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Potential Lions Squad - The Half-Backs

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Post by bsando on Thu 02 Jul 2020, 7:40 am

First topic message reminder :

Looking now to the 9/10 pairing. Who will make the plane? And crucially, who will start?

Both Gatland tours featured tried and tested, successful half back selections with no curveball selections. How will this tour be? Who may be left out this time?

2013 - Mike Phillips, Ben Youngs, Connor Murray / Jonathan Sexton, Owen Farrell
2017 -  Connor Murray, Rhys Webb, Ben Youngs (dropped out), Greig Laidlaw (replaced Youngs), Gareth Davies (called up as cover) / Dan Biggar, Owen Farrell, Jonathan Sexton, Finn Russell (called up as cover)

Below list of players from RWC 2019 and 6N 2020 squads

England

Ben Youngs, Willi Heinz, Ben Spencer, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Jacob Umaga

Ireland

Luke McGrath, Connor Murray, John Cooney, Joey Carberry, Jack Carty, Jonathan Sexton

Scotland

Henry Pyrgos, George Horne, Ali Price, Finn Russell, Adam Hastings

Wales

Aled Davies, Gareth Davies, Rhys Webb, Tomos Williams, Dan Biggar, Jarrod Evans, Owen Williams, Rhys Patchell

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Post by rugby racing and beer on Fri 04 Sep 2020, 1:47 pm

Sexton shouldn't be near this tour he's finished.

- Farrell
- Ford
- Anscombe

Anscombe can play 15, Farrell can and probably will play 12 in some of the tests. He'll want a running/passing 10 and the other 2 offer that without being Finn Russell. Biggar just misses out as Farrell's alternative.

- Rhys Webb
- Murray
- G Davies/Cooney

I just think that the break will work in Murray's favour and against the Boks Gatland will want his style. Webb is top class and probably the best 9 we have available even with his situation. It's then a toss up between Cooney and probably Gareth Davies for next in line but Youngs still stands a great chance if he holds on to the England shirt. I don't think any Scottish 9 is in contention.

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Post by Cyril on Wed 23 Sep 2020, 12:23 am

If this tour is cancelled (as seems almost certain now) will the next one be in SA or move straight to Aus (assuming relative normality returns by then)?

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Post by Hazel Sapling on Wed 23 Sep 2020, 8:09 am

Cyril wrote:If this tour is cancelled (as seems almost certain now) will the next one be in SA or move straight to Aus (assuming relative normality returns by then)?

Too much of a cash cow for SA for it not to happen. Probably push back to 2022 and have to compete with the football world cup as Australia will want the Lions in 2025 considering the financial state they are in.

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Post by WELL-PAST-IT on Wed 23 Sep 2020, 9:36 am

LondonTiger wrote:
Exiledinborders wrote:
TJ wrote:Farrell is not a good centre.
And yet he is regularly picked to play there in the RWC semi-finalists and the highest ranking NH team by one of the best and most experienced international coaches. Odd isn't it?

I don't know what it is about Farrell that coaches love him but many fans don't. He name is one of the fixtures on the team sheet at the best club side in Europe and the top NH team.

He will definitely be in the starting fifteen for the Lions. Whether it is ten or twelve will depend on whether Gatland thinks the centres or half backs are most in need of bolstering. To be honest both fly-half and centres are not positions of great strength for the Lions at the moment so it is anyone's guess.

Farrell played for Wales?

Actually, two of the best and most experienced international coaches, Gatland picked him at 12 for the Lions and moved him to 10 when Sexton was knackered/injured most games.

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Post by rugby racing and beer on Wed 23 Sep 2020, 12:47 pm

Cyril wrote:If this tour is cancelled (as seems almost certain now) will the next one be in SA or move straight to Aus (assuming relative normality returns by then)?

No. Like the Olympics and the Euros everything is just getting pushed back a year. We might see it in 2022 or if not it'll be South Africa 2025. I would imagine they will do everything to give 'this' generation of players - both Lions and SAns - a chance though and if it's not 2021 it'll be 2022. Which would make the RWC in 2023 all the more interesting. It would probably be handing NZ (or maybe France if they get their act together) the trophy due to player burn out, prep time etc.

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Post by rugby racing and beer on Wed 23 Sep 2020, 12:50 pm

WELL-PAST-IT wrote:
LondonTiger wrote:
Exiledinborders wrote:
TJ wrote:Farrell is not a good centre.
And yet he is regularly picked to play there in the RWC semi-finalists and the highest ranking NH team by one of the best and most experienced international coaches. Odd isn't it?

