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Lions 2017 - Name your team, captain and whatever else you want to harp on about

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Post by GunsGermsV2 on Fri Jan 13, 2017 12:19 pm

First topic message reminder :

My wishlist:

I hope AWJ is named captain to keep the Irish and English lads in check.
I hope Robshaw gets picked, he deserves to tour at least once at this point.
I hope the refereeing is strictly on a level playing field.
I hope NZ are made accountable for any incidents where they break anyone's collarbone and put them out of the game for 13 months.
The Lions to be at the very least competitive and win one of the first two tests.
I'd like to see Tadhg Furlong get a run out.
Would like to see an uncapped player in the squad.
No charity caps, Tom court, Shane Williams etc.
I hope Gatland comes up with a much more interesting and variable game plan than on the last Lions tour.
Dylan Hartley calls a ref the C word on the last day of the six nations and misses the tour.

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Post by Exiledinborders on Mon Jan 16, 2017 11:40 pm

True Raven wrote:Most overrated fly half award has George Fords name all over it.

And yet the manager of the second best international team in the world insists on playing him. I wonder if he is a better judge than you? Headscratch

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Post by True Raven on Mon Jan 16, 2017 11:43 pm

Exiledinborders wrote:
True Raven wrote:Most overrated fly half award has George Fords name all over it.

And yet the manager of the second best international team in the world insists on playing him. I wonder if he is a better judge than you? Headscratch

When his other options are cipriani or burns, he doesn't have a choice


Last edited by True Raven on Mon Jan 16, 2017 11:45 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Post by Exiledinborders on Mon Jan 16, 2017 11:44 pm

GunsGermsV2 wrote:
Dylan Hartley calls a ref the C word on the last day of the six nations and misses the tour.
Barnes is not refereeing that match.

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Post by Exiledinborders on Mon Jan 16, 2017 11:47 pm

True Raven wrote:
Exiledinborders wrote:
True Raven wrote:Most overrated fly half award has George Fords name all over it.

And yet the manager of the second best international team in the world insists on playing him. I wonder if he is a better judge than you? Headscratch

When his other options are cipriani or burns, he doesn't have a choice
I would put Farrell way ahead of Cipriani or Burns. I would pick Lozowski before Burns.

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Post by Gwlad on Tue Jan 17, 2017 5:48 am

Think Itoje is pretty over rated too, showed nothing against Scarlets.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Tue Jan 17, 2017 6:46 am

I really don't know what you want from a 10 if you weren't impressed with Farrell. Country mile ahead of Russell.

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Post by Cyril on Tue Jan 17, 2017 8:01 am

Exiledinborders wrote:
TJ wrote:an adequate club ten only.
Laugh
I assume TJ is talking about Russell here?

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Post by beshocked on Tue Jan 17, 2017 10:23 am

TJ wrote:7 1/2 - I watched the game.  I saw nothing to think Farrell should be considered for the lions.  Kicking out of hand - very indifferent.  Missed two off the tee.  Not one single "trick" to put a player in space all game - just the conventional pass.  Not one chip over the line, runaround or dummy.  3 nice conventional passes out of the 19 he made - the rest nothing any club player would do with his eyes shut.  sorry but on that showing I understand why jones does not want him at 10.  an adequate club ten only.  One of the nice passes was for the try at the end tho

after that performance I downrate Sarries - they did not look like the euro cup champions playing a mid placed pro 12 side

As an aside the ref was awful.  any sarries players cited?  should have been red not yellow for the slap to the face and shuld have been two more sarries yellows.  Mind you he missed two Scarlet's knock ons.

watch the two Glasgow / Racing games to see what a skillfull 10 can do in terms of putting players into space.  Russell was magnificent in those two games ( not lions material either - he was a steaming pile of mince the next week).  He stood flat compared to Farrells standing deep.  He had every trick in the book to create space dummies, chips, offloads and he was on the ball 3 times as much.  farrell stands so deep he deprives the players outside of him of time and space

Well no of course they aren't going to look like euro cup champions when missing 1/3 of their starting XV - 5 of their most influential players - Barritt,Kruis,both Vunipola bros and Goode. Strip any side of 5 of their most influential players and they'll be weaker.

Scarlets have been no mugs this season either - beating Toulon and Sale, still have a good selection of Welsh internationals.

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Post by Cyril on Tue Jan 17, 2017 10:47 am

TJ wrote:7 1/2 - I watched the game.  I saw nothing to think Farrell should be considered for the lions.  Kicking out of hand - very indifferent.  Missed two off the tee.  Not one single "trick" to put a player in space all game - just the conventional pass.  Not one chip over the line, runaround or dummy.  3 nice conventional passes out of the 19 he made - the rest nothing any club player would do with his eyes shut.  sorry but on that showing I understand why jones does not want him at 10.  an adequate club ten only.  One of the nice passes was for the try at the end tho

after that performance I downrate Sarries - they did not look like the euro cup champions playing a mid placed pro 12 side

As an aside the ref was awful.  any sarries players cited?  should have been red not yellow for the slap to the face and shuld have been two more sarries yellows.  Mind you he missed two Scarlet's knock ons.

watch the two Glasgow / Racing games to see what a skillfull 10 can do in terms of putting players into space.  Russell was magnificent in those two games ( not lions material either - he was a steaming pile of mince the next week).  He stood flat compared to Farrells standing deep.  He had every trick in the book to create space dummies, chips, offloads and he was on the ball 3 times as much.  farrell stands so deep he deprives the players outside of him of time and space
Laugh Too funny.

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Post by BamBam on Tue Jan 17, 2017 10:50 am

Gwlad wrote:Think Itoje is pretty over rated too, showed nothing against Scarlets.

Yes, if only he was as good as Alun Wyn Jones

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Post by Cyril on Tue Jan 17, 2017 10:54 am

Gwlad and TJ are writing off Saracens and Itoje after one game.

Great minds!


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Post by Scottrf on Tue Jan 17, 2017 10:54 am

England have a club level 10 playing centre, the most overrated fly half, overrated Itoje, a crabbing scrum half who can't pass, a hooker and full back who are a red card waiting to happen, a loosehead who can't scrummage. It's a wonder we win any games.

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Post by GunsGermsV2 on Tue Jan 17, 2017 11:19 am

Scottrf wrote:England have a club level 10 playing centre, the most overrated fly half, overrated Itoje, a crabbing scrum half who can't pass, a hooker and full back who are a red card waiting to happen, a loosehead who can't scrummage. It's a wonder we win any games.

I think Ford and Itoje are very good. Farrell is also good but over rated and has a very slapable face as do most of the England side but mainly Farrell, Hartley and Brown.

I dont think England have scrummaging problems at all.

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Post by beshocked on Tue Jan 17, 2017 11:20 am

GunsGermsV2 wrote:
Scottrf wrote:England have a club level 10 playing centre, the most overrated fly half, overrated Itoje, a crabbing scrum half who can't pass, a hooker and full back who are a red card waiting to happen, a loosehead who can't scrummage. It's a wonder we win any games.

