before he provides great defence to close-out a game and can play IC or OC.
Head Coach: Warren Gatland (Wal)
Forwards: Andy Robinson (Sco)
Backs: Rob Howley (Wal)
Defence: Shaun Edwards (Wal)
I see no need to change this coaching staff at all.
Here’s the Dirtracker/mid-week side:
FULL BACK: Rob Kearney good player and more than able to keep the pressure on Foden
WINGS: Leigh Halfpenny; Chris Ashton – Halfpenny deserves to tour and he also provides FB coverage. Ashton is a class player and he will hopefully come right
CENTERS: Brad Barritt; Manu Tualagi – I think these two while provide the defense to stop the direct center play of this Oz side and might be able to ask a few questions also.
FLYHALF: Rhys Preistland – He will be able to manage the attack with his kicking and decision making and provide so opportunities for his outside backs to operate.
SCRUMHALF: Lee Dickson – His continued quick service will be vital.
BACKROW: Dan Lyidate; Dave Denton; Sam Warburton – Lyidate was 6N Man Of The Tourney and is only mid-weeker do to the style of play needed in Oz. Sam is proven class and Denton can provide a great platform from 8.
LOCKS – Paul O’Connell; Courtney Lawes – Young Bull and Old Bull, will combine to bully the Ozzies at the scrum and lineout.
FRONT ROW: Dan Cole; Ross Ford; Alex Corbesiro – AC/DC as the props will give the Ozzies fits at scrum-time and Ross Ford will continue his good work in the Lions red as he does in Scotland blue.
CAPATAIN: Sam Warburton; VICE CAPTAIN: Brad Barritt
HOOKER – Huw Bennett – 3rd best hooker of the 4 starters and this is a fair bench spot.
PROP: Mike Ross – I would have gone with Cian Healy, Ross’ teammate, but after seeing his importance during the England when he went down, I was convinced of his importance.
LOCK: Richie Gray – Kinda unfair to have the top lock in the world right now coming of the bench for a mid-week, but life is not fair.
BACKROW: Tom Croft – Had to squeeze him somewhere, he returned to great form this 6N and no way he doesn’t deserve to travel.
SCRUM HALF: Chris Cusiter – I am bias and just like the guy. I really believe with better backs around he will be a difference maker.
FLY HALF: Owen Farrell – Young, with great defence and temperament. Being a Dirtrackers would be great reward and he will likely make two more Lions tours after this.
BACK: Jonathan Davies – If you want to pull away during a mid-week match, bring on a guy that knows the right support angles to run to turn line-breaks into tries.
There you have it… The dip in form by Scotland and the dreadful performance by the Irish on St. Paddy’s Day was noted. The strong finish by the English and Wales was also key to them having more players involved. I’m am working on a 35-man traveling squad.Hopefully they won’t go with 30; I believe you need 3 players who can play Hooker, Tighthead Prop, 8-man, Scrumhalf, Flyhalf and Fullback. I only went two-deep at 8-man, but hopefully one of the 6s can cover there in a pinch. And some players are unlucky to be born in this era – like Ben Morgan – because there are just too many back-rowers, so someone had to robbed.
See you guys on Friday, when I look at my Super 15 predictions to date.