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Post by Rinsure on Wed Dec 04, 2019 4:54 am

First topic message reminder :

So, the dates are announced for the Lions schedule in 18 months:

Sat July 3rd 2021: Stormers v Lions, Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Wed July 7th: South Africa Invitational v Lions, NMB Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Sat July 10th: Sharks v Lions, Jonsson Kings Park, Durban
Wed July 14th: South Africa 'A' v Lions, Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Sat July 17th: Bulls v Lions, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Sat July 24th: T1 Springboks v Lions, FNB National Stadium, Johannesburg
Sat July 31st: T2 Springboks v Lions, Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Sat Aug 7th: T3: Springboks v Lions, Emirates Airline Park (Ellis Park), Johannesburg

So, eight matches, three tests - two of which are at altitude. Tough schedule.

Lions tour 2021 - Page 2 Ek7lpk10

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Post by mikey_dragon on Thu Apr 02, 2020 2:29 pm

Old Man wrote:
mikey_dragon wrote:They've not done too well though have they, and Kruger was only brought back temporarily. Jenkins and Du Plessis are both Bulls too.

Apologies,
i mean Springbok squad is settled, the Bulls have been decimated with players leaving, they are struggling heavily this year

Losing three international locks wouldn't be easy to handle for any team. The Bulls will be playing against the (B&I) Lions no?

How many teams do the Free State/Bloemfontein have, Cheetahs and... ?

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Post by mikey_dragon on Thu Apr 02, 2020 2:33 pm

tigertattie wrote:Bookies favourite for captain for the tour is Owen Shoulder Boy Farrell.

Has the slow creep of time finally caught up with AWJ?

I think he could tour, but by then he would struggle to make the test team. The question is do Wales or AWJ want him there, where he is at higher risk of injury and less likely than before to gain full test honours? He would certainly be a target for big nasty SA forwards. He's been a test Lion on the last three tours so why not give this a miss. No sign of a new Wales captain yet so we need him.

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Post by Old Man on Thu Apr 02, 2020 3:07 pm

mikey_dragon wrote:
Old Man wrote:
mikey_dragon wrote:They've not done too well though have they, and Kruger was only brought back temporarily. Jenkins and Du Plessis are both Bulls too.

Apologies,
i mean Springbok squad is settled, the Bulls have been decimated with players leaving, they are struggling heavily this year

Losing three international locks wouldn't be easy to handle for any team. The Bulls will be playing against the (B&I) Lions no?

How many teams do the Free State/Bloemfontein have, Cheetahs and... ?

Just the Cheetahs, they are just broken down into Currie Cup squad and Pro 14 squad

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Post by mikey_dragon on Thu Apr 02, 2020 4:54 pm

Bloemfontein is home to Grey College and Grey boys... Criminal that they wouldn’t have a Super Rugby team.

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Post by Old Man on Fri Apr 03, 2020 12:09 am

mikey_dragon wrote:Bloemfontein is home to Grey College and Grey boys... Criminal that they wouldn’t have a Super Rugby team.

Top class talent, sadly Bloemfontein is a small city, not big commerce, thus no money to retain players.

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Post by Sharkey06 on Fri Apr 03, 2020 4:31 pm

I can't see many England players wanting to share a dressing room with AWJ after he put the hatchet into Marler.  AWJ was very much the innocent party, but 'dobbing' Marler in and whining on about it came across as sour grapes and poor sportsmanship.

We could well see a non International captain takings the reins as was done with Martin Johnson.  I could see someone like Tom Curry getting the gig - he reminds me of Sam Warburton who Gatland put a lot of trust in.  I am not a fan of Farrell as captain although he gets a lot of good feedback from England players.  He just comes across as too brattish and too English to be accepted by Irish, Welsh and Scottish players.

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Post by TJ on Sat Apr 04, 2020 12:50 am

Anyone who picks Farrell as 10 is not watching rugby! ( ok hyperbole) but he is not even the best 10 in England.

Best NH ten? Finn by a mile. but he needs a team who understand him and he is not a Gatland type of player.

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Post by mikey_dragon on Sat Apr 04, 2020 4:23 am

Sharkey06 wrote:I can't see many England players wanting to share a dressing room with AWJ after he put the hatchet into Marler.  AWJ was very much the innocent party, but 'dobbing' Marler in and whining on about it came across as sour grapes and poor sportsmanship.

We could well see a non International captain takings the reins as was done with Martin Johnson.  I could see someone like Tom Curry getting the gig - he reminds me of Sam Warburton who Gatland put a lot of trust in.  I am not a fan of Farrell as captain although he gets a lot of good feedback from England players.  He just comes across as too brattish and too English to be accepted by Irish, Welsh and Scottish players.

Oh jeez is this for real. He hardly whined about it. He was asked and probed over it during the post match interview to which he answered honestly. I don’t recall seeing much after that. Why don’t you direct your ire at Marler being an idiot

 Doh

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Post by Old Man on Sat Apr 04, 2020 4:31 am

mikey_dragon wrote:
Sharkey06 wrote:I can't see many England players wanting to share a dressing room with AWJ after he put the hatchet into Marler.  AWJ was very much the innocent party, but 'dobbing' Marler in and whining on about it came across as sour grapes and poor sportsmanship.

We could well see a non International captain takings the reins as was done with Martin Johnson.  I could see someone like Tom Curry getting the gig - he reminds me of Sam Warburton who Gatland put a lot of trust in.  I am not a fan of Farrell as captain although he gets a lot of good feedback from England players.  He just comes across as too brattish and too English to be accepted by Irish, Welsh and Scottish players.

Oh jeez is this for real. He hardly whined about it. He was asked and probed over it during the post match interview to which he answered honestly. I don’t recall seeing much after that. Why don’t you direct your ire at Marler being an idiot

 Doh
OK

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Post by formerly known as Sam on Sat Apr 04, 2020 5:10 am

TJ wrote:Anyone who picks Farrell as 10 is not watching rugby!  ( ok hyperbole) but  he is not even the best 10 in England.

Best NH ten?  Finn by a mile.  but he needs a team who understand him and he is not a Gatland type of player.