I think Ford and Itoje are very good. Farrell is also good but over rated and has a very slapable face as do most of the England side but mainly Farrell, Hartley and Brown.

I dont think England have scrummaging problems at all.

Agree with all of that surprisingly. OK

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Post by funnyExiledScot on Tue Jan 17, 2017 11:32 am

The choice of fly half options for the Lions will be very interesting, and will potentially give strong clues as to the style of play Gatland and co will be looking to deploy.

You have two tried and tested Test match animals in Farrell and Biggar. Both are teak tough players, have big game temperaments and are excellent goal kickers. On the other hand, whilst also underrated playmakers, neither will electrify a backline but rather give a platform for others to shine.

You have three mavericks, capable of the sublime and the ridiculous in consecutive passages of play, but who can and have shown wonderful class: Russell, Ford and Cipriani. These are players born to create and put team mates into space. Ford and Russell in particular also have fantastic tactical kicking skills, and can drop the ball on a sixpence.

Then you have the allrounder. An experienced pro who does everything pretty well. He's made of class so in that sense unreliable, but when fully fit is a very class act and ticks pretty much every box: Jonny Sexton.

Really difficult choices for the Lions coaches. Farrell also plays 12 so it's possible we'll see him picked at centre with three specialist 10s also selected, but given Gatland took only two 10s last time around, with Hogg as his emergency cover, I'd be surprised if more than three of the aforementioned names were to tour.

I would personally take Farrell, Ford and Sexton, with Biggar on stand-bye, but on another day I could easily see myself picking Biggar to start the 1st Test with Russell on the bench!! Tricky.

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Post by GunsGermsV2 on Tue Jan 17, 2017 11:39 am

Made of class or glass? He does get a lot of injuries but has also played 60 tests for Ireland since 2009 so hasn't missed that many albeit more recently he probably has.

He is one of the best OHs around and is therefore targeted in every game he plays so that accounts for some of the injuries.

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Post by funnyExiledScot on Tue Jan 17, 2017 11:48 am

GunsGermsV2 wrote:Made of class or glass? He does get a lot of injuries but has also played 60 tests for Ireland since 2009 so hasn't missed that many albeit more recently he probably has.

He is one of the best OHs around and is therefore targeted in every game he plays so that accounts for some of the injuries.

Agreed on all counts. I think he's a wonderful player, albeit his recent injuries have meant that his game time has needed to be closely managed. If he's fit he'd certainly be in my touring party. As I said in my post, he ticks pretty much all boxes.

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Post by cascough on Tue Jan 17, 2017 12:01 pm

GunsGermsV2 wrote:
cascough wrote:
TJ wrote:
Sin é wrote:I don't understand why everyone has Stuart Hogg as a starter at fullback on the Lions. On form over the last 6 months, I'd have both Liam Williams and Simon Zebo ahead of him.

Usually trying to shoehorn a scot in the side.

+1

Selecting Maitland on the last tour was shoehorning a Scot in. Picking Hogg this time around would well justified IMO.

Maitland was a Gatland favourite, possibly because he's a kiwi and had kept an eye on him at age grades and super rugby etc. On the Lions DVD during the selection meeting it's pretty clear Gatland is a big fan. Don't think him being Scottish had much to do with it.

People want to see everyone represented for the lions, and I think that leads to a situation whereby the best scottish players and their ability tend to get overstated somewhat. Scotland have been perennially weaker than the other 3 in recent times, although it's natural to look at their standout players, that doesn't mean they are actually any good. They just look good compared to their team mates.

To be fair, Scotland seem to have turned a corner, lets see how these players go in the 6N.

This isn't meant to be an attack on Hogg (although I'll admit I don't rate him) or an attack on Scotland (I'd love to see them represented if they're worthy) but to bring it back to the original point, I think the representation thing weighs on peoples minds.

Example; One could make a case for picking a lions XV that is entirely English. Logically it makes sense, they are on a fantastic form and have had some great results. Logically it makes sense, but emotionally it goes against the Lions ethos (which isn't actually a tangible thing, but yet people abide by it)

You could also make a case for doing the same with Ireland, given their autumn results. But again, they won't. I think people are even wary of naming an all English, or Irish Pack. Again it makes sense, but the fear of being labelled biased etc means people tune their selections a bit more.

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Post by funnyExiledScot on Tue Jan 17, 2017 12:22 pm

Cascough - I would actually argue that Scotland has tended to be underrepresented in recent times precisely because the national team has been in decline. It can make it much harder to players to make a Lions case if the team is underperforming or, for example, the back don't have the same platform as others to shine. Yes, you can counter that with the "Sergio Parisse" factor, whereby a very good player stands out a mile when surrounded by very average players, but when you look at Scottish Lions since 1997, it's hard to argue that our standout players have been promoted above their station.

The real skill in Lions picking is to select the best players regardless of nation, looking at the player and not the country/team, and judging that player on his merits. It's a very difficult thing to do. Back in the 1990s, Ireland were completely mince. Still, McGeechan managed to select from that struggling side some key Lions: Paul Wallace, Keith Wood and Jeremy Davidson. Wallace and Davidson were by no means Lions certainties going into that year, and I'm sure that there were English counterparts with strong cases (being from a much more successful team).

I would be staggered if Stuart Hogg doesn't tour, barring a complete and utter melt-down in the 6 Nations. He faces strong competition from Liam Williams for the Test XV, and I think that's a very close call (both could well start together), and someone like Zebo or Brown could also force into the reckoning, but right now, on form, Hogg would tour on merit.

We have other good touring candidates at this stage (when I say candidates I don't mean I'd necessarily pick them, but they certainly deserve to feature in selection discussions): WP Nel, Jonny Gray, Greg Laidlaw, Finn Russell, Alex Dunbar, Mark Bennett and Tommy Seymour, but for me Hogg is the no brainer to tour.

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Post by Tattie Scones RRN on Tue Jan 17, 2017 12:25 pm

Yes, but can't he can't tackle and has a disgusting attitude fES.

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Post by Scottrf on Tue Jan 17, 2017 12:25 pm

Is Zebo consistently playing at fullback these days?

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Post by funnyExiledScot on Tue Jan 17, 2017 12:27 pm

Scottrf wrote:Is Zebo consistently playing at fullback these days?

Not sure, but I do like him as a player and his versatility could help him. In fact we could have a number of players able to cover 15 and wing: Williams, Nowell, Watson and Zebo.

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Post by Sin é on Tue Jan 17, 2017 12:33 pm

Scottrf wrote:Is Zebo consistently playing at fullback these days?

Yes - for Munster. He is playing some great stuff, has a great attitude and brimming with confidence at the moment.

He is also a gas man and would be a great Lions tourist.

edit: he played on the left wing v ABs for win in Chicago.
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Post by Scottrf on Tue Jan 17, 2017 12:36 pm

Sin é wrote:
Scottrf wrote:Is Zebo consistently playing at fullback these days?

Yes - for Munster. He is playing some great stuff, has a great attitude and brimming with confidence at the moment.

