Friday, December 07, 2012

Lions Selector Panel–4th Round (WAL)

It’s one of the hottest debate topics egg-chasing has to offer.

Given we live in something of a green goldfish bowl on these Irish shores, there’s no harm getting input from elsewhere.

And so we have the HarpinOnRugby Lions Selector Panel, made up of one fan from each nation, with even the Irish panellist based abroad.

This week it’s the turn of Welsh panellist Hywel Davies.

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The annual marketing charade is over. The Southern Hemisphere teams are returning home with the funds that will help keep them afloat for another year, whilst the six nation unions milk the cash cow once again.

Cherished traditions have been sacrificed or prostituted on the alter of professionalism. Where working men who had played and who understood the game once stood big event people sit, in pink cowboy hats and valley boy t shirts, screaming at panning tv cameras.

It says it all that the WRU on twitter retweeted a lady getting very excited as she was attending the Samoa match "my first live rugby match ever".

But, we have a clearer picture of the players as a result. All the home nations had their ups and downs, but some players, even those in a terrible Welsh team, stood out of the crowd.

Kearney is not fit, and Halfpenny's stint at the Blues means he's not playing quality rugby often enough and it shows. I agree with Jonathan Davies, Halfpenny is a winger first. His distance kicking is a big asset and he has been a constant thorn in Australia's side in the past year and a bit. Kearney has shown that when fit he has that little bit extra and is the best technically of the choices available, but how can he be assessed when not playing? Liam Williams is a barnstormer and if he has a good 6 Nations he may well come into contention, but for his attacking instinct and pace, I'm going to plump for Alex Goode at fullback with Halfpenny on the wing.

Bowe and Visser are natural try scorers. Cuthbert offers hard running, Brown pace. Gilroy gives that little something special in that he can operate in tight spaces a la Shane Williams. If in doubt though, go with the tries and the master opportunist in the shape of Tommy Bowe.

Jonathan Davies is maturing nicely and is a dangerous open field runner, whilst Tuilagi is a better option at inside centre than Roberts who won't have BOD to make room for him. Tuilagi is a big game player and strong as an ox.

Sexton will blossom under a different regime I'm sure. Burns will have his day, he is doing the business for Gloucester, but it would be nice to see him tested in the 6 Nations.

Mike Phillips. What to make of him. An enigma, a pain, a lunatic? However he proved against New Zealand that he lifts the team around him by his very presence and is certainly a big game player, the bigger the challenge the better he plays. No other contender has this presence. Others have better technique, but he is the sort of man you read about leading a small band to successfully storm a machine gun nest in the First World War. He has charisma. He leads, from the front.

Sheridan and Cole are currently the best scrummagers around and can give something around the field. Healy and Jones will tour and may well advance their causes by the end of the 6 Nations. Owens' series of cameos in the autumn internationals showed that he is prepared to tear fearlessly into the opposition to good effect and is tall enough to hook between the first choice props.

I've seen nothing to deflect me from my views on the second rows.

The back row. Warburton put in his best shifts since the World Cup against New Zealand and Australia. Tipuric just oozes class. Which to choose? Both. They can play left and right. They can both carry ball and the competition between them can be mutually beneficial. O Brien is an excellent carrier as would Denton and Faletau be.

The England team is settling under Lancaster and with Ireland they come out of the series on the up. Whilst the historic win against New Zealand will be old news by the first test, and whilst we must guard against giving too much credit to England for one performance, this is the best England side since 2003.

15-9 Goode, Bowe, Tuilagi, Davies, Halfpenny, Sexton, Phillips

1-8 Sheridan, K Owens, Cole, Gray (c), Evans, Tipuric, Warburton, O Brien

16-23 Corbisiero, Youngs, Ross, Launchbury, Wood, Youngs, Burns, Liam Williams.

Hywel (@HywelV2) is head Rugby writer on the v2 Journal. A bundle of contradictions, he is a Solicitor and Farmer, a Scarlets supporter and a "conservative, forward orientated typical blydi prop".

This latest selection has made some changes to the Composite XV…follow this link to see how it shapes up.  Next week it’s the turn of our Scottish panellist Kirsten Bruce.

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