Neither Russell nor Ford will tour because Gatland likes a 10 with some size to them. It'll be Farrell, Anscombe and then one of Sexton or Biggar depending on how Sexton goes when rugby restarts.

Farrell has not been playing well recently, arguably the best 10 at Sarries this season has been young Vunipola.

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Post by formerly known as Sam on Sat Apr 04, 2020 5:17 am

123456789. wrote:Tadhg Furlong and Tuilagi have never come across as captains.

Manu is definitely not captain material. Don't think Ben Youngs would fit either, his last England game showed a dramatic return to form. A continuation of that and he could be back in with a chance of selection.

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Post by mikey_dragon on Sat Apr 04, 2020 12:43 pm

I don’t think Sexton will go this year so one of the 10’s should be Finn. Not sure which Welsh fly-half it’ll be, probably just Biggar unless one of the others step up by then. Anscombe and Patchell are always usually injured, it could be Jarrod Evans instead if he has more rugby by then.

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Post by TJ on Sat Apr 04, 2020 2:22 pm

I think we all know Finn will not go. He is just not Gatlands sort of player.

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Post by mikey_dragon on Sat Apr 04, 2020 3:00 pm

Not really sure what that means? Finn is one of the best in Europe right now and if that form continues he’s probably a sure thing. Gatland isn’t a fool, he’ll pick a good bunch of players and get results.

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Post by RDW on Sat Apr 04, 2020 3:29 pm

Gatland needs a controlling 10 who will stick to a game plan - that's not Finn!

I think the condensed tour makes Finn's chances even more remote - if there were more games there would be time for him and the coaches to adapt. With the new schedule the test team will have 3 games at most together.

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Post by mikey_dragon on Sat Apr 04, 2020 3:38 pm

I don’t think Finn would be a pro if he was that bad at controlling a game? There’s always the option of putting Farrell inside him, and/or rotating him with someone like Biggar. Farrell is probably a cert and if that’s the case then he’s 12.

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Post by RDW on Sat Apr 04, 2020 3:50 pm

I'm not saying he's bad at it, but it's not his style - the way he plays doesn't fit in a Gatland team. Just like Farrell wouldn't fit in a Townsend coached team.

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Post by The Oracle on Sat Apr 04, 2020 5:17 pm

Gatland chose Russell as one of the Geography 6, knowing full well calling these players up would cause a sh*tstorm (which it did) but doing so because he felt it was the right thing to do to safeguard the 1st team should they need to do so. If he hated Russell he could have just chosen another UK/Ireland 10. He chose Russell and I’m sure he’d be happy to choose him again.
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Post by RDW on Sat Apr 04, 2020 5:24 pm

Who said anything about hating him? That's s huge jump from him just not fitting into the style.

It's strange as a Scotsman defending Scottish non selection for the lions, but as a lions fan given the condensed tour, and the fact it's a Gatland coached team, I just don't think he'd be a good selection to give the best chance of winning. It's probably not hyperbole to say the selection and form of the 10s will make the difference between winning and not winning!

I don't think anything can be read into the geography 6 selection - it's literally in the name why they were chosen.

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Post by The Oracle on Sat Apr 04, 2020 5:46 pm

Sorry, hate was poor wording! Maybe ‘disliked strongly the style of rugby Finn Russell played’, which is I think what Gats was/is accused of? Or at least the reason for not selecting him (along with ‘hating the Scots’, if you read these boards and social media Wink ). But he didn’t chose him just on Geography. He had others locally he could have picked had he not fancied Russell. Gatland is not one to be swayed by media pressure so that was not the reason either. Hence the low number of Scots in the squad initially. We ALL on these boards thought more Scots should go. But Gatland has always been one to make his decisions and stick by them regardless of what other people think. Perhaps a strength AND a weakness, depending on results!

In light of recent developments though maybe Gatland knew Russel was a bit of a shi*te. Maybe he had the inside line. Unless that’s another media driven thing and Russell is not the bad guy in the Townsend beef? Who knows.
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Post by RDW on Sun Apr 05, 2020 1:26 am

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/52158743

Geech's has his say. Nothing too outrageous here.

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Post by bsando on Sun Apr 05, 2020 1:44 am

I like his team! Some of the older heads might not make the cut though if younger players show better form. The competition is going be fierce!

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Post by Guest on Sun Apr 05, 2020 2:30 am

I think the likelihood of Finn Russell touring is slim to none. As mentioned, he's not Gatland's 'type' and there's some fairly clear evidence for why that is. He's been involved in a poor Scotland team that was dumped out in the group stages and hasn't won away from home against a tier 1 nation other than Italy for years. He is a 'maverick type' and Gatland only seems to select those players on the wing. Even at the Chiefs with the talent they have he has them playing low error rugby with Cruden playing much more structured rugby than he was in France.

Finn also has prolonged and public criticism of his coach. Even just that alone could be enough to stop him touring. To add to that, he's moved to France, which is like semi-international-retirement in many ways and something which has played a major part in the issues with Scotland now. He already looks 'fluffier' as those packing a few extra stone like to say these days. In other words, he's been at the pâtisserie with Zebo enjoying the finer things in life.

At this stage, I would make a guess of 10. Anscombe, 12. Farrell, 13. Tuilagi. Anscombe was finally starting to show his quality before injury last summer and can do things Biggar and Farrell cannot. He's creative and versatile without the unpredictability of Finn. Gatland also came out after the world cup and let us know what he thought about him if it wasn't clear.

Farrell was poor at 10 for the Lions and the Lions improved when he moved to 12 with Sexton at 10. Farrell will be a key leader whether captain or not and I can't see him staying on the bench. They'll work hard on his defence at 12 but given there is no Jamie Roberts figure competing against him I think Farrell will start there. It could be Tuilagi at 12 and someone like Joseph, Slade, Jonathan Davies or even an outside bet like Tompkins, you never know. But I think Gatland will want a running 10 who can take it to the line but is also reliable and at the moment that's between George Ford and Gareth Anscombe.