I don't know what it is about Farrell that coaches love him but many fans don't. He name is one of the fixtures on the team sheet at the best club side in Europe and the top NH team.

He will definitely be in the starting fifteen for the Lions. Whether it is ten or twelve will depend on whether Gatland thinks the centres or half backs are most in need of bolstering. To be honest both fly-half and centres are not positions of great strength for the Lions at the moment so it is anyone's guess.

Farrell played for Wales?

Actually, two of the best and most experienced international coaches, Gatland picked him at 12 for the Lions and moved him to 10 when Sexton was knackered/injured most games.

I think you've got that the wrong way round. Farrell started the first NZ test at 10 and the Lions were thumped. Not all Farrell's fault, of course. He then brought Sexton in for the next 2 tests and moved Farrell to 12. The Lions won and drew those tests. Again, not solely down to the 10/12 option but it had a lot to do with it. If anyone was in doubt about Farrell as a 10 I think the Lions tour was a good example of how he's not quite that 'top class' option. He's probably on par with Sexton as a rugby player, maybe even a little bit better, but as a 10 Sexton has been a notch or two better for me. I'm not sure if Farrell still has the physicality to play at 12 to be honest which makes me think the Lions might look to a Ford, Anscombe, or even a Russell type player to move the Boks around. Russell at 10 and Farrell at 12 might be an option for at least one of the tests.

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Post by rugby racing and beer on Tue 29 Sep 2020, 8:17 pm

What do people think about Finn Russell for the Lions 10?

I can't say I'm overly impressed. I think club rugby is his standard but I'd be interested to see what he could do at 10 with Farrell at 12. Not sure that's a combo you need against SA unfortunately - not nearly enough beef for starters. But you'd have to have Farrell on the pitch with Russell for goalkicking, for starters, but also simply to add control that Russell doesn't have. I'd like to see it but, given the limited nature of the Lions, I wouldn't want to when there is Anscombe and Ford who can run a game flat to the line more effectively and Biggar and Farrell who can provide the steady, battling 10 role with reliable goalkicking.

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Post by funnyExiledScot on Tue 29 Sep 2020, 8:45 pm

Russell is the most creative option Gatland has at 10. He's the guy that can do the unpredictable and break down tough defences. He's plan B. It's harsh to call him a club player when you consider what he's done in a Scotland jersey, as well as the fact the he just made the decisive play in a European semi against one of the best defences around.

Still, I do share the view the he isn't a Gatland sort of 10. He's a bit too off script. I think Farrell is nailed on to start at 10, with Russell on the bench to either replace him or to allow Farrell to shift to 12.

The 3rd choice 10 is up for grabs, with Ford and Biggar the prime candidates for me. If Russell is principally a bench option, then Biggar is probably the closest match to Farrell, albeit I rate Ford a better 10 all things considered. I'll be honest, I dont think I've seen enough of Anscombe to judge.

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Post by rugby racing and beer on Tue 29 Sep 2020, 9:03 pm

Anscombe's a significantly better 10 than Russell for my money. If he can get and stay fit before next summer he's on the plane in my book. He's been there and done it and was a major point of difference in the 2019 Grand Slame. Even without Gatland's preference for players who have shown pedigree in the past, I'd say he is talented enough to be deserving of touring. Biggar and Farrell are basically similar 10s with Farrell being a better leader and the ability to move to 12 which probably kills his chances of touring because Ford is a top 10 as well and, for me, is someone I think Gatland would like to get his hands on and work with as a 10 who plays flat to the line and has clear pedigree. I can't see how Russell is second choice. For me, when I call him a club player, he's the exact kind of player who looks top class playing for Glasgow or now Racing from time to time. But he's rarely done it for Scotland and invariably when he does do it it's in mad games like the one England absolutely bottled in 2019 by going in at half time and thinking they'd won the game. I've yet to see Russell do his flair game and make it work in any major, tight international match, and that's surely what we're basing Lions selection on? Even when Scotland were looking much better under Cotter and the first games of Townsend, Russell wasn't exactly standing out as anything special. I'd be interested to see him play for the Lions tbh because he's the kind of player that gets you off your seat but in terms of winning - and make no mistake that's what this is all about now, would you rather be a Kiwi or Saffa fan after last year? - there are several better 10s. Namely Biggar, Anscombe, Farrell, Ford.