He is also a gas man and would be a great Lions tourist.
Attacking wise he always looks fantastic, what is his defence like?

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Post by Sin é on Tue Jan 17, 2017 12:38 pm

Scottrf wrote:
Sin é wrote:
Scottrf wrote:Is Zebo consistently playing at fullback these days?

Yes - for Munster. He is playing some great stuff, has a great attitude and brimming with confidence at the moment.

He is also a gas man and would be a great Lions tourist.
Attacking wise he always looks fantastic, what is his defence like?

Very good defender. Munster has best defence in both PRO12 and Europe this season (Munster have conceeded 3 tries in Europe so far).
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Post by Guest on Tue Jan 17, 2017 6:12 pm

I remember getting into a long discussion at the end of last Summer about the Lions, what we know, what we as fans/critical watchers can speculate upon, and what we simply cannot say yet. Most people were livid about Gatland being named coach, and much of my focus was on what Gatland would bring (and, conversely, what he wouldn't) to the job, and why was probably still the best option available for the role.

Much of the ire seems to have subsided, and instead mutated into ambivalence or active criticism of the Lions as an entity. That's fine, I can see that, but I'm not sure this is the best thread for discussing that, as it often derails people who are discussing the relative merits of who starts at hooker, who is the captain etc.

This is a quote from the previous thread, now locked by the mods:

beshocked wrote:Rugby fan to be honest sometimes I think us fans can be better at selection then the professionals.

I'd say we can all forget ourselves for a moment when we get into heated debates such as these, and- whilst I think most would hopefully hesitate to have the same conviction as beshocked on the matter- we perhaps think in the age of mass sport exposure and professional rugby almost within touching distance as a watching supporter, our opinions on the sport hold greater weight than they probably do. I think there's sometimes a confusion between proximity to information as presented as a product (the club, the media), and that of the raw information itself (i.e. working within the club itself, coaching and playing at the top level).

With that in mind, it's fruitless to select my Lions XV this far out. I will say this: there are a few criteria by which Gatland will choose his squad. It may be less known to non-Welsh fans, who see such stipulations as illogical and infuriating (it's the case at times in Wales, too). This is always, however, mitigated by what I would return to in my discussion last year: more often than not, within the margins of reasonable probability, at the highest level, Gatland has got it right. When it matters most, he has won.

In my humble opinion, therefore, this is the list:


    All the world's a stage, but not all stages are created equal:

In short, it doesn't matter if you're a flat track bully, he wants individuals who excel when the stakes are highest. He rewards and values players and units who have done it (a bit like him) when it matters, and is forgiving of drops in form when back at their club side, for instance. This too can relate to injuries, lack of match practice, even being out of form: there is definitely a cut off point here, and most fans would sever it far sooner than Gatland does.

In reality, this means that there is a sliding scale of importance. He will look at a team like Glasgow, and he will be seriously considering the likes of Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, and the imperious Johnny Gray amongst others. That said, if either/any player fails to replicate their club form in the 6Ns, their form up to this point will mean almost nothing.  

Potential and ability as fans see it have often meant very little to Gatland whilst with Wales, and this will be even more likely the case with the Lions (he took ages to regularly cap Liam Williams and Justin Tipuric, as they would either make mistakes or be less present/effective in their cameo appearances for Wales than they were when ripping up the game for their regions). England's excellent 2016 will likely see a large bulk of their squad on the Tour. However, in terms of individuals, if they fail to maintain standards in what should be a far more competitive 6Ns than last year, then he will consider their RWC form- i.e. the biggest stage of all, and still only last season, let's not forget- and try to weigh up by how much was that individual's good form down to their team environment, rather than them being a component part driving on England's successful 2016. Irish players will undoubtedly be rewarded for their victory against NZ, and I think that- probably moreso than the three English vicotries in Australia last year put together- will be the barometer on which he will judge whether a player is eligible or not, as well as the upcoming 6Ns.

Many posters will bemoan it, but he will also reward historic success and players who have done it on the big stage in the past, and that means Welsh players like Jamie Roberts, George North, Sam Warburton, and Jonathan Davies all stand a decent chance, despite their respective form and fitness problems since the RWC.


    Gatso's Macho Man:

He wants you to be, a macho man. Put basically, don't lose the physical battle. Much is made of crashball/Gatlandball/Warrenball, but a lot of it is due to him coaching a country that simply doesn't produce enough big, tough rugby players in the forwards to mix it with the player depth and strength of England in particular, but also the French and Irish. Add in the Southern Hemisphere, and it's a whole other kettle of fish supplements of Wales not being able to compete with either/both the pace and power of those sides.

Whilst Ireland's victory in Chicago was a great example of rugby can be, the game in Dublin was also a vital reminder of what it has to be: a test of physical strength and mettle. It's also a reminder of how NZ are when threatened (which is what Gatland will be aiming for), something we'd perhaps forgotten as they were playing champagne rugby and winning with relative abandon.

It's naive to think the Lions will have anything close to the scrum dominance they had over Australia 3.5 years ago. The nature of the Lions is against that, but also, NZ's set piece is never weak. That said, Gatland will make sure he is going over there with a scrum in particular that will do its absolute level best to not take a backward step. So much of the scrum is tied into the psychology of rugby, that mix of mental strength and nerve with collective brute force. The haka might give the All Blacks an edge, but every scrum is more important in terms of psychological intimidation and laying down a challenge. As long as the Lions have a scrum that goes, generally speaking, toe to toe with the All Blacks, and looks to perhaps gain an edge wherever it can, Gatland knows that goes a long way in the team psychology which is vital to being able to perform in the pressure cooker (let's be fair, it will probably be an even greater mental test than the team in 2005 faced). Equally, strategically, it means the Lions have a platform. No platform, no ability to release pressure, or play different tactics, or hold onto the ball, and ultimately look to score points. It seems very simple, but it's worth reiterating because I think too much is washed over in favour of us as fans discussing the more attractive parts of the game, but Gatland will not pick a tight five that could be bullied. The scrums are symbolic of everything, and it will be the building block and starting point of selection.

To a lesser extent, the lineout is also vital, but more obvious an area of Gatland's requirement for 'macho men' will be the breakdown. It goes without saying.

The counter to Gatland's macho men is that the All Blacks will also run wider and faster than any player is used to in the NH*. This is true. However, Gatland will primarily look to pick players he knows can do the dirty, tight, strength work at scrum and breakdown and in the carry first and foremost, and look to work them physically into a condition whereby they are being trained to play at an intensity and minutes-in-play time that has the All Blacks in mind. He will be far less likely to select a player like Tom Croft, who can handle the pace but not the power, and look to bulk them up.

*(aside from Test matches, players from the English Premiership will perhaps be generally favoured over Pro12 players, because of the newfound and constant intensity in that league)

We should therefore always have this in mind when thinking of a player like Tipuric, or Mako Vunipola, or Rory Best. When the set piece (considering the breakdown as semi-set piece here) is so vital, do they make the grade?