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Post by RDW on Sun Apr 05, 2020 2:33 am

In the interest of accuracy regarding the tier 1 nation comment, Scotland been beaten Argentina away and Australia away in the last few years. We've just struggled away to 6N teams.

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Post by Guest on Sun Apr 05, 2020 2:40 am

I will estimate this team:

1. Marler
2. George
3. Furlong
4. Ryan
5. Itoje
6. Underhill or Curry
7. Tipuric
8. Vunipola or Faletau

9. Webb
10. Anscombe
11. Watson
12. Farrell
13. Tuilagi
14. Adams or May or Cokanasiga
15. L Williams or Hogg

16. Elias or Ken Owens or McInally or Brown, so many optionss
17. Genge
18. Sinckler
19. Lawes or AWJ
20. Curry or Underhill, then maybe Hamish Watson or Moriarty or Ellis Jenkins or Navidi or Wainwright or Stander. So much Welsh strength here.
21. Gareth Davies or Cooney or Ben Youngs or Tomos Williams
22. Ford or Carberry or Biggar
23. Hogg or Liam Williams

Captaincy could be between Itoje, Farrell, AWJ, and Tipuric.

I think lots of Scottish players are just on the fringers. Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie. They've not done enough to replace the competition yet but who knows in 12 months time? One Scot I think stands a great chance, over Russell, is Adam Hastings. I could see him getting picked, especially if they take Farrell as a 10/12. He's versatile and could go as the 4th 10 option and a utility inside back who can cover centre as well for the midweek team.

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Post by Guest on Sun Apr 05, 2020 2:43 am

RDW wrote:In the interest of accuracy regarding the tier 1 nation comment, Scotland been beaten Argentina away and Australia away in the last few years. We've just struggled away to 6N teams.

Ok a fair point but it still stands that the competitive games like 6 Nations and World Cups are the bread and butter that gets players selected. I would therefore expect to see England dominate the Lions squad, with a healthy helping of Welsh players. The Scots are almost certainly getting 3-4 players in at most at this rate. The only ones I can see who stand a chance are in the front row, Hamish Watson, Hogg, maybe a scrum half but unlikely, if Kinghorn has a miracle season may, Ritchie, Bradbury, Huw Jones, and one of the best shouts might be Sam Skinner. Most of those are outside bets at this stage and Scotland's team record doesn't help that.

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Post by RDW on Sun Apr 05, 2020 2:58 am

I don't think any Scottish fan would argue that 3-4 is the most we'll likely have earnt - it's when there's only 1 that it's s bit of a slap.

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Post by Guest on Sun Apr 05, 2020 3:19 am

It could very easily be 1 if a few Scots pick up injuries before the tournament and the other countries stay relatively fit. The Scots, and to a lesser extent the Irish, are suffering from what is now persistently poor form. If Scotland can back up that French victory against a less temperamental team in next year's six nations then that helps but if we just list the competition each of the Scottish hopefuls is up against, it becomes a lot clearer how Scotland end up with so few in the squad. Particularly under Gatland who is a natural winner and knows what it really takes more than probably any other coach in the world.

The only certainty is Hogg.

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Post by formerly known as Sam on Sun Apr 05, 2020 4:12 am

guestalt_physicality wrote:
Farrell was poor at 10 for the Lions and the Lions improved when he moved to 12 with Sexton at 10. Farrell will be a key leader whether captain or not and I can't see him staying on the bench. They'll work hard on his defence at 12 but given there is no Jamie Roberts figure competing against him I think Farrell will start there. It could be Tuilagi at 12 and someone like Joseph, Slade, Jonathan Davies or even an outside bet like Tompkins, you never know. But I think Gatland will want a running 10 who can take it to the line but is also reliable and at the moment that's between George Ford and Gareth Anscombe.

Agree re Farrell. At international level he lacks enough creation to be an automatic selection at 10. You need him either at 12 or another very good playmaker in the midfield (England used Slade who was an age grade 10 and has played there at prem level).

Thompkins is a 12 who Wales moved to 13 because they needed pace there alongside the solid Parkes at 12. Once JD2 returns for Wales Thompkins may move inside one to his much better position of 12 and will thrive even more than he has done already.

I can't see Gatland taking Ford or Russell. Gatland likes size with his flyhalfs. Sexton and Farrell went last time, both over 6ft and over 14 stone. Biggar (again north of 6ft and 14 stone) also in the squad. Anscombe will join in the reckoning this time round with the those three from last time. Personally I wouldn't touch Anscombe as I didn't rate him that highly before and that horrendous injury will not see him bounce back but that won't stop Gatland picking him. I do like the shout of Hastings as a 10/12 for the midweek team.

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Post by mikey_dragon on Sun Apr 05, 2020 4:33 am

If Gatland doesn't want a small fly-half then he would leave out Anscombe. I think we know he particularly rates Anscombe. Ford is a good player but the only one who seems vulnerable in defence. He wouldn't be the first small 10 in world rugby though.

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Post by formerly known as Sam on Sun Apr 05, 2020 4:48 am

mikey_dragon wrote:If Gatland doesn't want a small fly-half then he would leave out Anscombe. I think we know he particularly rates Anscombe. Ford is a good player but the only one who seems vulnerable in defence. He wouldn't be the first small 10 in world rugby though.

Anscombe at 6ft and a bit shy of 14 stone would be smaller than the others but bigger than the 5ft 9 Ford. Ford's tackle completion rate is actually pretty good and he does have a tendency to rip the ball in the tackle. He is an easy target for making easy metres though as he isn't going to make dominant tackles on the gain line. The again neither will many of the others. Still can't see Gatland going for him but can see him going for Anscombe who he backed for Wales.

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Post by mikey_dragon on Sun Apr 05, 2020 4:56 am

Anscombe wouldn't be bigger than Russell though, and the argument seems to be Russell is too small for Gatland.