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Post by funnyExiledScot on Tue 29 Sep 2020, 9:29 pm

Slightly harsh saying Russell didn't look special under Cotter or the first period under Townsend. He's always been a source of creativity for Scotland. The most valid criticism of Russell in those days was his decision making, as he often tried to force things leading to errors, when the simple play was required. He still does, albeit he's improved dramatically in that regard. It's why I dont think he'll start for the Lions.

I think Farrell is almost certain to start, so no debate there.

Ford is a class act, but if there are doubts around Russell seeing teams over the line in tight situations (despite the evidence at the weekend), I think Ford merits the same scrutiny. He's a fantastic passer with great vision, but equally can go missing at key points.

Biggar I see as Farrell lite. Great mentality and a warrior through and through, but does he have the class and creativity to unlock the very best defences? It's a question mark for me. He's never beaten and very solid with the boot, but I do worry about what he creates.

As I said before, I haven't seen enough of Anscombe to make a definitive call. He's better on the front foot than Biggar from what I've seen, and has decent pace, but I don't have the knowledge to make a judgement on his prospects. I haven't seen many Welsh fans calling for his selection, you're the first, so I'd be keen to hear the views of others.

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Post by bsando on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 6:57 am

"GARETH ANSCOMBE

The fly-half remains on a long road to recovery after suffering knee ligament damage during Wales’ World Cup warm-up match against England 13 months ago.

There is no set date for his return and his delicate situation is being carefully monitored by Wales and Ospreys medical staff.

He has been rehabilitating on his own during lockdown and his return to action is still a long way off."

From Wales Online yesterday

Anscombe has looked good for Wales but unfortunately for him a serious injury has totally sidetracked any potential Lions call up. That is unless he can somehow make it back for the Six Nations next year and have a stormer for Wales.

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Post by mikey_dragon on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 7:49 am

Anscombe may not make it back in the Wales team right away either, we have Patchell and Evans to play... Oh and Sheedy Smile.

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Post by Tramptastic on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 8:01 am

I like Anscombe as a player, when he's playing 10 for Wales the backline runs just that wee bit smoother than when Biggar runs it and he looks like he's never rushed in his play. As above, he's injured though.

I do also like Biggar, out of all the 10s he is the most secure under the high ball. Any up and unders in a game, he's going to beat his opposite man, he's ridiculously good in this facet. He's tactically astute and excellent at the pressure game. Where he loses out is his ability to run a backline well in attack and his dialogue with the referee during a game is appalling.

Farrell is an immensely good player, he rarely makes mistakes and he can drag a team to victory by sheer willpower. Fantastic with the boot. Possibly the best 10 in the northern hemisphere, however, his tackle technique is controversial (he tackles high and hard) and he's recently copped a ban. This would suggest referees are becoming less lenient with it so if he slips up in South Africa it could be tour ending.

Sexton, if he can stay in one piece, will tour and possibly start depending on form. He's a fabby fly half, my only beef with him is dialogue with the ref and a bit of playing up for penalties - if you are this good at rugby you dont need to be trying to win an Oscar.

Ford's a good player but Leicester hide him in the backline defensively. That's his regular employers have identified he's not good enough to defend the 10 channel. Probably not a lion, thats not to say he's not a good player though!

In terms of the scottish fly halfs, Maybe a wee bit too soon for Hastings to be in serious contention. Russell is the point of difference, "smash glass in case of emergency" option. If sexton or Farrell start, you aren't subbing them for anyone unless the game needs a serious change up. You wouldnt sub Farrell for Sexton or Biggar, that would be more of the same (roughly). Russell can be the all hope is lost option. In the mental England game, he stood up, took charge and dragged Scotland to a draw. I wouldnt bet on Sexton or Farrell to be able to effect a change to that degree. On the downside Russell can occasionally force it when its not on but he's a lot better on this front than he used to be.

I don't envy Gatland picking 3 out of that lot.

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Post by EST on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 9:06 am

Tramptastic wrote:I like Anscombe as a player, when he's playing 10 for Wales the backline runs just that wee bit smoother than when Biggar runs it and he looks like he's never rushed in his play. As above, he's injured though.

I do also like Biggar, out of all the 10s he is the most secure under the high ball. Any up and unders in a game, he's going to beat his opposite man, he's ridiculously good in this facet. He's tactically astute and excellent at the pressure game. Where he loses out is his ability to run a backline well in attack and his dialogue with the referee during a game is appalling.

