Friday, March 08, 2013

Lions Selector Panel–7th Round (WAL)

Would you want to be in Head Coach, Warren Gatland’s shoes right now? We asked HSBC Ambassador & Lions legend Gavin Hastings how much the 6 Nations performances will be influencing the Head Coach’s upcoming Lions selection. Click here to find out what he had to say.

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 Welsh panellist Hywel Davies.

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15 Kearney - especially if it becomes an aerial battle with Halfpenny being another shorty on the wing tempting the Aussies to kick.

14 Halfpenny - the Aussies have nightmares about his long range kicking after last summer's Wales tour. That will give Mr Pocock something to think about around the half way line.

Centres Tuilagi and Twelvetrees - the Wales game it seems may have been a solitary high for O'Driscoll in this championship. Gatland is hard nosed and will make the tough call, something it seems Ireland are not used to. Tuilagi is more than capable of attacking at 13 and defending at 12. If you don't go with O'Driscoll though you need Twelvetrees or Scott to provide some mid field flair.

11 North - seems to be having an injury free run of games, which is unusual. There is little point in picking him though, unless the other backs give him the ball in a bit of space or close to the line, another reason for a play making centre.

10 Farrell - if he can control the excesses seen in the France game, he should make a big impact on this tour. Sexton is a class act and Biggar is growing in stature game by game.

9 Phillips - the bigger the game the better he is. I make no claims for his service. I rate his presence.

1 Grant - the find of the championship in the front row.

2 Hibbard - dynamic ball carrier and scrummager

3 Cole - scrummages well and adds something in the rucks.

4 Gray (c) - athlete. I've stuck with him throughout and believe he is showing why currently.

5 Launchbery - the outstanding front five forward of this championship. However either of Evans and Ryan would also make a decent pairing with Gray.

6 Wood - plays akin to Richard Hill. Does everything right, without fuss.

8 Beattie - With a mobile front five, he can concentrate in what he does best, good old fashioned number 8 play.

7 Robshaw - There are two schools of thought as to how to deal with players like Pocock, Brussow and McCaw when in his previous role on the open side. One is to fight fire with fire and go for a traditional open side to scrap on the floor. Tipuric or Rennie would be key to that plan. The other is to take a completely different attitude and rely on the brute force of your back row as an unit to smash them off the ball and draw their forwards into the rucks and mauls. England have chosen the latter option and have in Wood and Robshaw an excellent partnership on the flanks. It seems to work for them, so why not?

16-23 James, Best, A Jones, AW Jones, R Jones, Care, Flood, Hogg.

I suspect I will cop flack for only one Irishman being picked to start. So be it. Can any Irish fans look me in the eye and say their players' form matches their reputations currently? Healy has shown a lack of discipline, Best risks giving away silly penalties, O'Brien and Heaslip are not looking themselves.

I will be the first man to admit I was wrong if Ireland hammer France and Italy with bravura performances from these players. However, there seem to be motivational and performance deficiencies evident.

Does the Lions coach really need to be in the position of trying to sort out these deficiencies for the luxury of having four nations feeling adequately represented? Does he take players from the one squad on the way down, or the three on the way up?

In the positive column for our hibernian cousins, Zebo, Ferris and O'Connell when fit could well transform their fortunes. Players like Madigan, Jackson and Keatley are chomping at the bit. The irony is of course that it was Gatland as Irish coach that gave the 'golden generation' their chance whilst young and inexperienced men at the turn of the century.

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".

Diolch yn fawr Hywel!  These selections have made a couple of changes to the HoR Composite Lions XV, which is taken from the selections of the four panellists put together.  Click here to see how it stands.  Next Friday we hear from our Scottish representative Kirsten Bruce.

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