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Post by 123456789. on Sun Apr 05, 2020 4:58 am

I think the issue with Scotland is our depth. When our best XV is out and most are on form we can compete with anyone in the world. When a few get injured and a few more drop off then we struggle to compete.
That equally applies to the Lions. I’d say Sutherland, McInally, Brown, Fagerson, the Grays, Ritchie, Watson, Price, Russell, Jones, Johnson and Hogg will hold legitimate Lions ambitions i.e believing that a good season will propel them onto the plane. I am, for the avoidance of doubt, not suggesting all 13 of them will or should travel. However whereas in the other nations of their Lions candidate drops off through injury or form then the next cab off the rank probably will feel that they can get in the picture with some good performances too. Billy Vunipola dropped out injured in 2017, Haskell was called up. If Itoje gets injured Launchbury will come in and believe he has a chance of travelling to South Africa. If Jonny Gray was having an absolute stormer of a season and had got himself in the conversation, before getting injured, then it would be hard to see Ben Toolis ever being a Lion, ever.
If the Lions were going now I think Hogg, Ritchie, Watson, Sutherland and maybe Price would be on the plane. If Hogg gets injured Kinghorn won’t go in his stead, Bradbury won’t go instead of Ritchie or Watson and Dell won’t go instead of Sutherland.

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Post by Guest on Sun Apr 05, 2020 8:29 am

I think some non-Welsh fans get a bit hung up about the 'size' thing with Gatland. Gatland said the best Welsh player he coached was Shane Williams. Not AWJ, not Sam Warburton, not Henson. It's a simple fact that Sexton and Farrell were the 2 best 10s in 2013 and 2017. Maybe partly because they are also solid in defence so don't get exposed and put off their game but also because the skills needed for a 10 in a rugby league style attack/defence changed which meant a lot of 10s got left behind and fell out of favour. If Ford is deemed good enough, he will tour, however big he is. It's my opinion that Anscombe has the best all round skillset of any 10 the Lions could pick - with Ford being there or thereabouts as well as 'the best', perhaps being a safer bet because of his greater experience at the top level - but lacks the experience on the top level no thanks to injuries over the last 5 years. If he's in form I can see him starting but who knows it's still a long way off. For an outside half he has always tried to pick the a good attacking player. He chose Priestland over Biggar and Anscombe over Biggar when the opportunity was there.

Slade is a good prospect though. And perhaps it shows just how tough it might be for someone like Hastings to get in, and why Scotland's numbers will be so low, because he's probably up against Slade as a 4th 10 or utility back. I'd pick Slade and I would assume Gatland would as well.

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Post by Guest on Sun Apr 05, 2020 8:50 am

I think 123 makes a good point about depth. The reality is, particularly with injury call ups late on, the English strength in depth and 'understanding' they will have from playing together helps them massively. It's feasible, for instance, that if 3 loose head props tour, all 3 could be English - Mako, Marler, and Genge. There's an argument to make that they are/will be better than any other LH option.

If you go down the list in positions it's a similar situation when all fit.
LH - Mako/Marler/Genge very likely, Obano an outside chance.
Hooker - George definite, LCD strong possibility, Singleton/Thacker outside chance.
TH Prop - Sinckler definite, probably room for other nations here so Fagerson stands a good chance but strong scrummagers essential given the opposition.
Lock - Itoje definite, Lawes likely, Launchbury/Kruis strong possibilities, Isiekwe a bolter?
Flankers - Curry/Underhill definites if fit, Wilson/Ludlam/Earl outside chance, Dombrandt/Willis/Hill bolters. Very strong position for Wales and Ireland, but also Scotland's best players in Ritchie and Watson.
8 - Vunipola definite if fit, probably no other English option so again room for someone but Scotland are also weak at 8 so likely to be tied up by Faletau and Stander with Moriarty, Navidi or Doris covering midweek. Not sure Bradbury is better than those midweek options.
9 - B Youngs strong possibility when he bounces back having missed out last time due to sad circumstances, another position of weakness for England but Wales very strong. Reasonable chance for Scotland here but Price needs consistency to be a serious bet.
10 - Farrell definite, Ford very likely, Marcus Smith or Vunipola as bolters?
Centres - Tuilagi definite, Joseph/Slade very likely.
Wing - Daly almost guaranteed, May very likely, Cokanasiga/Nowell strong possibility, Ibitoye and loads more bolters.
Full back - no strong English player

I see room for only one nailed on Scottish player, and that's Hogg. Of the potentials, 4 are in the front row with both hookers, I don't think either Gray is anywhere near the reckoning to be frank as J Gray is a shadow of what he was in 16/17 when he didn't tour, 4 are back rows with 1 able to play lock, 2 at scrum half, 2ish at 10 as I don't think Russell is an option, Huw Jones, and 1 winger in Graham. The only ones leaping out at me are the back rowers, where the competition is huge, Darcy Graham, and the front row.

If I did the same for Ireland, I see Furlong at TH, Ryan at lock, Stander as an 8 nailed on. Plenty of strong to decent possibilities but they're all getting on in age and that's what will count against them compared to Wales and England who are ahead in their squad redevelopment - Healy, McGrath, POM, Connor Murray, Sexton. All could play a part or none could tour due to form and age. More likely I think Iain Henderson would be a potential test starter, Dillane a bolter, Cooney likely, Porter and Kilcoyne good chance, VDF/Leavy/Deegan/Doris all about who stays fit for 2021 6Ns, Aki as the midweek Tuilagi stands a great chance, Stockdale likely as the better version of Kinghorn and could see J May miss out, Ringrose and Henshaw probably next off the rung if anyone gets injured or JD2 doesn't make it, Conway a decent chance as a solid squad player.

For Wales, Faletau, Liam Williams, Tipuric nailed on. But plenty of strong to decent possibilities - Tomas Francis, Ken Owens/Dee/Elias, Wyn Jones, Rhys Carre a bolter, AWJ if he holds up and a possible tour captain, Cory Hill as a flock (flanker lock), Moriarty/Navidi/Ellis Jenkins all reasonable, Wainwright possibly, Webb, Gar Davies and Tomos Williams could make it 3 Welsh 9s if Gatland didn't care about the press, Anscombe/Biggar, JD2 if he holds up, Haloholo if he steps up, Tompkins an outside chance given his defence, North and Adams both very likely, and Leigh Halfpenny stands a good chance too at only 32 when the tour comes given his goalkicking.