    A win is a win, but is a loss also a win?:



In short, the odds are stacked against the Lions. The chances of being hammered- i.e. losing heavily- is higher than winning the series, perhaps even of winning a Test match. Add in the prospect of a gruelling pre-Test tour, and as most fans recognise, the Lions may he on a hiding to nothing. This is probably behind so much of the parochial bickering: no-one is really arguing what is best for the Lions, but rather trying to angle their own countries' players in as the best of the lot, even if they lose. I can see why, considering the impact upon the individual countries, usually in a negative manner, that the Lions Tour takes.

However, consider also that Gatland wants the All Blacks job. He will not want to lose the series, but knowing that it's a distinct possibility, he will make sure he loses it in the best way possible if that does occur.

The '15 RWC was his first phase of an audition, and Wales acquitted themselves well: beating England, narrowly losing to Australia and South Africa, the former where they really should have won. The second was Wales's Tour to NZ in the Summer of 2016, which the midweek game aside cannot be considered a coaching failure by any stretch of the imagination. Quite the opposite: by letting Wales open up, and play running rugby that matched NZ for good portions of the matches, he gained plaudits that is a small step in getting away from the 'Warrenball' that is solely associated and expected of his management.

The third phase will be the Lions. Now, first and foremost, the best way to get the All Blacks job is to beat them, and for them to eventually get over the shock and pain of that and welcome their wayward son back into the fold. As that is almost inconceivable, the next best chance is to push them to the wire, do so playing not overly negative but still pragmatic rugby, and to not be too much of a menace in doing so. We've already seen him become much more amiable in the press, and I expect he will keep the mind games until the Tests draw nearer and behind closed doors as much as he can, to try to get the best of both worlds in terms of referee and opposition intimidation, as well as a half decent public image.

Bringing this back to selection, it means he's not going to pick someone who will give up. He doesn't want the kind of scorelines we saw 12 years ago, and he will not be taking players who are out of their depth. He will play running rugby, but only when it suits the Lions, and not get drawn into a basketball game which will mean big scorelines that will almost always see the All Blacks come out handsomely.

As I said, first and foremost this will be about the Lions, and whatever decisions are made will have that in mind. But he won't throw his all behind it, he won't blow a gasket trying to win the second Test in the last twenty miutes by unloading a flair bench, only to go on to concede another 20 points. This is perhaps the element of character, of trust that he demands in players, to not go too far off message, which- along with the above two criteria- will be at the forefront of his mind in terms of selection.

He is picking a Lions team and squad that will not, as he's already said, rock the boat and be individualistic, in part because he's the biggest ego, but also because the collectivism of the Lions will mean a closely run series, which is good twofold: one, it gives the Lions a far greater chance of winning if everyone buys into "Gatlandism", but also, even if (when?) they lose, it's not dreadful.




Those are, to me, points that are perhaps not be considered when we're discussing the Lions, but are immutable facts that Gatland will abide by. As for players already on the plane, there are probably many, but the Test side seems still very much up in the air. Players like Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson seem nailed on to many, yet I wonder how much they are 'passengers' of a very good and dominant England pack in Gatland's mind. It should be enough to make them Tour, but at this stage, it's too far away to say they have the form, and they don't have that top level, consistent experience of performing on the biggest stage. I'd sadly say the same is true for Liam Williams, and certainly for Stuart Hog. For me, Hogg seems like a perfect #23, someone to bring on in the last 10 minutes (or 3 minutes, if you're Gatland), to try to do something out of nothing from anywhere in the 3/4s. To me, he's not a starting 15 for several reasons. As for the difference between Liam and Hogg, to me Hogg is the instinctive player, relying on pace and individualism to beat a man: Shane Williams if you will. Liam is much more of a rugby player, who reads the game far better, and links with other players far better, but doesnt quite have the same burst of speed or jink as Hogg. That they each have their differing weaknesses, and perhaps even latent hot headedness, makes them appear like for like, but for me they're very different players. Hogg perhaps has more direct impact on the scoreline as he tends to be able to make that break and either put someone else over, or himself, whereas Liam Williams tends to work further back in the field, better at turning tight defence into a counter attack and releasing someone else, not just scampering away himself. But he doesn't score enough tries for a winger, or have the pace, and so Hogg may have enough about him to make it into the matchday 23 ahead of him, even if- to me, at least- Liam Williams exhibits a better understanding of link play and footballing ability than Hogg (I haven't been exhaustive here, I know Liam is incredible under the high ball, Hogg has a huge kick etc., just trying to be brief but comprehensive on where I think the two stand, as it's been a discussion that has cropped up time and time again). At this stage, I think Halfpenny trumps them both as someone who has the reliability and attitude Gatland wants, as well as the ability to impact the scoreline in the manner he wants. It means he requires consistency from the boot in the 6Ns, as well as staying fit and being his useful brave self in defence, and that's about it, to make the Tour.

As I said, the tight five- the front row- will be the building block, so perhaps we're looking at it back to front. That's where I am sure Gatland will start. Whoever is going to anchor that scrum at 3 is vital. Dan Cole has the experience, and perhaps is the front runner, as he's proven he won't get found out by the All Blacks. Mako Vunipola has been found out by enough teams on enough occasions for it to be a worry. I'm not really sure who the consummate loosehead is though. Hartley is the perfect player for hooker, but there are doubts around him. If Best maintains his form right through the midweek games, he could start, because he's the perfect player in the loose for the kind of game that will be required. The issues, though, are stark, and the history a messy one, with both hookers and Gatland. The opportunity is there for someone to possibly grab the position by the scruff of the neck and force their way into the reckoning.

AWJ will probably be in the Test 23, and stands a good chance at being captain. I woulnd't rule Warburton out, although I though he would have done more by now when I was looking ahead at the end of last Summer. He's probably played himself out of contention, but he could do an AWJ himself and end up captaining/getting in the Test side at the latter end due to injuries. In any case, if he Tours, he's a key player in the leadership team, even if he doesn't start at 7 against the All Blacks.

The locks are an embarrassment of riches. Let's hope it is at least as hard by the end of the 6Ns, and no one plays themselves out of the reckoning with poor form.

Faletau tours if fit as he has never played badly for Wales, perhaps only two occasions where he's not been one of the best players in the 15. I think he has the all round game to displace Vunipola if Gatland feels there's enough grunt in the rest of the team (Roberts? Stander? O'Brien?), but if they're light, Vunipola would be priceless. The flankers are a bit like the locks, so many differing and contingent combinations available.

Rhys Webb, Connor Murray, and Ben Youngs tour if all are fit. It's then horses for courses.

Farrell will likely start in the 15, at the very least the 23. With so many options at centre, it seems nonsensical that he'd start at 12, yet I could see that happening with Sexton at 10. I still think if Jamie Roberts finds form, he is key to Gatland's intentions, and it's then 50:50 between Sexton and Farrell at 10. With Roberts at 12, and then solid but fast players in the 3/4s, there are tries to be had from that platform at 10 and 12. As of now, however, Roberts is miles away, and so I'll only say Farrell will be in the 23 at least.

