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Post by RuggerRadge2611 Tue 15 Mar 2016, 9:55 am

One thing that this 6N has done is expose the abundance of talent that the NH has in the lock department. Itoje has been absoutley red hot and has got a lot of the pundits talking.

This however got me thinking, why all the fuss about Atoje? That’s not to say he’s not brilliant, because he is, but there are so many fantastic locks on display in this year’s 6N why focus only on him?

The pundits are always perhaps a little guilty of getting a tad carried away, new players and especially locks for some reason have powerful international debuts before drifting off slightly (Launchberry and Richie Gray to name two of them).

However the purpose of this article wasn’t to slag off the UK rugby media, but more to actually take note of the fantastic powerhouse demonstrations we’ve been getting in the engine room.

For Wales AWJ and the strangely dropped for England Luke Charteris have been in superb form. The latter destroying any lineout based maul that has been set up before him. AWJ has also been excellent, carrying well and tackling anything that twitches.

For Scotland the Gray brothers are cementing their place as an integral part of a powerful Scottish tight 5. Johnny Gray has successfully completed 71 consecutive tackles in international rugby without missing a single one a record stretching back to Ireland in the RWC warm ups last year that has included opponents such as South Africa and Australia. Richie Gray has also matured as a player case and point proven in the run up to Visser’s try at the weekend.

For England Kruis and Itoje have been immense. I suppose what has impressed me most about Itoje is his work at the breakdown. His body position over the ball is absolutely superb. Who need’s a specialist openside “fetcher” when you have someone as powerful as Itoje over the ball? Kruis and Hartley also have to take credit in so far as England’s lineout is now a powerful set piece attacking weapon.

Onto Ireland. The Irish now seem to have found the perfect partner for the skyscraper known as Devin Toner. Donacha Ryan had a stormer against a pretty lacklustre Italy. That’s not taking anything away from the men in green. Whatever else their problems have been in the past the engine room has not been one of them. A player like POC will always be missed but Toner has all the attributes to be an immense lineout operator and with a guy like Ryan who’s not afraid to get properly stuck into the rucks and maul’s Ireland’s lock partnership will only get stronger.

As for France, why has Vahamina been on the bench??? Anyone? He is a terrifying spectacle at full gallop!

Anyway no matter how we slice it, whoever is in charge of the Lions next year will have a tough job picking his locks with such talent on display from Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England.
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Post by EST Tue 15 Mar 2016, 12:20 pm

Yeah Radge, the quality has been high in the engine room.

From a Scotland perspective, I am glad to see Richie Gray starting to be more physical and direct and assuming some of the ball carrying responsibility.  He still has a tendency to flop onto rucks, but he is starting to fulfill his early promise.  

Jonny has grown into each game, he doesn’t have the same ball carrying impact as he does at pro 12 level but it’s easy to forget he is only just 22, as a comparison he is only 7 months older than Itoje.



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Post by RDW Tue 15 Mar 2016, 1:45 pm

To be fair, without turning this into a 'Lions XV based on current form' thread, there aren't many positions that don't have a lot of competition.  There are a few double negatives in there, but basically there will be a hell of a lot of competition!

Lock and back row have ridiculous strength in depth, and there are going to be a lot of good players left at home.

Similarly pretty much everywhere in the backs, although on current form there aren't an abundance of 9s putting their hands up - there is quality and depth there though. There are some class players at 10 but not many are on red hot form just now.

Centre and back 3 have an abundance of quality

For me the weakest position is probably hooker - lots of solid options but no one really standing out as being world class.  There is a long way to go though and some players may come onto form by then.

So there is plenty class across the team - summer 2017 is a long way away though and those who have played well this 6N may not be doing so well by then!

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Post by funnyExiledScot Tue 15 Mar 2016, 2:15 pm

I agree that there's serious strength in depth at lock: Grayx2, AWJ, Charteris, Henderson, Toner, Itoje, Lawes, Kruis and Launchbury - it's pretty hard to come up with a duff combination really.

In terms of Lions positions of weakness I'd say tighthead, hooker, loosehead, blindside, inside centre and right wing are probably lacking in terms of the sort of class we'll need to tour successfully and beat New Zealand.

Tighthead is probably a contest between Cole, Nel, Brookes and Lee. Not a bad group, but we don't have a standout candidate for New Zealand to fear. There's perhaps time yet for Brookes, but we don't have an Adam Jones or a Phil Vickery at present.

Hartley is growing as a player and will probably take the hooking jersey, with Jamie George and Rory Best probably next in line. Not a stellar group, and lacking a Keith Wood or a Steven Thompson.

Loosehead troubles me slightly, and a return to form and fitness of Cian Healy would be most welcome. I don't rate Marler particularly and Vunipola seems to give away alot of scrum penalties. Jack McGrath and Ali Dickinson are potentially outside bets.