I think selection will reflect the fact that England were WC finalists and Wales semi finalists, while Ireland lost to Japan and were never competitive in their QF, and Scotland went out in the groups. Moreso now given we're likely to miss a huge chunk of international rugby this calendar year. One thing the break might do is make it hard for older players - AWJ, POM etc - to get 'back' to the level and up to speed if rugby doesn't resume before the end of this year. But we'll have to just wait and see, hopefully we have rugby back up and running by the summer but you never know.

It's a clear 1, 2, 3, 4 hierarchy and unless Wales fall off a cliff under Pivac I would expect selection to reflect that with Wales and Ireland practically tying due to how close they traditionally are and how many good players are in each side. Gatland knows what the Welsh individuals can do under his tutelage and that will help them as well, to the chagrin of some, so even if Wales lose their defensive solidity, which they have done, that might not count against some Welsh players. Unfortunately I think Scotland's tactics probably do count against them.

If the Lions team isn't dominated by English players, perhaps even 50% or more, it would be wrong on the basis of going there to win because they are consistently the best in Europe and that's been the way since 2016. Maybe the next tour we'll see a more egalitarian approach without Gatland, lose to Australia, and have to listen to calls to scrap the Lions as a result, but I'm not sure that's the right solution to this problem. You just have to pick the best players and admit that there is an obvious hierarchy among the Home Unions with Scotland usually languishing behind the other 3. Until that changes there's no point punishing the Lions in my view. The onus is on Scotland to get better at rugby, individually and collectively.

It it's a 35 man squad or thereabouts, I can see 15-20 being English, 8-12 being Irish or Welsh apiece, which leaves 1-3 Scots. But a lot could still change in 12 months once we get back playing rugby again.

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Post by Old Man on Sun Apr 05, 2020 9:38 am

guestalt_physicality wrote:I think 123 makes a good point about depth. The reality is, particularly with injury call ups late on, the English strength in depth and 'understanding' they will have from playing together helps them massively. It's feasible, for instance, that if 3 loose head props tour, all 3 could be English - Mako, Marler, and Genge. There's an argument to make that they are/will be better than any other LH option.

If you go down the list in positions it's a similar situation when all fit.
LH - Mako/Marler/Genge very likely, Obano an outside chance.
Hooker - George definite, LCD strong possibility, Singleton/Thacker outside chance.
TH Prop - Sinckler definite, probably room for other nations here so Fagerson stands a good chance but strong scrummagers essential given the opposition.
Lock - Itoje definite, Lawes likely, Launchbury/Kruis strong possibilities, Isiekwe a bolter?
Flankers - Curry/Underhill definites if fit, Wilson/Ludlam/Earl outside chance, Dombrandt/Willis/Hill bolters. Very strong position for Wales and Ireland, but also Scotland's best players in Ritchie and Watson.
8 - Vunipola definite if fit, probably no other English option so again room for someone but Scotland are also weak at 8 so likely to be tied up by Faletau and Stander with Moriarty, Navidi or Doris covering midweek. Not sure Bradbury is better than those midweek options.
9 - B Youngs strong possibility when he bounces back having missed out last time due to sad circumstances, another position of weakness for England but Wales very strong. Reasonable chance for Scotland here but Price needs consistency to be a serious bet.
10 - Farrell definite, Ford very likely, Marcus Smith or Vunipola as bolters?
Centres - Tuilagi definite, Joseph/Slade very likely.
Wing - Daly almost guaranteed, May very likely, Cokanasiga/Nowell strong possibility, Ibitoye and loads more bolters.
Full back - no strong English player

I see room for only one nailed on Scottish player, and that's Hogg. Of the potentials, 4 are in the front row with both hookers, I don't think either Gray is anywhere near the reckoning to be frank as J Gray is a shadow of what he was in 16/17 when he didn't tour, 4 are back rows with 1 able to play lock, 2 at scrum half, 2ish at 10 as I don't think Russell is an option, Huw Jones, and 1 winger in Graham. The only ones leaping out at me are the back rowers, where the competition is huge, Darcy Graham, and the front row.

If I did the same for Ireland, I see Furlong at TH, Ryan at lock, Stander as an 8 nailed on. Plenty of strong to decent possibilities but they're all getting on in age and that's what will count against them compared to Wales and England who are ahead in their squad redevelopment - Healy, McGrath, POM, Connor Murray, Sexton. All could play a part or none could tour due to form and age. More likely I think Iain Henderson would be a potential test starter, Dillane a bolter, Cooney likely, Porter and Kilcoyne good chance, VDF/Leavy/Deegan/Doris all about who stays fit for 2021 6Ns, Aki as the midweek Tuilagi stands a great chance, Stockdale likely as the better version of Kinghorn and could see J May miss out, Ringrose and Henshaw probably next off the rung if anyone gets injured or JD2 doesn't make it, Conway a decent chance as a solid squad player.

For Wales, Faletau, Liam Williams, Tipuric nailed on. But plenty of strong to decent possibilities - Tomas Francis, Ken Owens/Dee/Elias, Wyn Jones, Rhys Carre a bolter, AWJ if he holds up and a possible tour captain, Cory Hill as a flock (flanker lock), Moriarty/Navidi/Ellis Jenkins all reasonable, Wainwright possibly, Webb, Gar Davies and Tomos Williams could make it 3 Welsh 9s if Gatland didn't care about the press, Anscombe/Biggar, JD2 if he holds up, Haloholo if he steps up, Tompkins an outside chance given his defence, North and Adams both very likely, and Leigh Halfpenny stands a good chance too at only 32 when the tour comes given his goalkicking.

I think selection will reflect the fact that England were WC finalists and Wales semi finalists, while Ireland lost to Japan and were never competitive in their QF, and Scotland went out in the groups. Moreso now given we're likely to miss a huge chunk of international rugby this calendar year. One thing the break might do is make it hard for older players - AWJ, POM etc - to get 'back' to the level and up to speed if rugby doesn't resume before the end of this year. But we'll have to just wait and see, hopefully we have rugby back up and running by the summer but you never know.