North will tour if fit, but that is increasingly looking like a ticking time bomb, and I'd rather he didn't. I won't touch on the obvious wingers, but as I mentioned, English club players like Christian Wade stand a good chance, even if they're not playing for England, of making the squad. I have half a mind to say Chris Ashton could go, as I believe he'd suit Gatland's tactics to a tee, and has undoubted pace and try scoring ability, and has performed against the All Blacks in NZ. He's one of those where it's a case of he either makes or breaks the tour as a person and perhaps a player, and maybe too much of a risk, but really, there aren't too many quality and able options in my mind, just lots of seemingly adequate players.

Quite simply, I don't have a particularly strong conviction of the above mentioned making the #23 anyway, it's all so competitive and reliant on the 6Ns.

Anyway, here ends the first Chapter.

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Post by Sin é on Tue Jan 17, 2017 6:41 pm

miaow - some post that. I'm not going to comment on all of it, but I think its worth saying what Paul O'Connell said about Gatland in his recent book which would lead one to suspect that he had his team picked before the tour so it didn't matter what form you were in, he was sticking with those (i.e., Conor Murray was the form scrum half who actually had a working relationship with Sexton but he could hardly get a look in despite Phillips being half injured/poor).

POC said in his book that before the Waratahs game (which was the last game before the 1st Test) Gatland told him that AW Jones was starting, and it was between POC & Parling for the second spot. Now, as far as I can recall, POC was at the top of his game and would have had a fair bit of credit in the bank for his career to that date).

He also said that he ended up as captain of the game in Hong Kong because Gatland was worried about the strength of Barbarians and the effects of the heat on Lions and he didn't want Warburton to look bad if they lost. Richie Gray was POC's partner, not AWJ.
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Post by Cyril on Tue Jan 17, 2017 6:52 pm

I've wondered if that story is true about the Barbarians game. The Lions absolutely hammered them. Perhaps a bit of artistic license by O'Connell trying to sell a few more books or he might just be a little bitter?

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Post by Cyril on Tue Jan 17, 2017 6:57 pm

Skimmed miaow's post.

Short version: Gatland will pick on form (except when he doesn't) and they need a good scrum  The Lions will try and lose in the best way possible or it's Waratahs 3rd XV for Gats post-Wales.

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Post by Sin é on Tue Jan 17, 2017 6:57 pm

Cyril wrote:I've wondered if that story is true about the Barbarians game. The Lions absolutely hammered them. Perhaps a bit of artistic license by O'Connell trying to sell a few more books or he might just be a little bitter?

Why would that sell more books? People are either going to buy it or not buy it.

(For the record, book sales up to now are about 1.5m. I'm sure POC is delighted that you bought a book, even if it was to try and slag him off).

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Post by Cyril on Tue Jan 17, 2017 7:05 pm

Sin é wrote:
Cyril wrote:I've wondered if that story is true about the Barbarians game. The Lions absolutely hammered them. Perhaps a bit of artistic license by O'Connell trying to sell a few more books or he might just be a little bitter?

Why would that sell more books? People are either going to buy it or not buy it.

(For the record, book sales up to now are about 1.5m. I'm sure POC is delighted that you bought a book, even if it was to try and slag him off).

Best £1.00 I ever spent in a charity shop. I'ms sure he'll be delighted it went to a good cause.

I do think that sporting autobiographies sell better when there's a bit scandal which is why they serialise the juicy bits in the press.

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Post by Guest on Tue Jan 17, 2017 7:06 pm

Bang on Cyril.

Sin, I don't want to disparage the word of PoC as absolutely not being gospel, but, well, it could be just that.

Gatland is infuriating and there is no small amount of egotism and control that you don't get with over coaches, but that's unfortunately another facet to his success as well, and that's what the Lions have chosen, and we've been given.

The short version is that the fans will probably be unhappy either way. If we managed to win, it would be through grinding it out, dragging NZ successfully into a tempo and game they don't want to play, and goalkicking our way to victory. If we lose, there will be the failure of that generally unattractive gameplan allied to what will be necessarily controversial and some quite evident favouritism going on in his selection, which ignores form and fitness in favour of the best peg for a Gatland shaped hole (easy...). He'll also likely stick when fans want him to twist, an inactivity that always frustrates fans and is held up as a criticism if the team loses, which, clearly, is the most likely scenario.

Add in the likelihood of lots of good players being left at home, and the medium term effects on the Home Nations once those players return, and the fans are really going to be upset unless the Lions someone squeeze over the line.

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Post by Sin é on Tue Jan 17, 2017 7:11 pm

miaow wrote:Bang on Cyril.

Sin, I don't want to disparage the word of PoC as absolutely not being gospel, but, well, it could be just that.

Nope. It wasn't that. Its very low key. Cyril actually thought it was boring.

For the record, the his book is called 'The Battle' which refers to his battle with himself to be as good as he could be. He would do anything to try and get an edge to his fitness for example. He only mentions other people in passing really.


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Post by Cyril on Tue Jan 17, 2017 7:18 pm

I liked the bits about him brushing his gums.

Other than that it reads a bit like a shopping list with far too much about Munster, Ireland and O'Connell himself.

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Post by Sin é on Tue Jan 17, 2017 7:21 pm

Cyril wrote:I liked the bits about him brushing his gums.

Other than that it reads a bit like a shopping list with far too much about Munster, Ireland and O'Connell himself.

Weird - O'Connell had too much about himself in his biography.Very Happy

Never change Cyril.
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Post by Cyril on Tue Jan 17, 2017 7:24 pm

Sin é wrote:
Cyril wrote:I liked the bits about him brushing his gums.

Other than that it reads a bit like a shopping list with far too much about Munster, Ireland and O'Connell himself.

Weird - O'Connell had too much about himself in his biography.Very Happy

Never change Cyril.
Very Happy

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Post by R!skysports on Tue Jan 17, 2017 11:41 pm

miaow wrote:Bang on Cyril.

Sin, I don't want to disparage the word of PoC as absolutely not being gospel, but, well, it could be just that.

Gatland is infuriating and there is no small amount of egotism and control that you don't get with over coaches, but that's unfortunately another facet to his success as well, and that's what the Lions have chosen, and we've been given.

The short version is that the fans will probably be unhappy either way. If we managed to win, it would be through grinding it out, dragging NZ successfully into a tempo and game they don't want to play, and goalkicking our way to victory. If we lose, there will be the failure of that generally unattractive gameplan allied to what will be necessarily controversial and some quite evident favouritism going on in his selection, which ignores form and fitness in favour of the best peg for a Gatland shaped hole (easy...). He'll also likely stick when fans want him to twist, an inactivity that always frustrates fans and is held up as a criticism if the team loses, which, clearly, is the most likely scenario.

Add in the likelihood of lots of good players being left at home, and the medium term effects on the Home Nations once those players return, and the fans are really going to be upset unless the Lions someone squeeze over the line.