Farrell is an immensely good player, he rarely makes mistakes and he can drag a team to victory by sheer willpower. Fantastic with the boot. Possibly the best 10 in the northern hemisphere, however, his tackle technique is controversial (he tackles high and hard) and he's recently copped a ban. This would suggest referees are becoming less lenient with it so if he slips up in South Africa it could be tour ending.

Sexton, if he can stay in one piece, will tour and possibly start depending on form. He's a fabby fly half, my only beef with him is dialogue with the ref and a bit of playing up for penalties - if you are this good at rugby you dont need to be trying to win an Oscar.

Ford's a good player but Leicester hide him in the backline defensively. That's his regular employers have identified he's not good enough to defend the 10 channel. Probably not a lion, thats not to say he's not a good player though!

In terms of the scottish fly halfs, Maybe a wee bit too soon for Hastings to be in serious contention. Russell is the point of difference, "smash glass in case of emergency" option. If sexton or Farrell start, you aren't subbing them for anyone unless the game needs a serious change up. You wouldnt sub Farrell for Sexton or Biggar, that would be more of the same (roughly). Russell can be the all hope is lost option. In the mental England game, he stood up, took charge and dragged Scotland to a draw. I wouldnt bet on Sexton or Farrell to be able to effect a change to that degree. On the downside Russell can occasionally force it when its not on but he's a lot better on this front than he used to be.

I don't envy Gatland picking 3 out of that lot.

Very good summary Tramp. Where I would disagree is the bit in bold - I would wager that Gatland has already mentally picked Farrell, Sexton and one of Biggar/Anscombe to tour. I just don't think Russell fits into WG's game plan or how he thinks about the game. It will be a real shame if that does came to pass - Finn has been consistently excellent at club level for years now and has been one of our standout performers for Scotland.

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Post by TJ on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 10:25 am

I would have Biggar. He is not the attacking 10 that Russell is but is much less of a liability than Farrell and I think Sexton is not the player he was. Farrell can have the bench spot in case Biggar is injured

I don't see much point in having Russell as a sub. You either build a team around him or leave him at home.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 10:47 am

Describing Farrell as a liability is as good a piece of analysis as miaow s of russell. The only decision is play Farrell at 10 or 12 as he will surely start.

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Post by TJ on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 10:55 am

We have debated Farrell much. He is not a 12. I think that if he was starting 10 the SA team will rattle him and then his head will go and either / or his game will go to pieces or he will be carded.

Just my opinion and you know what they say about opinions :-)

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Post by bsando on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 11:06 am

No player is perfect and 10 is such a critical position that it is easy to make throwaway comments or sweeping statements about an individuals game. Despite all of Farrell's duff moments and contentious tackles he is still a very good player who has been a part of winning teams his whole career. So assuming he continues to play well he should be an obvious pick. Same goes for Russell who is possibly one game away from being European player of the year if the result and his performance falls the right way.

Then you have the established fly halves in sides who are in sides who have not done so well in Europe, the Premiership or the Pro14 this year. Biggar probably tops the list of those or perhaps Ford for his England performances? Simmonds is an interesting one because if he gets a call up and plays well for England he might shoot into contention due to Exeter's stellar season.

Despite others opinions, I think that it is glaringly obvious that Russell and Farrell are the top two picks to tour if they were releasing the squad today. That will no doubt be a different story next year.

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Post by Soul Requiem on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 11:30 am

I don't see Russell touring myself, the team just will not be set up to his benefit so he becomes a waste of a space in the squad. Farrell is a certainty to go if available so too is Anscombe which would leave one place for Sexton, Biggar or even Ford, all of whom are able to control a game in a more shall we say controlled manner than Russell which against South Africa is vital. The matches won't be decided by individual bits of genius but making sure the game is played in the right areas, were we touring Australia i'd probably on the flip side start with Russell.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 11:40 am

TJ wrote:We have debated Farrell much. He is not a 12. I think that if he was starting 10 the SA team will rattle him and then his head will go and either / or his game will go to pieces or he will be carded.

Just my opinion and you know what they say about opinions :-)

Worth remembering though that hes played for a good time for England across very successful sides and not found wanting as well!

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Post by Tramptastic on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 11:56 am

Just to clarify my comments on Farrell, as much as it's easy to comment on his tackle technique and the omnipresent question of "is this the tackle that loses his team the game?", like he in all seriousness rarely commits to a howler of a tackle. Its unfortunate the ones that people do see are atrocious but must of the time its not that bad.

