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 our English panellist, Rich Church-Keen from #rugbyunited blog.
Well, the 6 nations is in the history books and the Welsh may still be suffering the hangovers after the heroic last game thrashing of England that secured the championship for them.
I've seen so many pundits putting up Lions squads of 12 or 13 Welshmen with a token O'Driscoll, Care or Laidlaw thrown in to break up the Welsh monopoly, but i think people forget that Wales only won the championship on points difference and actually only outperformed one team, England, in the manner that would earmark them for the predicted dominance for the starting 15. I for one, don't buy it. There will be a lot of Welsh in the team, but 12 or 13 is going a little overboard!
I spent my last selectors panel blog talking about form, and the last couple of rounds of games saw several potential Lions drop off the radar, form wise. Factoring in the injuries to the likes of Bowe, O'Connell, Ferris and others (all 3 were shoe ins for my lions side) and outsiders such as Simon Zebo and Ben Morgan, the line up may be a little different to how i planned!
Last blog’s Lions were
Halfpenny - Cuthbert - Tuilagi - Barritt- North - Sexton - Care
Healy - Best - Coles - Hamilton - Parling - R Jones - Robshaw (Captain) - Beattie
First up, there is no way I will change the back 3. So the Welsh lads will remain in situ.
In the Centers, Barritt and Tuilagi were abysmal, uncreative and slow in the last 2 games. Tuilagi will be a big part of the tour, but he's not going in my starting line up. He looked totally one dimensional and Italy and Wales stopped him with ease. Barritt gets the blame from a lot of people for not being quick or creative enough. He's a defensive giant, but has huge flaws in his game, and I'd expect him to be replaced with Billy Twelvetrees come the next England squad. As far as the Lions go, I'd pair O'Driscoll and Matt Scott. O'Driscoll due to his inventiveness and guile, Matt Scott for his all action game and line breaking capability. No Davies or Roberts, I hear the Welsh cry. No. Davies had an average tournament by his own high standards, and Roberts before the England game had managed an underwhelming 24 yards gained over 4 matches. One good game (v England) does not make you a lion (for me anyway. Gatland may think different!)
Fly half. I hope its not going to be Jonny Wilkinson. The Lions should be the best of the current home nations, not an excuse for glory from someone who retired from the international game. Another Jonny, for me, is the prime choice. Mr Sexton. His absence undoubtedly was one of the prime reasons that Ireland struggled, he is a class act and HAS to tour if fit! Biggar has vastly improved, Farrell has turned into an angry young man and its affected his game, but i would imagine the 3 of them would all be named for the tour.
Scrum half. Phillips or Laidlaw would get the starting berth for me. Then a toss up with Youngs, Care or Murray taking the 3rd spot. Phillips abrasive nature would be handy, especially with Pocock ruled out, Phillips ability to be almost a 4th back rower could really pressurize the Aussies. Laidlaw (or any of the others mentioned) sniping would be a potent attacking threat, and against tired legs, they could be game changers!
Back Row. A plethora of talent, with potentially 5 Welsh Lions in the back row alone (Warburton, Faletau, Tipuric, R.Jones and Lydiate) but to get the balance spot on, i would pick need O'Brien at 6, Tipuric at 7 and Beattie at 8. There of course should also be mentions of Kelly Brown, Strokosch, Heaslip, Croft, Morgan, Tom Wood amongst others, but i like the balance of O'Brien, Tipuric and Beattie. Bruising, Fast and fantastic scavengers.
Locks. The locks seemed to be nailed on as O'Connell and Gray, but injury and the form of others makes me think that I'd pick Alun Wyn Jones and Jim Hamilton, both great lineout operators, handy in the loose and a great enforcer in Big Jim! Launchbury and Parling seem too lightweight for me and there were not many standouts from elsewhere.
Props. Tough call. Healy, for sure, Cole and Adam Jones will tour, but which will start???? I don't know who I'd pick. Jones started the 6 nations slowly, whereas Cole finished badly in the last 2 games, so the form would nod it to Jones.
Hooker. Rory Best seemed the only likely candidate at one point, but the performances of Hibbard over the past few weeks give him the edge for me. Youngs line out is average, Hartley's temperament is likely to cost you points and Ford seemingly vanishes from games.
My line up for this month would be.....
12 Scott (controversial!!!)
3 Adam Jones
4 AW Jones
I have literally just noticed not a single Englishman in the team!!!
As my next (and final) Lions blog will be after the squad is announced, I will pick my 40 man squad, to see how close I get!
Full Back : Halfpenny, Kearney, Brown
Wing : Cuthbert, North, Visser, Gilroy
Centre : O'Driscoll, Tuilagi, Scott, Davies
Fly Half : Sexton, Biggar, Farrell
Scrum Half: Phillips, Laidlaw, Care
Back Row : O'Brien, Tipuric, Beattie, Wood, Warburton, Robshaw, Lydiate, Faletau
Lock : Wyn Jones, Hamilton, O'Connell, Launchbury, Parling
Prop : Cross, Adam Jones, Cole, Healy, Jenkins, Ross
Hooker : Hibbard, Best, Youngs, Ford
Until next month!! RC_K
My name is Richard Church-Keen, born in Coventry, live in Dudley, yet by God's grace, I'm a diehard Gloucester Rugby and also an England rugby fan (and yes, in that order). I'm a rugby mad husband to a rugby mad wife with a rugby mad stepson and indeed, rugby has taken over every facet of my life. I am a chef by day, and #RugbyUnited’s charity director and blogger in chief by night. Oh. And a twitter addict (@RichC_K)!!!
Thanks Rich! Click here to see how his latest selection affects the HoR Composite Lions XV.