It's a clear 1, 2, 3, 4 hierarchy and unless Wales fall off a cliff under Pivac I would expect selection to reflect that with Wales and Ireland practically tying due to how close they traditionally are and how many good players are in each side. Gatland knows what the Welsh individuals can do under his tutelage and that will help them as well, to the chagrin of some, so even if Wales lose their defensive solidity, which they have done, that might not count against some Welsh players. Unfortunately I think Scotland's tactics probably do count against them.

If the Lions team isn't dominated by English players, perhaps even 50% or more, it would be wrong on the basis of going there to win because they are consistently the best in Europe and that's been the way since 2016. Maybe the next tour we'll see a more egalitarian approach without Gatland, lose to Australia, and have to listen to calls to scrap the Lions as a result, but I'm not sure that's the right solution to this problem. You just have to pick the best players and admit that there is an obvious hierarchy among the Home Unions with Scotland usually languishing behind the other 3. Until that changes there's no point punishing the Lions in my view. The onus is on Scotland to get better at rugby, individually and collectively.

It it's a 35 man squad or thereabouts, I can see 15-20 being English, 8-12 being Irish or Welsh apiece, which leaves 1-3 Scots. But a lot could still change in 12 months once we get back playing rugby again.

Good read, thanks

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Post by formerly known as Sam on Sun Apr 05, 2020 9:53 am

mikey_dragon wrote:Anscombe wouldn't be bigger than Russell though, and the argument seems to be Russell is too small for Gatland.

To be fair Wiki gives Russell out as similar stats to Anscombe which was a surprise as Russell is so physically passive in games. I'd love to see him tour personally but still can't see Gatland going for him.

The preconception of Gatland has been that whilst in charge of Wales he's like a solid 10 both in game management and ideally in defence with two physically imposing midfielders. No secondary playmaker. Quite a Kiwi way to set up when you consider the world cup winning backlines for the All Blacks. Places a lot pressure on the 10 to be the creative force and without a world class 10 we've seen Wales play a style of rugby that's not easy on the eye. Gatland did vary the structure for the tour of NZ but only after trying a Farrell/Te'o/Davies midfield and succumbing to a fairly obvious defeat in the first test. I'm fully expecting him to try and shoe horn Manu in a midfield with Davies and get one or both of them injured running into contact.

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Post by mikey_dragon on Sun Apr 05, 2020 12:03 pm

Anscombe wasn't a good defender either, but he's a lot better defending at 10 than 15. He seems to get stepped too easily when there's a lot of space.

I think Farrell might be one of Gatland's favourite players. Solid defender and good play-maker. Great boot and leadership too. It would be a surprise to see Manu and Davies in the same midfield as both are better at attacking the 13 channel. There's the previous option that we've used, putting JD at 12, but I'd probably just keep them both for use at outside centre instead as one of them is bound to get injured at some point.

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Post by 123456789. on Sun Apr 05, 2020 12:07 pm

I think Russell has screwed up his chances over the Six Nations debacle. Without going into all the details and Gregor Townsend's flaws too, Finn Russell, basically, went against an agreed protocol and walked out of the camp. With the Lions, time is of the essence in terms of team building and the press scrutiny is that much more. Gatland will probably decide that Russell is too much of a risk. If he isn't picked for the test squad his behaviour doesn't mark him out as someone who will muck in and help with get the test side ready.

On the defence front I don't think Russell is as bad as some have mooted. Off the top of my head I can think of more positive contributions than negative ones in defence. The rip against England for example or his tackle on Dan Carter. His interceptions are useful too. For a fly-half he's quite good over the ball too. I think we have a tendency to effectively classify fly-halves as solid and dependable or flaky and exciting. So because Russell is seen very much so in the latter category he's seen as something of a soft touch in defence. Defence is the serious bit of rugby and Russell is not usually considered a serious character. I can't see him travelling for the same reason that I can't see Danny Cipriani playing for England again. In Scotland from Russell's emergence probably until Adam Hastings played so well against France we've only had one option at 10. The Lions are picking from a pool of Anscombe, Biggar, Sexton, Carbery, Farrell, Ford, Hastings and Russell plus any bolters. They don't need to take the risk of Russell.

It's a shame though because I think prior to ThreeBeerGate he would or should have gone. As a plan I'd have had him at 10 and Farrell at 12 in a couple of warm-ups. Both are supremely good footballers and could just as likely complement one another as clash. They can both play 10 and 12, the variety of kicking they offer (especially with Hogg at 15) would be hard for anyone to handle. If you think back to 1997, and I know a lot has changed, Townsend's more attacking play was highly effective against South Africa. Equally, if they did not work together at 10 and 12, and Russell became a clear third choice then being an exciting player he would be good to have in the midweek team. Lions tours are about building a buzz and if you have Russell being Russell then you'll have clips firing up all of the time on social media and elsewhere. Ideally I'd pick Hogg at 15, Watson and Williams on the Wing, Tuilagi at 13, Farrell at 12, Russell at 10 and, if back on form, Murray at 9. Unfortunately Russell has rather blotted his copy book now and it's hard to see him getting in the squad at all.

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Post by mikey_dragon on Sun Apr 05, 2020 1:08 pm

Well a lot can happen in 12 months, maybe rehab will have done Russell a world of good by then Wink. If he's in the form that he has been for Racing then I would be disappointed not to see him tour.

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Post by Guest on Sun Apr 05, 2020 1:56 pm

formerly known as Sam wrote:
mikey_dragon wrote:Anscombe wouldn't be bigger than Russell though, and the argument seems to be Russell is too small for Gatland.

To be fair Wiki gives Russell out as similar stats to Anscombe which was a surprise as Russell is so physically passive in games. I'd love to see him tour personally but still can't see Gatland going for him.