In all honestly Farrell is the most steady and safe 10 available and he's World class, he absolutely is. He also rarely allows someone else to get in his head, he is more likely to shout at his own team mates than the opposition by all accounts!

7.5 is right in that there are very few times he is found wanting at any level (I will say i have enjoyed seeing him look utterly flabbergasted when England were minced by Scotland, thats a personal bias and a personal source of joy for most scottish posters but it doesnt detract from Farrell overall). He's done it all, Six nations wins, world cup finals, orchestrating the win against the all blacks, heinekin cups, prem finals etc. He's most likely the starting 10 for the tour.

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Post by EST on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 12:30 pm

Soul Requiem wrote:I don't see Russell touring myself, the team just will not be set up to his benefit so he becomes a waste of a space in the squad. Farrell is a certainty to go if available so too is Anscombe which would leave one place for Sexton, Biggar or even Ford, all of whom are able to control a game in a more shall we say controlled manner than Russell which against South Africa is vital. The matches won't be decided by individual bits of genius but making sure the game is played in the right areas, were we touring Australia i'd probably on the flip side start with Russell.

Is he? Very good player, and definitely in the conversation, but I wouldn't have him in the certainty to tour pile. I agree on Farrell though - absolutely nailed on to start at 10 or 12 - and deservedly so.

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Post by mikey_dragon on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 12:45 pm

Russell at 10, Farrell at 12 seems to be the go-to combo for most. In addition to that I would take another two fly-halves. Biggar and... ? I can’t see Sexton making it.

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Post by Soul Requiem on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 12:50 pm

EST wrote:
Soul Requiem wrote:I don't see Russell touring myself, the team just will not be set up to his benefit so he becomes a waste of a space in the squad. Farrell is a certainty to go if available so too is Anscombe which would leave one place for Sexton, Biggar or even Ford, all of whom are able to control a game in a more shall we say controlled manner than Russell which against South Africa is vital. The matches won't be decided by individual bits of genius but making sure the game is played in the right areas, were we touring Australia i'd probably on the flip side start with Russell.

Is he?  Very good player, and definitely in the conversation, but I wouldn't have him in the certainty to tour pile.  I agree on Farrell though - absolutely nailed on to start at 10 or 12 - and deservedly so.

I think the fact he can cover full back is the difference, for that reason i'd want him as the 22.

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Post by jimbopip on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 2:03 pm

I can't help feeling that most, if not all, of us on here pick the team/squad we'd pick if we were coach: Gatland will pick, essentially, the same type of team he always picks.
He has Plan A and that's it. We will doubtless hear about the limited time and the need for a simple gameplan and the need to pick players who will fit into that style; but it wouldn't make any difference how long he had it's Gatland and Plan A.
Russell is as far from Plan A as I am from Phil Bennett in his prime. Farrell, Sexton or Biggar whoever is in best form will start. No surprise selections.
Nothing to see here, move along.

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Post by rugby racing and beer on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 3:09 pm

I think it says it all - if Russell needs the team to be 'built around him' for him to play well, then that's not a good thing. It's also not going to happen for the Lions.

And jimbo I'm trying to give my opinion while also trying to see it through Gatland's eyes. I think people get Gatland completely wrong and think he's like the Tony Pulis of rugby. Gatland didn't rate Biggar. He picked Priestland ahead of him for years and then tried his best to get Anscombe to start which he did at the end before injury. He likes a running 10 he's a Kiwi after all they weren't raised with the 10 man hoof ball we often see in the North. But that doesn't mean the 10 doesn't also have to be consistent, versatile, reliable etc.

If Russell were Quade Cooper I think we'd have an interesting discussion but for me he's not that much better than Cipriani - a man who never really had what it took to be a test player at the top level. Now Scotland don't really have anyone to challenge Russell but they're also not challenging at the top level despite flirting with getting back there around 2015.

