Lions Selections

South Africa v British & Irish Lions - 2nd Test

There’s nothing quite like it.

Cian Tracey and I have chosen our Lions squads. Below are the choices, as well as some reasoning on the different picks. Let us know what you think, and what you’d change! This is the last day we’ll all be able to speculate and debate, so get involved.

Fullbacks

Murray: Halfpenny, Kearney     Cian: Halfpenny, Kearney

Agreement here in both squads. Cian has Halfpenny down as the starter after his Player of the Tournament-winning 6N campaign, and says he’ll run the outhalf close for place-kicking duties. Kearney’s relatively quiet season means he’s usurped as the starter. Murray would expect the Lions environment to bring the best out of Kearney. Halfpenny is first-choice due to his form and complete game.

Wings

Murray: North, Cuthbert, Zebo, Bowe     Cian: North, Cuthbert, Zebo, Bowe

Again total agreement, making both squads identical in the back three. Cian’s got the two Welsh boys as Test starters, and Zebo down to cover fullback. Bowe’s finishing ability and experience amongst a group of young outside backs gets him the nod. Murray has Zebo down for sheer talent, despite a nervy game against Clermont. Bowe’s Lions experience gets him in. On form, Cuthbert ahead of North, but the latter a more polished player. The only disagreement was on first reserve, Cian going for Visser, Murray for Maitland.

Centres

Murray: BOD, Roberts, Tuilagi, Hogg     Cian: Roberts, BOD, Tuilagi, Davies

Murray has BOD and Roberts down as his Test partnership. Roberts hasn’t has the best season, but past glories are enough beside BOD’s sheer class. Tuilagi is the impact sub. The same three are in Cian’s squad, although he felt that Roberts actually had an excellent 6N. He has Davies in the squad as another bench option. Murray went for Hogg as back-up in the centre and at full-back.

Outhalves

Murray: Sexton, Wilko, Hook     Cian: Sexton, Farrell, Madigan

No need to discuss Sexton. Murray went for Wilko as back-up, with Cian opting for Farrell. Murray feels that Wilko can place-kick and tackle just as well as Farrell, as well as offering more passing ability and a good touring presence. Cian felt that Farrell is being underrated and controls his backline superbly well and is capable of setting a quick attacking platform for those outside him.

Cian went on to question what James Hook offers, bringing us to the third choices. Murray selected the Welshman because he offers different skills to his other two 10s, namely flair, creativity and vision. Cian went for the ‘wildcard’ in Madigan, saying that he could profit from Gatland’s tendency for putting faith in youth.

Scrumhalves

Murray: Phillips, Care, Murray     Cian: Phillips, Youngs, Murray

Both squads have Phillips and Murray in them; Phillips because he can dominate games and Murray for the fact that he has hit form at the right time, offering a ready-made replacement for Phillips. Cian has gone for Youngs as the man to offer a different style, highlighting his speed and control of tempo. Murray picked Danny Care, despite his woeful form, purely as a bench option. Cian worries that Care would be outmuscled by Genia.

Loose heads

Murray: Healy, Vunipola, Jenkins     Cian: Healy, Vunipiola, Jenkins

Resounding agreement here and not too much to discuss. Healy is seen as first-choice Test starter by both. Vunipola is the explosive impact from the bench. For Murray, Jenkins tours as third-choice, but Cian reckons he could have an important role to play.

Hookers

Murray: Hibbard, Youngs, Ford     Cian: Hibbard, Youngs, Best

This was highlighted by both selections as an area lacking in quality candidates. Hibbard is the likely Test hooker for both, with Youngs as back-up. Cian goes for Best based on his experience, while Murray picks Ford for his offloading game and skills around the pitch. No mention was made of Dylan Hartley.

Tight heads

Murray: Jones, Cole, Murray     Cian: Jones, Cole

Cian decided to take an extra back-row at the expense of a third tight head, so there was no real argument here. Murray has gone for Eaun Murray as his third-choice based on the fact that he is slightly more destructive. Jones is number 1 tight head in both squads, with 25-year-old Cole to serve his apprenticeship.