I think the big difference is if we beat NZ everyone will be happy as not expected

Against Australia we needed to win 3 nil otherwise a poor performance due to how bad they were at the time

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Post by Guest on Wed Jan 18, 2017 5:37 am

Were Australia really that bad in the Lions series? The 'Worst Aus team ever' seems to get bandied about a lot by the Lions critics.   Just looking at their fixtures in the lead up to the Lions tour June 2013:

In the Rugby Championship 2012 they came 2nd out of 4.
In the AIs Nov 2012 they beat Wales (pretty impressive Wink ), England, Italy and drew with New Zealand (Bledisloe Cup match, ending NZ's 16 game winning streak).  They did lose to France though (who themselves beat Aus, Argentina and Samoa that series so perhaps not a fluke France win).
The next time they played was the Lions tour.

It's a genuine question.  Were there loads of injuries or something?  What made them so bad (in comparison to a good Aus side)?  My memory fails me.

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Post by BigTrevsbigmac on Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:23 am

In 2012 Wales were ranked 9 th best in the world rankings & yet 'somehow' dominated the Lions squad. Wink Wink

Statistics heh?

Any genuine rugby fan would have known that that Oz side were nothing special compared to their normal quality.

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Post by Scottrf on Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:44 am

To be fair, this NZ side has had a lot of senior players leave.

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Post by Guest on Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:57 am

Scottrf wrote:To be fair, this NZ side has had a lot of senior players leave.

Hence why Ireland managed to beat them Smile Run

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Post by Guest on Wed Jan 18, 2017 8:00 am

BigTrevsbigmac wrote:In 2012 Wales were ranked 9 th best in the world rankings & yet 'somehow' dominated the Lions squad. Wink  Wink

Statistics heh?

Any genuine rugby fan would have known that that Oz side were nothing special compared to their normal quality.

But in March 2013, which was much closer to the Lions tour (and therefore selection), we were 4th in the world rankings. Yes, I love stats.

And are you saying that I'm not a genuine rugby fan because I'm questioning whether that Oz side were any good?

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Post by Scottrf on Wed Jan 18, 2017 8:12 am

Griff wrote:
Scottrf wrote:To be fair, this NZ side has had a lot of senior players leave.

Hence why Ireland managed to beat them Smile Run
And why Wales managed to keep it within a couple of scores (just).

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Post by Guest on Wed Jan 18, 2017 8:24 am

Scottrf wrote:
Griff wrote:
Scottrf wrote:To be fair, this NZ side has had a lot of senior players leave.

Hence why Ireland managed to beat them Smile Run
And why Wales managed to keep it within a couple of scores (just).

We clung on for dear life in two tests, and were smashed in the 3rd!

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Post by cascough on Wed Jan 18, 2017 8:33 am

It's worth pointing out as well that NZ looked severely disjointed in the first test, and switched off in the second test. This was the first time that bunch had players had come together (it showed) and it won't be a luxury afforded to the Lions. However, as mentioned earlier, if you put NZ under pressure, they are far from the champagne rugby free flowing side the Rugby Championship showed. I think that if Gatland sticks to his guns and plays a power game we will beat them.

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Post by TJ on Wed Jan 18, 2017 8:39 am

I would take on the lions tour as 10 Sexton and Biggar and no one else. Farrell is to conservative, Russell too flaky. Russell at his best like in the Racing games can do things the others can only dream of but at his worst ( like the game after) he makes too many mistakes and throws too many wild passes - but until he can show consistency and game management then he is not a lions player. He needs teammates around him who can react instinctively to what he does - ie players who have played alongside him for a while. He would not have this luxury as a lion

The lions will need a steady more conventional 10. Farrell would be better than Russell in this regard but Biggar and Sexton better again.

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Post by cascough on Wed Jan 18, 2017 8:48 am

I don't think you've seen a lot of Farrell in the last 18 months if you think he is more conservative than Biggar. Either that or you just love a cliche.

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Post by beshocked on Wed Jan 18, 2017 8:54 am

miaow wrote:I remember getting into a long discussion at the end of last Summer about the Lions, what we know, what we as fans/critical watchers can speculate upon, and what we simply cannot say yet. Most people were livid about Gatland being named coach, and much of my focus was on what Gatland would bring (and, conversely, what he wouldn't) to the job, and why was probably still the best option available for the role.

Much of the ire seems to have subsided, and instead mutated into ambivalence or active criticism of the Lions as an entity. That's fine, I can see that, but I'm not sure this is the best thread for discussing that, as it often derails people who are discussing the relative merits of who starts at hooker, who is the captain etc.

This is a quote from the previous thread, now locked by the mods:

beshocked wrote:Rugby fan to be honest sometimes I think us fans can be better at selection then the professionals.

I'd say we can all forget ourselves for a moment when we get into heated debates such as these, and- whilst I think most would hopefully hesitate to have the same conviction as beshocked on the matter- we perhaps think in the age of mass sport exposure and professional rugby almost within touching distance as a watching supporter, our opinions on the sport hold greater weight than they probably do. I think there's sometimes a confusion between proximity to information as presented as a product (the club, the media), and that of the raw information itself (i.e. working within the club itself, coaching and playing at the top level).

With that in mind, it's fruitless to select my Lions XV this far out. I will say this: there are a few criteria by which Gatland will choose his squad. It may be less known to non-Welsh fans, who see such stipulations as illogical and infuriating (it's the case at times in Wales, too). This is always, however, mitigated by what I would return to in my discussion last year: more often than not, within the margins of reasonable probability, at the highest level, Gatland has got it right. When it matters most, he has won.

In my humble opinion, therefore, this is the list:


    All the world's a stage, but not all stages are created equal:

In short, it doesn't matter if you're a flat track bully, he wants individuals who excel when the stakes are highest. He rewards and values players and units who have done it (a bit like him) when it matters, and is forgiving of drops in form when back at their club side, for instance. This too can relate to injuries, lack of match practice, even being out of form: there is definitely a cut off point here, and most fans would sever it far sooner than Gatland does.

In reality, this means that there is a sliding scale of importance. He will look at a team like Glasgow, and he will be seriously considering the likes of Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, and the imperious Johnny Gray amongst others. That said, if either/any player fails to replicate their club form in the 6Ns, their form up to this point will mean almost nothing.  

Potential and ability as fans see it have often meant very little to Gatland whilst with Wales, and this will be even more likely the case with the Lions (he took ages to regularly cap Liam Williams and Justin Tipuric, as they would either make mistakes or be less present/effective in their cameo appearances for Wales than they were when ripping up the game for their regions). England's excellent 2016 will likely see a large bulk of their squad on the Tour. However, in terms of individuals, if they fail to maintain standards in what should be a far more competitive 6Ns than last year, then he will consider their RWC form- i.e. the biggest stage of all, and still only last season, let's not forget- and try to weigh up by how much was that individual's good form down to their team environment, rather than them being a component part driving on England's successful 2016. Irish players will undoubtedly be rewarded for their victory against NZ, and I think that- probably moreso than the three English vicotries in Australia last year put together- will be the barometer on which he will judge whether a player is eligible or not, as well as the upcoming 6Ns.

