Monday, 20 April 2009

British & Irish Lions: Predictor

The British and Irish Lions squad to tour South Africa this summer is announced tomorrow afternoon. Having been challenged by an Irish friend (who, rather predictably has stacked his Lions squad full of Irishmen) here is my thinking regarding the squad. (Probable Test starters in capitals)

Full-back: LEE BYRNE Delon Armitage Rob Kearney
Wing: SHANE WILLIAMS TOMMY BOWE Luke Fitzgerald Paul Sackey
Centre: BRIAN O'DRISCOLL RIKI FLUTEY Jamie Roberts Tom Shanklin

Fly-Half: STEPHEN JONES Ronan O'Gara James Hook

Scrum-Half: MIKE PHILLIPS Dwayne Peel Mike Blair

Prop: GETHIN JENKINS EUAN MURRAY John Hayes Phil Vickery Andrew Sheridan

Hooker: JERRY FLANNERY Lee Mears Ross Ford

Second Row: PAUL O'CONNELL (capt) ALUN WYN JONES Donncha O'Callaghan Nathan Hines Nick Kennedy
Back Row: DAVID WALLACE TOM CROFT JAMIE HEASLIP Martyn Williams Stephen Ferris, Simon Taylor


A squad of 36:

17 Backs and 19 Forwards

12 Irishmen
11 Welshmen
8 Englishmen
5 Scotsmen

There are some big debates there - and some guys who just miss out. No Andy Powell or Ryan Jones after Wales fell away in the Six Nations and Henson's injury keeps him out of my tour party. Leigh Halfpenny was in my first draft... and got cut as I trimmed the backs to 17. I think Simon Taylor might be a surprise pick as Ian McGeechan knows him well from his Scotland days. Danny Cipriani might also have gotten the nod, but I think he's not quite the finished article while Jonny Wilkinson's delayed return to action means a lack of playing time to play his way in. James Hook takes his place with Nicky Robinson running both close.

I was tempted to leave out Shane Williams - so dramatic has his loss of form been - but I don't think Geech would leave out the IRB World Player of the Year, it'd be a PR disaster from the off.

Here's my list of reserves (that narrowly miss out) to be called up in case of injuries:
Chris Paterson
Leigh Halfpenny
Keith Earls

Tomas O'Leary

Joe Worsley

Ryan Jones
Ian Gough
Mathew Rees

Adam Jones

Guess we'll find out how close I am tomorrow. If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them in the comments.


Rugby Nick 20 April 2009 at 15:33  

I have trouble believing that anyone can leave Adam jones out!

He and Gethin have been Wales' best props for years, and probably been the best 2 players for us this season.

I would take Adam ahead of Vickery everyday of the week.

I'd argue one or two other things as well (e.g. ryan jones) but mostly agree - aside from for Adam!

Malc 20 April 2009 at 15:48  

Thanks Nick.

Adam Jones v Phil Vickery was a toughie. Vickery gets the nod for me narrowly on the basis that he can play on both sides of the scrum and Jones has - at the moment - a slight injury worry.

Ryan Jones has suffered because of the emergence of Powell and Gatland sticking him on the flank and not at 8 (which is his best position). He was a standout last season but this year... not so much.

How do you feel about Wales finishing 4th yet still contributing a third of the players?

Holyrood Patter 20 April 2009 at 16:01  

i think ryan jones will make it.
im not convinced dwayne peel will make the squad

Malc 20 April 2009 at 16:21  

There's plenty competition in the backrow, Jones could go. But I have a sneaking suspicion that Worsley might even be ahead of him in the pecking order.

I also think we need three 9's and three 10's to tour, and Peel is probably ahead of Blair... and indeed, Stringer, Ellis, O'Leary, Cusiter and anyone else you want to name.

Big Stu,  20 April 2009 at 17:18  

The 9 debate is interesting. I think it's a place where we are pretty strong. At the moment Phillips is in the box seat but i reckon he'll get found out on tour. I just dont think he's a good enough rugby player. Not quick enough hands or brain.

I reckon that scrum half and hooker are the only two positions really still up for grabs. It will come down to who performs in training and midweek when they get to SA.

Malc 20 April 2009 at 17:22  

BIG Stu,

I'm probably in agreement. Phillips is so slow getting the ball away, but his size may be an advantage against the big South Africans.

And at hooker, there is no stand-out candidate. Gave Flannery the nod on the basis of his lineout delivery to POC... but partnerships could be formed on tour. We'll find out tomorrow who gets the nod though...

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