Locks

Murray: POC, Hines, AWJ, Evans, Gray     Cian: POC, AWJ, Gray, Ryan, Evans

The only difference here is Murray choosing Hines, and Cian going for Ryan. Murray feels that Hines can do everything Ryan does and more. Cian reckons that Ryan has had an immense season, and that the return of POC has overshadowed that fact. He’s going for Ryan, saying it’s maybe a case of heart over head!

Flankers

Murray: Tipuric, Warburton, O’Brien, Lydiate, Wood     Cian: Warburton, Lydiate, O’Brien, Wood, Tipuric, Robshaw

Identical selections, except for the fact that Cian picks an extra flanker in Robshaw. He feels that the back-row will be the key to the series. Murray feels that Robshaw is just too one-paced, but Cian thinks he is being written off too easily. He highlights his performance vs. Ireland at the Aviva as an example of what he could bring to the party.

No. 8s

Murray: Faletau, Heaslip     Cian: Faletau, Heaslip

Faletau is down as Test No.8 for both squads. Murray feels the Welsh man has had a serious upturn in form in 2013 after adding some bulk. Heaslip is in for his excellent surge in form recently, nudging ahead of Scotland’s Beattie. Cian also highlights Heaslip’s late surge, saying he’s lucky there isn’t a plethora of specialist No. 8s out there.

Captain

Murray: Paul O’Connell     Cian: Paul O’Connell

There was no real doubt for either of us in selecting O’Connell. For Murray, the captain being on the pitch for the Tests is vital, and he would go with Tipuric to start at 7. Furthermore, he remains unconvinced by Warburton as a captain. Cian agrees, saying that O’Connell is the man, with an honourable mention for O’Driscoll. He feels that Gatland was always going to go with a forward as captain. O’Connell commands respect and has great influence over others. When he says jump, you ask how high.

——————–

Cian is a freelance sports journalist currently writing for The Irish Examiner, Independent, The Sun, Balls.ie & Fantasy Premier League Transfers. You can follow him on Twitter here.

31 responses to “Lions Selections

  1. conorphilpott95

    Surprised both of you went for Zebo and Bowe, I think a lack of matches may run against Bowe, but you never know. See Maitland going for one of them at least.

    At ten, Wilko and Farrell will both require an armchair ride from the pack to be completely successful, there is a dearth of quality all round tens in the NH. Wilko missing with T14 commitments may work against him, would be inclined to take Mads as 3rd choice but I don’t know if three are picked to be honest. If three are I would select him, quality goalkicking and a running threat that no other ten offers in the NH and maybe even further, long term he has more intangibles and a greater skillset to better Sexton.

    • I just can’t imagine leaving Bowe at home, even if he is just getting back to fitness. His finishing ability is world-class, he gets over the gain-line consistently, is great in the air (which could be key if the likes of Folau play for Oz) and he has the experience from 2009 of what it takes. Maitland looks a great player too, but think I’d prefer Bowe.

      • conorphilpott95

        I don’t see two Irish wingers going, Maitland will replace either Zebo or Bowe whoever doesn’t go I don’t think. Wouldn’t mind seeing them both though.

        All-round 10s are the problem, if Sexton goes down your backline will struggle with Wilko and or Farrell there like.

    • I’m with Murray. I think Bowe has to be on the plane. He is a lethal finisher.

      I have a sneaky suspicion Madigan will make it. Not sure why! His versatility will work in his favour and as I mentioned there is bound to be at least one wildcard. The fact that Gatland tends to favour yet – Madigan could be the one to gain this time.

  2. I like it, some of the players you pick that I dont have have made me think, (Evans)

  3. Agree with most of that, though Rob Kearney will be very, very lucky. Also, don’t reckon Hines will make it given Clermont’s involvement in Top 14?

    • I picked Kearney based on his Lions history, and I really do think he’ll step up a level if he goes on tour. As for Hines, it’s very unlikely that he’ll go for the reason you said. My squad is who I’d like to see go, rather than who I think WILL. I’d have no big issue with Hines missing the first game, but Gatland and the rest of the squad members most likely would. Shame, as he’s been excellent all season and has skills none of the other locks really have.

    • Agreed that Kearney will be lucky but I fancy him to make it and prove a lot of doubters wrong. Class act on his day.

  4. Yeah, I’d have Hines aswell in that case. Surprised neither of you picked Parling though, reckon he’ll tour, and should. Gray for me hasn’t done enough. If he had short brown hair he wouldn’t be half the player!