Many posters will bemoan it, but he will also reward historic success and players who have done it on the big stage in the past, and that means Welsh players like Jamie Roberts, George North, Sam Warburton, and Jonathan Davies all stand a decent chance, despite their respective form and fitness problems since the RWC.


    Gatso's Macho Man:

He wants you to be, a macho man. Put basically, don't lose the physical battle. Much is made of crashball/Gatlandball/Warrenball, but a lot of it is due to him coaching a country that simply doesn't produce enough big, tough rugby players in the forwards to mix it with the player depth and strength of England in particular, but also the French and Irish. Add in the Southern Hemisphere, and it's a whole other kettle of fish supplements of Wales not being able to compete with either/both the pace and power of those sides.

Whilst Ireland's victory in Chicago was a great example of rugby can be, the game in Dublin was also a vital reminder of what it has to be: a test of physical strength and mettle. It's also a reminder of how NZ are when threatened (which is what Gatland will be aiming for), something we'd perhaps forgotten as they were playing champagne rugby and winning with relative abandon.

It's naive to think the Lions will have anything close to the scrum dominance they had over Australia 3.5 years ago. The nature of the Lions is against that, but also, NZ's set piece is never weak. That said, Gatland will make sure he is going over there with a scrum in particular that will do its absolute level best to not take a backward step. So much of the scrum is tied into the psychology of rugby, that mix of mental strength and nerve with collective brute force. The haka might give the All Blacks an edge, but every scrum is more important in terms of psychological intimidation and laying down a challenge. As long as the Lions have a scrum that goes, generally speaking, toe to toe with the All Blacks, and looks to perhaps gain an edge wherever it can, Gatland knows that goes a long way in the team psychology which is vital to being able to perform in the pressure cooker (let's be fair, it will probably be an even greater mental test than the team in 2005 faced). Equally, strategically, it means the Lions have a platform. No platform, no ability to release pressure, or play different tactics, or hold onto the ball, and ultimately look to score points. It seems very simple, but it's worth reiterating because I think too much is washed over in favour of us as fans discussing the more attractive parts of the game, but Gatland will not pick a tight five that could be bullied. The scrums are symbolic of everything, and it will be the building block and starting point of selection.

To a lesser extent, the lineout is also vital, but more obvious an area of Gatland's requirement for 'macho men' will be the breakdown. It goes without saying.

The counter to Gatland's macho men is that the All Blacks will also run wider and faster than any player is used to in the NH*. This is true. However, Gatland will primarily look to pick players he knows can do the dirty, tight, strength work at scrum and breakdown and in the carry first and foremost, and look to work them physically into a condition whereby they are being trained to play at an intensity and minutes-in-play time that has the All Blacks in mind. He will be far less likely to select a player like Tom Croft, who can handle the pace but not the power, and look to bulk them up.

*(aside from Test matches, players from the English Premiership will perhaps be generally favoured over Pro12 players, because of the newfound and constant intensity in that league)

We should therefore always have this in mind when thinking of a player like Tipuric, or Mako Vunipola, or Rory Best. When the set piece (considering the breakdown as semi-set piece here) is so vital, do they make the grade?



    A win is a win, but is a loss also a win?:



In short, the odds are stacked against the Lions. The chances of being hammered- i.e. losing heavily- is higher than winning the series, perhaps even of winning a Test match. Add in the prospect of a gruelling pre-Test tour, and as most fans recognise, the Lions may he on a hiding to nothing. This is probably behind so much of the parochial bickering: no-one is really arguing what is best for the Lions, but rather trying to angle their own countries' players in as the best of the lot, even if they lose. I can see why, considering the impact upon the individual countries, usually in a negative manner, that the Lions Tour takes.

However, consider also that Gatland wants the All Blacks job. He will not want to lose the series, but knowing that it's a distinct possibility, he will make sure he loses it in the best way possible if that does occur.

The '15 RWC was his first phase of an audition, and Wales acquitted themselves well: beating England, narrowly losing to Australia and South Africa, the former where they really should have won. The second was Wales's Tour to NZ in the Summer of 2016, which the midweek game aside cannot be considered a coaching failure by any stretch of the imagination. Quite the opposite: by letting Wales open up, and play running rugby that matched NZ for good portions of the matches, he gained plaudits that is a small step in getting away from the 'Warrenball' that is solely associated and expected of his management.

The third phase will be the Lions. Now, first and foremost, the best way to get the All Blacks job is to beat them, and for them to eventually get over the shock and pain of that and welcome their wayward son back into the fold. As that is almost inconceivable, the next best chance is to push them to the wire, do so playing not overly negative but still pragmatic rugby, and to not be too much of a menace in doing so. We've already seen him become much more amiable in the press, and I expect he will keep the mind games until the Tests draw nearer and behind closed doors as much as he can, to try to get the best of both worlds in terms of referee and opposition intimidation, as well as a half decent public image.

Bringing this back to selection, it means he's not going to pick someone who will give up. He doesn't want the kind of scorelines we saw 12 years ago, and he will not be taking players who are out of their depth. He will play running rugby, but only when it suits the Lions, and not get drawn into a basketball game which will mean big scorelines that will almost always see the All Blacks come out handsomely.

As I said, first and foremost this will be about the Lions, and whatever decisions are made will have that in mind. But he won't throw his all behind it, he won't blow a gasket trying to win the second Test in the last twenty miutes by unloading a flair bench, only to go on to concede another 20 points. This is perhaps the element of character, of trust that he demands in players, to not go too far off message, which- along with the above two criteria- will be at the forefront of his mind in terms of selection.

He is picking a Lions team and squad that will not, as he's already said, rock the boat and be individualistic, in part because he's the biggest ego, but also because the collectivism of the Lions will mean a closely run series, which is good twofold: one, it gives the Lions a far greater chance of winning if everyone buys into "Gatlandism", but also, even if (when?) they lose, it's not dreadful.




Those are, to me, points that are perhaps not be considered when we're discussing the Lions, but are immutable facts that Gatland will abide by. As for players already on the plane, there are probably many, but the Test side seems still very much up in the air. Players like Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson seem nailed on to many, yet I wonder how much they are 'passengers' of a very good and dominant England pack in Gatland's mind. It should be enough to make them Tour, but at this stage, it's too far away to say they have the form, and they don't have that top level, consistent experience of performing on the biggest stage. I'd sadly say the same is true for Liam Williams, and certainly for Stuart Hog. For me, Hogg seems like a perfect #23, someone to bring on in the last 10 minutes (or 3 minutes, if you're Gatland), to try to do something out of nothing from anywhere in the 3/4s. To me, he's not a starting 15 for several reasons. As for the difference between Liam and Hogg, to me Hogg is the instinctive player, relying on pace and individualism to beat a man: Shane Williams if you will. Liam is much more of a rugby player, who reads the game far better, and links with other players far better, but doesnt quite have the same burst of speed or jink as Hogg. That they each have their differing weaknesses, and perhaps even latent hot headedness, makes them appear like for like, but for me they're very different players. Hogg perhaps has more direct impact on the scoreline as he tends to be able to make that break and either put someone else over, or himself, whereas Liam Williams tends to work further back in the field, better at turning tight defence into a counter attack and releasing someone else, not just scampering away himself. But he doesn't score enough tries for a winger, or have the pace, and so Hogg may have enough about him to make it into the matchday 23 ahead of him, even if- to me, at least- Liam Williams exhibits a better understanding of link play and footballing ability than Hogg (I haven't been exhaustive here, I know Liam is incredible under the high ball, Hogg has a huge kick etc., just trying to be brief but comprehensive on where I think the two stand, as it's been a discussion that has cropped up time and time again). At this stage, I think Halfpenny trumps them both as someone who has the reliability and attitude Gatland wants, as well as the ability to impact the scoreline in the manner he wants. It means he requires consistency from the boot in the 6Ns, as well as staying fit and being his useful brave self in defence, and that's about it, to make the Tour.