To use another football analogy, it's a bit like Spurs under Pochettino or Arsenal under Wenger in the latter years. Fine, some players can look amazing in a team that is playing with the best but not challenging the best. It comes from not trying to win but accepting that you'll lose and picking up 'scraps' like 'most beautiful goal' or doing it the 'pure' or 'exciting' way. Now I'm not going to sneer at that from an entertainment perspective but from a structural sporting perspective it's indefensible in a sport as small as rugby for a team like Scotland to basically throw in the towel and accept this status of also rans who only care about one off games v England and trying to bring 7s to the 15 man game. Again, no nice way to put this but it's the truth: there's a loser mentality at the heart of Scottish rugby which, unfortunately, comes from years of losing and never really addressing it, even after bringing in import after import - it's a hard pattern to break and I'm not sure it's easy to see that it exists if you're on the inside. Welsh rugby had it for years and then we hired a pragmatic winner who threw away the romantic delusions we told ourselves and turned us in to genuine winners who weren't a million miles away from winning a RWC. Eddie Jones clearly brought it to England, sweep away the doubt and install a winning mentality. Scotland have this 'purist' defence of Russell but it just strikes me as almost total compensation and perhaps an acceptance that you'd rather see Scotland lose playing prettily than lose playing dour, 10 man Dan Parks rugby (which I have some sympathy with, but it shouldn't be the end point for Scottish hopes!). When it comes to the Lions, that acceptance that Scotland aren't good enough but SHOULD be playing pretty, Russell-based rugby gets somewhat transplanted on to the Lions around selection time: "but imagine how much better our star players would look when surrounded by the best of the Lions and not jus Scotland." It's almost a logical fallacy: misunderstanding that it's not an 'addition' of a player from one team in to another because the team is such that Russell is 'it' in Scotland but simply won't be in the Lions. I'd make the same comparison to BOD in 2013: the logic was 'just put him on the bench' or 'but we smashed them anyway so he may as well have played'. All of that, to me, is basically ignorant and partly stems from not playing or coaching sport and a lot of it is also compensatory - which, 'loser mentality' might sound harsh, but is basically exactly what it is. It's forgetting that sport is win or lose, and rugby is the biggest team sport of all. If Halfpenny kicks 21 points with the boot to win the game then that's what it takes to win the game, however crude it may be. Fans can celebrate the flair stuff but don't pretend you get extra points for the flair stuff or transplant the 'romance' of a player like Russell in to discussions about winning but it just doesn't wash. Russell hasn't shown that he's a winner in my book. We've got a final coming up where I have an inkling we'll see that bear out.

I'll use another analogy: the Ewing Theory which is the idea that a star player ultimately ends up holding back the team because too much is resting on their shoulders. Or, that a team is 'built around them'. Again, I cannot see how that is even close to a good idea in rugby but Gregor is clearly living out the ultimate viacrious father figure coaching role with Finn Russell and sees him as a kind of 'stand in stand off' who he can channel his own personal playing frustrations through. The less said about that the better, frankly, because comparing the last two Scottish coaches does nothing to challenge the idea that they fired their own winner and brought back a romanticised 'loser'. Going back to football, Liverpool's attack became significantly better when they sold Coutinho (and admittedly replaced them with two world class players in other positions). Barcelona have messy Messi problems. It's about recognising that a team is a team and allowing everyone to flourish collectively. Look at Wales when they had Shane Williams: in 2009-2010 Wales were fairly poor and increasingly reliant on 'give it to Shane' to get them out of trouble. Scotland were on the receiving end of this in 2010 and 2011. But as Shane's powers waned in 2011, as time caught up with him and the game became more and more physical, Wales ended up playing their best rugby (for me, 2011/12 and maybe 2018/19 would be Wales' peak). Why? Simple, new players who played as a team, no real 'stars' (particularly the most recent Grand Slam, AWJ is the captain but not really a standout star per se), and they started winning well and consistently. Look at Ireland in 2019: overly reliant on old men who were out of form. The Lions tried to stick with Shane Williams in 2009 when he hit a rare run of poor form and it cost them preparation time for the test team.

Building any sporting team around an individual is almost never a good idea if you have the option to do something else. Fortunately, the Lions is the ultimate 'we can do something else' opportunity. There's no set hierarchy as there is in clubs/countries. It's increasingly becoming about who fits the coach's needs and as Gatland is a proven winner and, for me, still the best test coach in the world, the notion of building a team around Russell or even having a 'plan B' where a gameplan is devised to basically imitate the kind of thing Scotland have been doing (i.e. not winning rugby) seems...insane. It's basically the best argument anyone could make: DON'T BUILD A RUGBY TEAM AROUND ONE MAN. I'm not sure I need to say anything else. As a caveat, I can see room for these special flair players (like Shane, or Hogg) in the back 3 but only if/when they're not overused or relied upon. For instance, could Wales have used a Shane in the 2019 semi final v South Africa? Clearly, yes, that kind of game-breaking ability can and does win games. See Cheslin Kolbe. But the temptation to overplay the card, or to neglect all the other aspects of the game that can and will need honing when test match rugby rolls around, strikes me as basically feckless - to then make that a 'gameplan', and to build the team around one man and actively neglect some key aspects of rugby (as Townsend's Scotland absolutely do) is like a Wenger-esque acceptance of being specialists in beatiful failure. And for me, if you DO have these flair players, they belong in the outside backs, not at 10. At least not until someone comes along and completely rips up the rugby rule book and does what Guardiola/Bielsa/Cruyff did to soccer. Townsend and Russell are just playing glorified 7s and that is not the tactical revolution I'm talking about: it's just trying to lose 'better'.