    Here’s myself and WOC’s teams for comparison: http://backpagerugby.com/featured/british-irish-lions-test-team-predictions-2/

  5. Some great choices there, however I feel you’ve been a bit optimistic with Irish selections.

    My squad would include a larger selection of Welsh & English players:

    FULLBACKS:
    Halfpenny, Hogg

    Wings
    Cuthbert, North, Wade, Visser

    Centres
    BOD, Tuilagi, Roberts, Davies

    Outhalves
    Sexton, Wilkinson, Hook

    Scrumhalves
    Youngs, Care, Phillips

    Loose heads
    Healy, Vunipola, Jenkins

    Hookers
    Hibbard, Best, Youngs

    Tight heads
    Jones, Cole

    Locks
    POC, AWJ, Hamilton, Hines, Parling

    Flankers
    Tipuric, Warburton, O’Brien, Lydiate, Croft, Wood

    No. 8s
    Faletau, Morgan

    • Intersting shout with Wade. Plenty think he could be the wildcard pick. I haven’t seen him play that much to be honest so I didn’t consider him. As I said in the piece, I think Zebo will go as his ability to cover at FB could be needed.

  6. Fullbacks: Halfpenny, Kearney
    Wingers: Cuthbert, North, Zebo, Bowe
    Centres: BOD, Barritt, Davies, Tuailigi, Roberts
    Outhalves: Sexton, Madigan, Farrell
    Scrumhalves: Phillips, Youngs, Murray
    LooseHeads: Healy, Marler, Kilkoyne
    Hookers: Youngs, Best, Hibbard
    Tightheads: Cole, Jones
    Locks: O’Connell, Launchburry, A.W. Jones, Ryan, Parling
    Flankers: Warburton. Tuperic, Robshaw, O’Brien, O’Mahony,
    No 8’s: Faletau, Heaslip

    • Interesting that you’ve gone with the extra man at centre Ger. Reason for that, out of curiosity?

      I’d be surprised if Kilcoyne made it. Excellent player and a future Lion no doubt but I think this Tour has come too early for him.

      You wouldn’t have Evans? Though he was excellent in the 6N. Very impressive.

      O’Mahony has made a brilliant late push for a place but I think he’ll be ousted by Lydiate. He’d be my first standby flanker though.

  7. Wilco has to go after recent performances for Toulon

  8. Don’t understand the fascination from some quarters with Donnacha Ryan. Not the best jumper around, can’t carry ball effectively in the tight. Seems to be lauded for his work rate but this coincides with giving away a ridiculous amount of inane penalties. Maybe I’m missing something?

  9. we all dream of a team of Paul O Connell’s…..

  10. Full Backs: Halfpenny,Kearney, Hogg

    Wings: Bowe, Cuthbert, North, Zebo.

    Torn slightly between Maitland and Zebo. Maitland like every Canterbury back does everything so well and makes it looks easy but Zebo shades it, excellent left foot, would be in good in a Lions environment and just has bags of talent.

    Centres: O’Driscoll, Roberts, Manu, Hook.

    Tens: Sexton, Farrell.

    Love to see Johnny go and it wouldnt shock me if Wilko and Farrell went at the expense of Hook but Gatland has stressed he wants his 10s to have ample time to bed themselves into the gameplan and if Wilko went it would mean Farrell would have to spend some time at 12. Big fan of Farrell though, hard as backs come.

    Scrum Halves: Phillips, Youngs, Murray.
    I’m a massive Care fan and would have had him in the squad for the majority of the year but i actually think he’s played himself out of the squad during the 6n, in particular against Italy and also the Munster game.

    Looseheads: Healy, Jenkins, Vunipola

    Tight heads: Jones, Cole, Ross.

    Murray i think might go, i don;t think he’s been particularly good recently and I feel Ross’ performance against Aus in the RWC might help him just shade it.

    Hookers: Youngs, Hibbard Best.

    Second Rows: POC, Evans, Wyn Jones, Gray, Parling.

    Flankers: Tipuric, SOB, Warburton, Croft, Lydiate, Robshaw.