Blindside has plenty of options but I can't put my finger on a World Class player. Robshaw would probably make the side at the moment, with competition from Stander. I've gone off Lydiate a bit in recent months. Puts his body on the line in the tackle but his technique is being closely scrutinised. We don't have a player to trouble Kaino.

Inside centre again has options, and Jamie Roberts is excellent at what he does, but we don't have much in the way of proven alternatives. Plenty of potential in Dunbar, Henshaw and Tuilagi mind you, but all three are some way away from giving New Zealand too much concern.

Right wing is another with some decent options, but considering the quality they'll be up against (i.e. Savea) simply listing players doesn't really cut it. Nowell, Seymour, Trimble and Cuthbert are the current incumbents to choose from. Let's not kid ourselves, we're not talking about World Class depth there are we. I'm hopeful that Eddie Jones takes a look at Christian Wade as someone who can really light up a match.

In sum I think the general quality across the squad will be really high, but my concern is finding a XV to beat New Zealand.

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Post by RDW Tue 15 Mar 2016, 2:23 pm

funnyExiledScot wrote:I agree that there's serious strength in depth at lock: Grayx2, AWJ, Charteris, Henderson, Toner, Itoje, Lawes, Kruis and Launchbury - it's pretty hard to come up with a duff combination really.

In terms of Lions positions of weakness I'd say tighthead, hooker, loosehead, blindside, inside centre and right wing are probably lacking in terms of the sort of class we'll need to tour successfully and beat New Zealand.

Tighthead is probably a contest between Cole, Nel, Brookes and Lee. Not a bad group, but we don't have a standout candidate for New Zealand to fear. There's perhaps time yet for Brookes, but we don't have an Adam Jones or a Phil Vickery at present.

Hartley is growing as a player and will probably take the hooking jersey, with Jamie George and Rory Best probably next in line. Not a stellar group, and lacking a Keith Wood or a Steven Thompson.

Loosehead troubles me slightly, and a return to form and fitness of Cian Healy would be most welcome. I don't rate Marler particularly and Vunipola seems to give away alot of scrum penalties. Jack McGrath and Ali Dickinson are potentially outside bets.

Blindside has plenty of options but I can't put my finger on a World Class player. Robshaw would probably make the side at the moment, with competition from Stander. I've gone off Lydiate a bit in recent months. Puts his body on the line in the tackle but his technique is being closely scrutinised. We don't have a player to trouble Kaino.

Inside centre again has options, and Jamie Roberts is excellent at what he does, but we don't have much in the way of proven alternatives. Plenty of potential in Dunbar, Henshaw and Tuilagi mind you, but all three are some way away from giving New Zealand too much concern.

Right wing is another with some decent options, but considering the quality they'll be up against (i.e. Savea) simply listing players doesn't really cut it. Nowell, Seymour, Trimble and Cuthbert are the current incumbents to choose from. Let's not kid ourselves, we're not talking about World Class depth there are we. I'm hopeful that Eddie Jones takes a look at Christian Wade as someone who can really light up a match.

In sum I think the general quality across the squad will be really high, but my concern is finding a XV to beat New Zealand.

You raise a fair point an it was something I was thinking when writing my post - there's plenty quality and depth generally, but how much world class depth is there to rival the All Blacks?

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Post by SecretFly Tue 15 Mar 2016, 2:38 pm

RDW_Scotland wrote:

You raise a fair point an it was something I was thinking when writing my post - there's plenty quality and depth generally, but how much world class depth is there to rival the All Blacks?

On the evidence of the WC....none.

Are New Zealand just lucky??? How can you breed so many generations that just know how to be better than their opposite number every time, every year, every decade, every century? Weirder and weirder. Wink

Anyway, the last WC was a joke, as New Zealand played lame-duck through the pool stages and most people actually fell for it and thought they were vulnerable and human..................... Shocked

Could we stop talking about the All Blacks when looking for comparisons please. It's often embarrassing.

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Post by funnyExiledScot Tue 15 Mar 2016, 4:17 pm

I agree SecretFly, and that's going to be the key to the next Lions Tour. However good England become under Jones, or Ireland under Schmidt etc., the Lions will be massive underdogs against NZ, and would probably get 2 or 3 players into a combined XV on a good day. No point in shying away from that, the Lions will need to somehow become better than the sum of their parts in a very short space time in order to avoid a severe beating.

I can pick a Lions squad with ease, but I find pulling together a definitive XV very difficult. So many debatable positions, which means that we're lack a World Class core to the side.

In the meantime the ABs will certainly have that. Franks, Whitelock, Retallick, Kaino and Read in the forwards. Aaron Smith, Cruden, Milner-Skudder, Savea and Ben Smith in the backs. In Barritt they also have a pretty awesome impact sub, and I think it's safe to assume that Fekitoa is going to be useful next year. That's a serious core of absolutely top class players, particularly the forwards.

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