I understand there's a lot there that a lot of fans will reactively disagree with but I think it's more than fair to be able to clearly state my opinion on that when it comes to the Lions and why I don't want Russell in the representative team in spite of his particular abilities. I will always leave room to change my mind on a player because players mature and develop but I don't see in Russell what is clear to see in Hogg.

I take the point that Anscombe might not be making it back in time, if at all, but that just leaves the door open for Ford. A bit of perspective is needed on Anscombe as well: he's got pedigree that not many players in the NH, let alone Wales, have. He's top class and wouldn't be too far off the All Blacks team, maybe even in the squad, had he stayed.

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Post by rugby racing and beer on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 3:42 pm

I also think it's worth remembering who the best 10 in the world is at the moment.

It's not Beauden Barrett. It's not Sexton. It's not even Farrell. It's Handre Pollard.

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Post by EST on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 3:47 pm

rugby racing and beer wrote:I also think it's worth remembering who the best 10 in the world is at the moment.

It's not Beauden Barrett. It's not Sexton. It's not even Farrell. It's Handre Pollard.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUYTWcVUAgI

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Post by WELL-PAST-IT on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 4:54 pm

Where have I seen very very long scripts like that before....................................?

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Post by rugby racing and beer on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 5:32 pm

EST wrote:
rugby racing and beer wrote:I also think it's worth remembering who the best 10 in the world is at the moment.

It's not Beauden Barrett. It's not Sexton. It's not even Farrell. It's Handre Pollard.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUYTWcVUAgI

Very Happy

Best highlight reel 10 isn't the best 10 in the world.

As mentioned elsewhere, the defending for that second chip try is a joke.

Once again, it's like people are agreeing with me but disagreeing at the same time. It's weird. He's a highlight reel player - how is your link disproving that haha!

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Post by EST on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 5:49 pm

Thought I’d post given the highlights are from a Racing v Montpellier game, with a certain Handre Pollard at 10. Nice to see some recent context given you think one is crap and and the other is the best in the world.

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Post by mikey_dragon on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 6:19 pm

Is Pollard the best in the world? He’s injured long-term. It’s a bit like saying Anscombe is the best in Wales, and for me that was debatable even when he was fit.

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Post by rugby racing and beer on Wed 30 Sep 2020, 6:32 pm

EST wrote:Thought I’d post given the highlights are from a Racing v Montpellier game, with a certain Handre Pollard at 10.  Nice to see some recent context given you think one is crap and and the other is the best in the world.

I don't think Russell's crap, he's just not fit to lace Pollard's boots as a test 10.

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Post by Mr Bounce on Wed 07 Oct 2020, 3:07 pm

Going by the BBC report and Wayne Pivac yesterday it sounds very unilkely that Anscombe will make the tour - he's allegedly out for another YEAR. Shame. I really like the player.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/54435985

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Post by rugby racing and beer on Wed 07 Oct 2020, 5:17 pm

Mr Bounce wrote:Going by the BBC report and Wayne Pivac yesterday it sounds very unilkely that Anscombe will make the tour - he's allegedly out for another YEAR. Shame. I really like the player.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/54435985

Big shame I agree. Huge room for Russell and Ford to fight it out now as I think Anscombe was lined up to at least make the match day 23. Given Farrell is just as likely to start at 12 as 10, we might see all 3 go on tour with Biggar as back up.

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Post by rugby racing and beer on Thu 08 Oct 2020, 10:27 am

Wow, and now another one down. It looks like John Cooney is out of contention for the Lions as well seeing as he can't start for Ulster and is now out of the Ireland squad. Have to feel he's another talented rugby player Ireland are under utilising and there's still a long way to go until next summer but it looks like his Lions chances are over.