The preconception of Gatland has been that whilst in charge of Wales he's like a solid 10 both in game management and ideally in defence with two physically imposing midfielders. No secondary playmaker. Quite a Kiwi way to set up when you consider the world cup winning backlines for the All Blacks. Places a lot pressure on the 10 to be the creative force and without a world class 10 we've seen Wales play a style of rugby that's not easy on the eye. Gatland did vary the structure for the tour of NZ but only after trying a Farrell/Te'o/Davies midfield and succumbing to a fairly obvious defeat in the first test. I'm fully expecting him to try and shoe horn Manu in a midfield with Davies and get one or both of them injured running into contact.

I think you can probably add another 5-10kg to Russell's weight by summer 2021 given the 'conditioning' in France! Either way I don't think size is really an issue at all for the reasons mentioned earlier. Poor form or skills is far more important. Gatland is unlikely to target Cheslin Kolbe just because he's small.

I think that might be a misconception then. I have little doubt Henson would have been picked at 12 had he not gone off the rails with Jamie Roberts playing 13. He tried Owen Williams as a second playmaker there. He brought Parkes in because he could play a bit more rugby than Jamie Roberts even when we probably could have done with Roberts last year. I think Jamie Roberts is synonymous with the misconceptions about 'Gatlandball' purely because he was such an effective player at what he did. He obviously played Farrell as a second receiver for the Lions and didn't even pick Jamie Roberts 3 years ago. I think Gatland's just a pragmatist at heart. He picks what is most likely to be effective and, honestly, European players are just 'better' at the meat and potatoes style rugby than we are at creative and tactical skills. We're clearly lagging behind the SH in that regard and so where do you stand the best chance of winning? In fact I'd say Gatland's success up here has been because his tactics suited British and Irish rugby so well because it addressed that skills gap and helped bridge it at times. If Owen Williams had been better, or Henson stayed fit, it's just as likely Wales would have played with 2 playmakers in my view, but that doesn't make your assessments wrong as those are the players and systems he's picked and been successful with.

I also don't really understand the hostility to the idea of 'fronting up' against the South Africans (or any Lions opposition)? They play more physical rugby than we do. We'll need our most physical players, particularly in the centre. England battered New Zealand but then got a physical pounding themselves last year. The South Africans can't be taken lightly. England have the power in the pack to play with 2-4 playmakers in the backline (Ford, Farrell, Slade, Daly) but it doesn't always come off, and I'm not sure the Lions will try that anyway given how hit and miss a much more settled and trained team like England perform under those tactics. There will be a lot of pressure on the 10, you're right, to be the playmaker. I see 3 viable options at the moment, the 2 English and Anscombe, with Carberry as my outside bet. Biggar would be the solid option who might make it just because he's so effective.


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Post by 123456789. on Sun Apr 05, 2020 3:28 pm

I do find the questions regarding Gatland's size obsession a tad off. He picked a lot of big players between 2011 and 2015 but they were effective. There was not a better 12 in the Home Nations than Jamie Roberts, not a better scrum-half than Phillips, not a better Number 8 than Faletau etc.

I am also not convinced that South Africa can put out a more physical side than the Lions. Than any one Home Nation, perhaps. Between the four nations we can put out an absurdly physical team. I just don't think it would be our best one. Aki at 12 and Tuilagi at 13 would be the most physical centre pairing we could go for but it would not be the most effective. Playing 'smart' rugby players who have the capacity to front up will be the route to victory. I see no benefit in trying to batter down the door. Fortunately our biggest players have the capacity to play a fairly nuanced tactical game at the same time. I believe that Faletau and Vunipola could play in the backrow together especially with someone like Hamish Watson at openside. All three of them have the physicality to front up but equally Faletau has all the credentials of a good blindside, Watson is a quality openside and Vunipola an out and out 8. Equally in the second row Itoje and Ryan could hardly be described as anything remotely soft but both are very much the modern lock.

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Post by RDW on Sun Apr 05, 2020 4:06 pm

Russell has actually become a decent defender - not sure where this physically passive chat has come from. He's not the biggest but he's not small, and certainly in the last few years there's not been any issues with his defence, and he's actually quite keen to get stuck in.

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Post by The Oracle on Mon Apr 06, 2020 2:25 am

123456789. wrote:I do find the questions regarding Gatland's size obsession a tad off. He picked a lot of big players between 2011 and 2015 but they were effective. There was not a better 12 in the Home Nations than Jamie Roberts, not a better scrum-half than Phillips, not a better Number 8 than Faletau etc.

I am also not convinced that South Africa can put out a more physical side than the Lions. Than any one Home Nation, perhaps. Between the four nations we can put out an absurdly physical team. I just don't think it would be our best one. Aki at 12 and Tuilagi at 13 would be the most physical centre pairing we could go for but it would not be the most effective. Playing 'smart' rugby players who have the capacity to front up will be the route to victory. I see no benefit in trying to batter down the door. Fortunately our biggest players have the capacity to play a fairly nuanced tactical game at the same time. I believe that Faletau and Vunipola could play in the backrow together especially with someone like Hamish Watson at openside. All three of them have the physicality to front up but equally Faletau has all the credentials of a good blindside, Watson is a quality openside and Vunipola an out and out 8. Equally in the second row Itoje and Ryan could hardly be described as anything remotely soft but both are very much the modern lock.


Completely agree. I read an interview with Gatland a while back and he said his coaching philosophy was not to have a gamplen in mind and then find players to fit it but rather to see who was the best available at the time and write a plan to suit. Subtle difference. He said that it just seemed to be a bit of a timing coincidence that when he came in Wales had a number of big lumps who were coming through around the same time and we’re arguably our best players - Phillips (huge for a scrum half), Roberts, Cuthbert, North, etc. So Warrenball came about because Roberts was the best 12 at the time and no one really came along to usurp him. The game plan was therefore built around what Roberts could/couldn’t do. Had our best 12 at the time been a Matt Giteau style player, and been consistently good for years, then I’m sure we would have seen a very different style of play from Wales for a number of years.
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Post by The Oracle on Mon Apr 06, 2020 2:31 am

Just to add - for me the best thing Gats did for Wales was to instil a steely edge. For all of my living memory before that Wales could score some nice tries but had a very soft underbelly. We’d get physically dominated a lot. Whether it was actually him or Edwards or a combo, I’m not sure. But that’s my biggest fear with him/Edwards leaving is that we will lose some of that edge.
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Post by Gooseberry on Mon Apr 06, 2020 2:33 am

The Oracle wrote:
123456789. wrote:I do find the questions regarding Gatland's size obsession a tad off. He picked a lot of big players between 2011 and 2015 but they were effective. There was not a better 12 in the Home Nations than Jamie Roberts, not a better scrum-half than Phillips, not a better Number 8 than Faletau etc.