As I said, the tight five- the front row- will be the building block, so perhaps we're looking at it back to front. That's where I am sure Gatland will start. Whoever is going to anchor that scrum at 3 is vital. Dan Cole has the experience, and perhaps is the front runner, as he's proven he won't get found out by the All Blacks. Mako Vunipola has been found out by enough teams on enough occasions for it to be a worry. I'm not really sure who the consummate loosehead is though. Hartley is the perfect player for hooker, but there are doubts around him. If Best maintains his form right through the midweek games, he could start, because he's the perfect player in the loose for the kind of game that will be required. The issues, though, are stark, and the history a messy one, with both hookers and Gatland. The opportunity is there for someone to possibly grab the position by the scruff of the neck and force their way into the reckoning.

AWJ will probably be in the Test 23, and stands a good chance at being captain. I woulnd't rule Warburton out, although I though he would have done more by now when I was looking ahead at the end of last Summer. He's probably played himself out of contention, but he could do an AWJ himself and end up captaining/getting in the Test side at the latter end due to injuries. In any case, if he Tours, he's a key player in the leadership team, even if he doesn't start at 7 against the All Blacks.

The locks are an embarrassment of riches. Let's hope it is at least as hard by the end of the 6Ns, and no one plays themselves out of the reckoning with poor form.

Faletau tours if fit as he has never played badly for Wales, perhaps only two occasions where he's not been one of the best players in the 15. I think he has the all round game to displace Vunipola if Gatland feels there's enough grunt in the rest of the team (Roberts? Stander? O'Brien?), but if they're light, Vunipola would be priceless. The flankers are a bit like the locks, so many differing and contingent combinations available.

Rhys Webb, Connor Murray, and Ben Youngs tour if all are fit. It's then horses for courses.

Farrell will likely start in the 15, at the very least the 23. With so many options at centre, it seems nonsensical that he'd start at 12, yet I could see that happening with Sexton at 10. I still think if Jamie Roberts finds form, he is key to Gatland's intentions, and it's then 50:50 between Sexton and Farrell at 10. With Roberts at 12, and then solid but fast players in the 3/4s, there are tries to be had from that platform at 10 and 12. As of now, however, Roberts is miles away, and so I'll only say Farrell will be in the 23 at least.

North will tour if fit, but that is increasingly looking like a ticking time bomb, and I'd rather he didn't. I won't touch on the obvious wingers, but as I mentioned, English club players like Christian Wade stand a good chance, even if they're not playing for England, of making the squad. I have half a mind to say Chris Ashton could go, as I believe he'd suit Gatland's tactics to a tee, and has undoubted pace and try scoring ability, and has performed against the All Blacks in NZ. He's one of those where it's a case of he either makes or breaks the tour as a person and perhaps a player, and maybe too much of a risk, but really, there aren't too many quality and able options in my mind, just lots of seemingly adequate players.

Quite simply, I don't have a particularly strong conviction of the above mentioned making the #23 anyway, it's all so competitive and reliant on the 6Ns.

Anyway, here ends the first Chapter.

Far too much for me to answer.

I wasn’t talking about every selection, I am saying that sometimes coaches have blind faith in players they shouldn’t like Cuthbert with Wales or Lancaster throwing Burgess into the deep end and hanging him out to dry. Or at club level Mccall picking a crocked Farrell instead of MOTM of the previous week, Hodgson.
You can have all the stats and analysis in front of you but doesn’t necessarily stop you from making a massive balls up.

You say when it matters most Gatland has won. Sorry but that’s just rubbish. Gatland’s win % sits around 47% and Wales have lost numerous big games.

You talk about historic success of certain Welsh players, their record vs SH sides is laughably poor and have never beaten NZ. If Wales had a history of defeating NZ this might carry weight but they don’t.

You say Wales acquitted themselves well in the RWC 2015. I disagree. If you discount the “as long as we beat England” mentality, Wales failed yet again vs SH opposition despite having opportunities to win. The win vs England was backs against the wall stuff but the England side is a different beast now than then.
I would say the RWC 2015 was a failure for the NH as a whole.

A loss is not a win, New Zealand know that too.

Now I am sorry this seems like I am bashing Wales. Wales under Gatland have been a very good side vs NH opposition. In the 2011 and 2015, most of Wales’ biggest wins were against NH sides. Only lost to France because of that red card.

The win vs England in the 2015 RWC was plucky, backs to the wall stuff but Wales stayed stagnant whilst England have moved on.

Unfortunately NZ are not a NH side, they are the best side in the world. This means the Lions need to move away from Gatland tactics he uses vs NH sides.
Being able to beat an England side coached by the mentally fragile Lancaster isn’t the same as defeating the best side in the world.

Gatland is not the man to beat the Lions. When a staunch Gatland fan is saying Gatland is playing to pluckily lose, you know there’s next to no chance.


If the Lions had any desire to beat NZ, they needed Schmidt or Jones in charge.

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Post by TJ on Wed Jan 18, 2017 8:55 am

Biggar is better at the conservative game tho - and his kicking from hand is sublime. As I keep on saying - what Farrell does is very good indeed but what he dosen't do compared to the other contenders is what rules him out for me.

One poster recommeded I watched the Sarries last game to see how good he is. I did and couldn't see it. Not one runaround, chip, dummy, piece of trickery to create space, two kicks off the tee missed and poor kicking from hand. I recommend to anyone who wants to see how a mercurial attacking 10 can play to watch the two Racing / Glasgow games ( just don't watch the pro 12 game the week after ;-) ) Russell had the racing defense completely mesmerised with his trickery.

I still would not play russell for the lions tho for the reasons above

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Post by cascough on Wed Jan 18, 2017 9:04 am

Hang on, so Biggar is not less conservative than Farrell, he's just better? You're making a different point now.

I presume you can't be talking about the weekends game re Farrell? If you are then your post makes a lot of sense, you clearly aren't watching!

Re Russell. I'm not aboard the hype train just yet. It'll take more than a couple of standout games (especially given the state of racing this year). I prefer people playing for the Lions to have consistently excelled at the highest level, rather than looked good in a couple of games here and there.

Also, from the clips i've seen from the Racing game, all I saw was Russell undoing a lot of his good work by making poor decisions or poor execution. Hype.

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