    No 8: Heaslip, Faletau

    • Agree with you that Euan Murray hasn’t been in great form. He built up a serious reputation with his form until maybe a year ago when that bubble burst. That was one of the toughest calls I found, but I went for Murray to add more balance between nations as I couldn’t separate him from Ross is terms of ability.

      Maitland has impressed non-stop since coming over, think he’d be one of the most hard done by if he gets left out. The wingers are really hard to pick. Lots of talent out wide.

    • Agree with you about Care. Exactly how I feel.

      Your Hook selection at centre however… No. Please Warren. For the love of God, no! Plenty of better, more suitable alternatives.

  11. I’m thinking:
    Fullbacks: Kearney, Halfpenny, Hogg
    Wings: Cuthbert, North, Zebo, Maitland
    Centre: Bod, Roberts, Tuilagi, Davies
    Outhalf: Sex, Farrell, Hook
    Scrumhalf: Phillips, Youngs, and a toss-up between Murray/Care
    Loosehead: Healy, Vunipola, Jenks
    Hooker: Hibbard, Youngs, Best
    Tighthead: Adam Jones, Cole
    Second row: POC, Parling, AWJ, Evans, Hines, Gray
    Flankers: SOB, Warburton, Lydiate, Tipuric, Wood
    8: Faletau, Heaslip

  12. Front Rows: Best, Youngs, Hibbard, Healy, Jenkins, Vunipola, Jones, Cole, Ross

    Locks: O’Connell, Evans, Jones, Hines, Ryan

    Back Rows: Warburton, Tipuric, Robshaw, O’Brien, Heaslip, Faletau

    Forward notes: Mike Ross playing 55 minutes would be a completely different kettle of fish to the 75 minute man he’s had to be for Ireland recently. No Tom Croft. If you say I can’t take Hines then I’m taking Jim Hamilton instead – Richie Gray’s a potential once in a generation talent but he’s been a ghost of himself.

    Halfbacks: Phillips, Care, Laidlaw

    Fly Halves: Sexton, Wilkinson, Madigan

    Centres: Twelvetrees, O’Driscoll, Roberts, Tuilagi

    Back Three: North, Cuthbert, Bowe, Brown, Halfpenny, Kearney, Hogg

    Back notes: Lots of versatility with Laidlaw, Twelvetrees, Madigan, Brown and Kearney all able to play in a few slots; if Sexton or Wilko got properly injured they’d have Biggar or Farrell across within 30 hours. Care over Murray is a gut feel pick as well as giving a properly different option from the bench. If it’s a squad of 38 I’m adding Wade.

    • Hard to argue with your squad and well-reasoned where I might disagree. I’m in the same boat as you with Danny Care, would want that opportunity to really mix things up off the bench. He’d need a few good warm-up games to get his form back.

  13. fair enough, I’d love to Madigan go but i think its come a few months to early for him. Murray would know better but hasn’t Hook been playing well for Perpigan this year albeit at 10?

    • Yep, for me it’s a straight call between Hook and Madigan for that sort of Wild Card slot. With Gatland having had Hook up close and personal for Wales he’s perhaps more likely to go with him but right now Madigan’s got an X factor that’s very hard to ignore.

    • Yeah Hook has been doing well for Perpignan, especially since the new year. He’s been at 10 as John says. Kicks his goals, offers a running threat and has the vision to mix in long passes and cross-field kicks. While he’s not setting the world alight like Madigan has been, he’s been consistently performing, maybe something that Gatland will value more. Going to be a close one! Both could make it or neither!

  14. Fullbacks: Halfpenny, Kearney
    Wingers: Cuthbert, North, Zebo, Bowe
    Centres: BOD, Davies, Tuailigi, Roberts
    Outhalves: Sexton, Farrell, Wilkinson
    Scrumhalves: Phillips, Youngs, Murray
    LooseHeads: Healy, Jenkins, Kilkoyne
    Hookers: Youngs, Best, Hibbard
    Tightheads: Jones, Cole, Ross
    Locks: O’Connell, Launchburry, A.W. Jones, Hines, Parling
    Flankers: Warburton. Tipuric, O’Brien, Robshaw, O’Mahony,
    No 8′s: Faletau, Heaslip

    Hogg and Ryan Jones will be in contention

  15. Pingback: The Unlucky Lions - Andy McGeady : Andy McGeady

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