I am also not convinced that South Africa can put out a more physical side than the Lions. Than any one Home Nation, perhaps. Between the four nations we can put out an absurdly physical team. I just don't think it would be our best one. Aki at 12 and Tuilagi at 13 would be the most physical centre pairing we could go for but it would not be the most effective. Playing 'smart' rugby players who have the capacity to front up will be the route to victory. I see no benefit in trying to batter down the door. Fortunately our biggest players have the capacity to play a fairly nuanced tactical game at the same time. I believe that Faletau and Vunipola could play in the backrow together especially with someone like Hamish Watson at openside. All three of them have the physicality to front up but equally Faletau has all the credentials of a good blindside, Watson is a quality openside and Vunipola an out and out 8. Equally in the second row Itoje and Ryan could hardly be described as anything remotely soft but both are very much the modern lock.


Completely agree. I read an interview with Gatland a while back and he said his coaching philosophy was not to have a gamplen in mind and then find players to fit it but rather to see who was the best available at the time and write a plan to suit. Subtle difference. He said that it just seemed to be a bit of a timing coincidence that when he came in Wales had a number of big lumps who were coming through around the same time and we’re arguably our best players - Phillips (huge for a scrum half), Roberts, Cuthbert, North, etc. So Warrenball came about because Roberts was the best 12 at the time and no one really came along to usurp him. The game plan was therefore built around what Roberts could/couldn’t do. Had our best 12 at the time been a Matt Giteau style player, and been consistently good for years, then I’m sure we would have seen a very different style of play from Wales for a number of years.


Probably something that works better with a small player pool like Wales. He has a bit more freedom to pick the team and style he wants with the Lions, although will tend towards simplification of the game due to the lack of training time. There should be a tendency toward players with either extreme physical attributes or the footballing skills to just make something happen, which is where players like Ford and Russell might have a chance of standing out.

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Post by TJ on Mon Apr 06, 2020 2:40 am

RDW wrote:Russell has actually become a decent defender - not sure where this physically passive chat has come from. He's not the biggest but he's not small, and certainly in the last few years there's not been any issues with his defence, and he's actually quite keen to get stuck in.

Yup - his tackle stats when I looked were far better than Farrells for example. One game I looked at ( for Racing) the opposition had obviously been targeting him. He made 12 tackles and missed none

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Post by formerly known as Sam on Mon Apr 06, 2020 2:47 am

TJ wrote:
RDW wrote:Russell has actually become a decent defender - not sure where this physically passive chat has come from. He's not the biggest but he's not small, and certainly in the last few years there's not been any issues with his defence, and he's actually quite keen to get stuck in.

Yup - his tackle stats when I looked were far better than Farrells for example.  One game I looked at ( for Racing) the opposition had obviously been targeting him.  He made 12 tackles and missed none

Similar with Ford. Much better tackle completion than Farrell but often loses ground in the tackle, Ford gets away with it because he targets the ball so there's no offload and he has a knack for stealing the ball. Farrell generally has fairly poor completion stats (especially for Sarries) but often blitzes up in the line to push attackers back inside towards his forwards. That is a very Sarries method of defence, keep pushing the attack backwards and into the forward pack to slow the ball down and pressure the half backs.

Oracle as I said earlier in the thread it wasn't just that he picked a big midfield for Wales the preconception came about because for the majority of his reign he didn't look to fit in a secondary playmaker into the backline. A very Kiwi thing to do, put all the pressure in the 10 to be the creator (worked for their RWC triumphs). The preconception was only enhanced in recent Lions tours with trying Manu at 12 and then using a Te'o and Davies midfield in the first test in NZ.

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Post by Old Man on Mon Apr 06, 2020 2:50 am

123456789. wrote:I do find the questions regarding Gatland's size obsession a tad off. He picked a lot of big players between 2011 and 2015 but they were effective. There was not a better 12 in the Home Nations than Jamie Roberts, not a better scrum-half than Phillips, not a better Number 8 than Faletau etc.

I am also not convinced that South Africa can put out a more physical side than the Lions. Than any one Home Nation, perhaps. Between the four nations we can put out an absurdly physical team. I just don't think it would be our best one. Aki at 12 and Tuilagi at 13 would be the most physical centre pairing we could go for but it would not be the most effective. Playing 'smart' rugby players who have the capacity to front up will be the route to victory. I see no benefit in trying to batter down the door. Fortunately our biggest players have the capacity to play a fairly nuanced tactical game at the same time. I believe that Faletau and Vunipola could play in the backrow together especially with someone like Hamish Watson at openside. All three of them have the physicality to front up but equally Faletau has all the credentials of a good blindside, Watson is a quality openside and Vunipola an out and out 8. Equally in the second row Itoje and Ryan could hardly be described as anything remotely soft but both are very much the modern lock.

I don’t think Rassie has ever aimed at just physicality. Looking at last season players like Faf, Kolbe, Willie, Jantjies etc weren’t the biggest nor nost physical specimen

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Post by WELL-PAST-IT on Mon Apr 06, 2020 2:53 am

Tackle stats are as frequently mentioned deceptive, if you play a rush defence like both England and Sarries do, the 10 is always going to have poor stats. His job is not to make the tackle but to force the opposite 10 to come inside a bit where a flanker is usually waiting. He gives the oppo 10 the space and therefore often only gets a half tackle or just an arm slap in, however he has given the centres the time to get in the face of the opposition and stop the ball getting wide quickly.

As an aside, where has the Covid-19 threads gone, they seem to have disappeared.

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