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Post by lostinwales on Thu 08 Oct 2020, 2:18 pm

Mr Bounce wrote:Going by the BBC report and Wayne Pivac yesterday it sounds very unilkely that Anscombe will make the tour - he's allegedly out for another YEAR. Shame. I really like the player.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/54435985

Those kinds of timescales and it seems entirely possible he won't play professional rugby again, and it will be a near miracle to see him playing internationals.

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Post by GeordieFalcon on Thu 08 Oct 2020, 3:26 pm

Theres some talented 10s coming through...even just in England. Marcus Smith is absolute class, Joe Simmonds 10 at Exeter, and Young Grayson looks good.

They have a year to go...and Eddie will probably be including some of them this autumn...so they could be a wildcard. Not to mention what ever is coming through in Wales, Ireland and Scotland.

Marcus Smith is the one id like to see in an England shirt at some point this autumn, then we'll get an idea if he could sneak a lions tour....

At 9, i think Ben Spencer should take that England 9 spot this autumn, and he's a classy player.

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Post by Soul Requiem on Thu 08 Oct 2020, 3:49 pm

lostinwales wrote:
Mr Bounce wrote:Going by the BBC report and Wayne Pivac yesterday it sounds very unilkely that Anscombe will make the tour - he's allegedly out for another YEAR. Shame. I really like the player.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/54435985

Those kinds of timescales and it seems entirely possible he won't play professional rugby again, and it will be a near miracle to see him playing internationals.

He tried playing on did he not after clearly buggering his knee?

Agree though that I can't envisage him playing for Wales again which is a shame.

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Post by mikey_dragon on Thu 08 Oct 2020, 5:34 pm

Soul Requiem wrote:
lostinwales wrote:
Mr Bounce wrote:Going by the BBC report and Wayne Pivac yesterday it sounds very unilkely that Anscombe will make the tour - he's allegedly out for another YEAR. Shame. I really like the player.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/54435985

Those kinds of timescales and it seems entirely possible he won't play professional rugby again, and it will be a near miracle to see him playing internationals.

He tried playing on did he not after clearly buggering his knee?

Agree though that I can't envisage him playing for Wales again which is a shame.

That would be more good news for us then!

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Post by Sharkey06 on Fri 09 Oct 2020, 10:07 pm

Gatland likes the tried and the tested, so barring injury 10 will be Sexton, Farrell and Biggar in that order. I can't see Russell even making the squad. Gatland won't put up with spoilt brats who throw their toys out of the pram if things don't go their way. Maybe Russell has grown up and will get back into the Scotland squad - although I am not convinced he will - but I don't see Gatland bending over and letting Russell take advantage.

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Post by rosbif on Mon 12 Oct 2020, 3:14 pm

Of the up and coming English FHs I have feeling that Joe Simmonds could be the next Wilko his kicking percentage is in the 90s ,plays pragmatic and close to the line and physically doesn't look as if he will fall to pieces if tackled. Also being captain of Exeter he must be seen as a very mature player

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Post by funnyExiledScot on Mon 12 Oct 2020, 3:58 pm

Joe Simmonds is a decent shout for a bolter. I don't think Sexton has the form or fitness to make the tour, and with Farrell the only certainty to tour if fit, there is a big battle on the the other 10 slots.

Russell is back in the Scotland squad and on the European Player of the Year shortlist. I'm certain Gatland will watch him keenly in the final against Simmonds, playing on the biggest stage in club rugby. It's been a criticism of Scottish players in the past that they don't get exposure to these sorts of games, and tend to only play well at Murrayfield on the international stage, and as such as seen as a bit soft and untested for the Lions environment. At least that's been my perception of the criticism. Now we have three Scots in the final and all Lions contenders. Time for the boys to show up and put in big performances, and back it up against Wales in November. It'll make them far harder for Gatland to ignore.

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Post by rugby racing and beer on Mon 12 Oct 2020, 7:37 pm

Don't agree with the Simmonds chat. Good player and Exeter deserve all the plaudits but he has an arm chair ride practically every single week. It's a very different skillset required at test level, let alone Lions. No outstanding physical attributes, he's just a good young guy playing for his local team. He'd be a massive bolter if he tours and given the pedigree ahead of him, I would think the last fly half spot would be taken by a versatile player who can play across the backline: someone like culb mate Slade, for instance.

I think Russell stands a great chance with Anscombe being out. Gatland will want a runner and Russell is that. If Ford slips up or doesn't start, then Russell basically has to go.

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